The idea of being able to seamlessly connect tarmac and dirt roads with a gravel bike is most appealing. I know for many gravel riding on 100% dirt roads is their goal and I support that sort of adventure as well. But this ride was designed as the former.
Out of Eastgate, Carroll Summit Road climbs the Desatoyas with access to forest service roads and a shortcut to the Reese River Valley. I had driven this way when exploring a route into the Toiyabes and thought I must come back! So here I am climbing next to a creek that is challenging the cicadas for auditory domination. I am always surprised to find water in the desert. While I always ride as if there is none, carrying 5-8L, it would be possible on most rides to get away with less and supplement with filtration/purification. Carroll Summit Rd is a fantastic mountain road ride in its own right.
Cresting the summit I saw roads to the south to explore Skull Canyon and beyond. The descent to Campbell Creek was exciting, fast and winding without a guard rail! I had come out to Campbell Creek earlier this spring but it was filled in with slushy snow. Tens of yards past the pull-out I was not making any progress so for plan b I rode at a lower elevation. But that was not the case today. The forest service road was a nicely packed decomposed granite bed twisting along Campbell Creek. The road eventually narrowed down to a steep rocky jeep trail that did necessitate a bit of hike-a-bike. The climb was particular it that it followed a V shaped canyon to the crest at about 8,400′. This was the divide between Campbell Creek and Pole Creek. It provided spectacular views of the Shoshone Mountains to the south.
Little did I realize I was entering the land of creeks. Pole Creek lead to Milkhouse Creek, lead to Haypress Crek, lead to Smith Creek and eventually to Smith Creek Reservoir at Smith Creek Ranch. This area supports meadows that seems to entice the ranching and scientific community alike. I had forgotten my Garmin with the predetermined downloaded route. So I was wandering about these meadows trying to follow roads that were headed in the general direction of Smith Creek Valley. None of this area was too vast to get lost, just a matter as to how long it would be to get back to the car.
And then my biggest fear/frustration happened. The road through Smith Creek Ranch was blocked with a formidable locked gate. Ok, backtrack to find an alternate route. I found one that ended at the reservoir, so backtrack some more. I rode out to the playa at Smith Valley. After the fact I heard there was a warm pool hot spring in the vicinity. I will have to seek it out.
The climb back up Carrol Summit Rd (SR 722) was rich. The geology was eye catching. The winding mountain road is in great shape and gets very little traffic. By the numbers this ride was 60 miles, almost 50/50 paved and non-, with 10,000′ of climbing, a big day for sure. At some point I will ride from Middlegate to Austin via 722 and figure out a great all-roads loop back to the delicious Middlegate cheeseburger and PBR on draft.