Looking forward to 2019, especially the winter months when I have more time to ride, I have proposed to myself to explore the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area with the goal of writing a definitive guide to the area. The current literature provided by the BLM includes many form of appropriate recreation for the area without specifically mentioning bicycle tourism. For those of us who have ridden there we must include the NCA as a top destination by bike.
While the Granite Range technically does not lie within the NCA, to me it represents the gatekeeper to the Black Rock Desert. At first I was not sure there were many roads in that area, but eventually I put together a 100+ mile series of loops covering the range. But for my first ride I invited my co-worker Bridget Tevnan and promised a shortened loop. The loop is 26 miles around Wagon Tire Mountain with 3,700′ of climbing. When its not the miles its the elevation, when its not the elevation its the conditions – it had recently snowed. I was expecting 6-8″ of fresh snow. For this ride I was on my Falconer B+ and Bridget on my Surly Ice Cream Truck.
Out of Gerlach we drove north on SR 33 past the ranches of Hualapai Flat to where the road switches from paved to gravel. My planned route starts at a split in the gravel road and roughly follows Cottonwood Creek. There was a small creek crossing. I was super impressed to see so much water flowing. I even saw a few fish swimming about. The USGS maps indicate it as a seasonal creek but my guess is it is pretty reliable. The area is used for grazing livestock so filtering is a must.
The next crossing was near where Wagon Tire Creek flows into Cottonwood Creek. This crossing was sizable so we hiked upstream to find a narrow spot to cross. We continued to climb along Cottonwood Ck until we were hiking in snow. I picked a turn around point for the day just above 5600′.
Looking across the Flat I could see the Calico Mountains. They were calling to me. There is a road through the Calicoes separating the Calico Mountains Wilderness from the High Rock Lake Wilderness Areas. The route has been on my list since Raymond Eliot and I rode out Soldier Meadows Rd. There was plenty of snow on the Calicoes. Minor detail. A plan to return the next day was hatching.
As far as the Granites were concerned I was pleased with the first trip. The roads were accessible, the potential for water was reassuring and the views were inspiring. Depending on the winter’s snowpack I will probably keep to lower elevations or opt for bike and snowshoe.
Riding with Bridget was a lot of fun. She runs the youth riding program, Major Taylor Ride Club, at the Reno Bike Project. She can see the potential of adventure riding for inspiring youth. Bridget is a knowledgeable naturalist and brings welcomed insight to our outings. You can see what she is up to @brigellan. As an accomplished thru-hiker she has the spirit and courage to explore Nevada’s outback by bicycle. I hope to see her out there.