Grabbing Gravel off Gabbs Highway

I look for reasons to ride out of Middlegate. Middlegate is the self proclaimed middle of nowhere, in the middle of Nevada, off Highway 50, the Loneliest Road in America. You can’t get a more enticing description than that! Jumping off from here I have ridden through the Desatoya Mountains, Shoshone Range, Fairview Peak, and Clan Alpine Mountains. This ride satisfied a curiosity I had on my way to Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park when I saw a sign to the Broken Hills and Quartz Mountain.

These two mines inspired this ride

At the time I had no idea these were old mines. I just knew there were destinations worth noting with a sign pointing down a dirt road. I used a variety of maps to virtually explore the area but I did not create a route to follow with my GPS. I just parked at Middlegate and headed out on my gravel bike equipped with 700×40 Vittoria Torreno tires and a days worth of pedaling in my legs.

I was expecting nice weather. I was hoping for dry conditions on the dirt roads. Luckily at the start is was a crisp 17* but with bright sunshine and no wind. Ultimately is was very comfortable riding conditions. The ride starts on tarmac with some traffic related to the mine in Gabbs, but after a rolling 17 mile start I came to my turn-off.

Broken Hills Mine

The dirt roads were in great shape. If the weather had been wetter the roads would be impassible mud. I have encountered it before in the area during a wetter winter and spring. Yet this has been one of the driest Februaries on record. My other fear was sand. It is not uncommon to encounter roads that follow washes that become a river of sand. Two and three inch wide tires will float above the sand where gravel tires just plow in. Luckily there were only a couple short sections like this on this route. They were all rideable and did not force a hike-a-bike.

I really enjoy the ghost town mine sites though I am by no means a historian or buff. I try to appreciate the challenges of making a living mining in the middle of nowhere. These two sites I have recommended to friends as places to explore because they are so accessible. From satellite views there seems to have been a lot going on around the main mine sites that is not obvious from boots on the ground.

Crystal Mountain, Hasbrouck Mine

Beyond taking a few photographs I didn’t have an agenda beyond the next turn in the road. Without a predetermined route I relied on memory and luck to create a loop through the desert. One option was to head south to Gabbs and loop around to the west. The other was to head east and tie into routes I had previously ridden. My goal was to maximize time on gravel roads so I headed east. Ultimately I don’t think there are any bad choices out here. Nevada is the all you can eat buffet of dirt road exploration, you can always come back for seconds.

From Broken Hills dropping into Lodi Valley, Paradise Range

There is still more to explore in the Broken Hills. I was thinking to myself, I could come out here, set up a base camp and explore for days. I was headed for the north end of the Paradise Range across Lodi Valley. There seems to be few roads through the range, I had been over the southern paved route, a butt kicker of a climb. The Paradise Range would be worth circumnavigating and poking in at any opportunity. But my target now was a road over Burnt Cabin Summit.

Looking west, Lodi Hills

Lodi Valley gave me the option of heading south to Gabbs. This would take me past at least one ranch on a hanful of opportunities to visit old mines and ghost town sites. The Lodi Hills contain enough roads for a day of exploring.

Lodi Valley
Lodi Valley, Paradise Range behind the Lodi Hills
Top of Lodi Valley, looking south to Gabbs

I chose to continue east over Burnt Cabin Summit. I knew I would be tying into the route I took through Ione Valley on my trip to Berlin-Ichythosaur State Park. I would recommend this as an alternative route to Ione and Berlin-Ichthyosaur.

Climbing through Paradise Range
Burn Cabin Summit, Shoshone Range in the distance

From Burnt Cabin Summit I was on the route I had previously used but did not completely recognize it. Then I encountered snow, ice and mud. I learned quickly, but not quickly enough, not to challenge the mud. It near instantly clogged the fork crown and chainstays with mud. Now I was hiking with a disabled bike. Luckily there were only a few patches like this to negotiate. Lesson learned; don’t even let your tires touch mud before you dismount to carry your bike. It is much easier to de-clump your shoes and pedals than your frame and wheels.

Buffalo Summit, muddy roads around 7,000′

I descended Buffalo Canyon to SR 722, Carrol Summit Rd, and pased a turn-off to a wildlife viewing area at the base of the Desatoya Mountains. The road followed Big Den Creek and takes you to the edge of the Desatoya Mountains Wilderness Study Area.

Wildlife Viewing area off SR 722, Desatoya Mountains Wilderness Study Area

Then it was back to Middlegate for the other reason I go out of my way to ride out of Middlegate, a Middlegate cheeseburger and Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap.

By the numbers, this 64 mile ride was 60% gravel and 40% paved. I was out for the day, 6.3 hours rolling about a half hour taking photos and poking around. There was about 4,000′ of moderate climbing. Mud and sand were my biggest fears. Luckily there wasn’t too much of either.

One thought on “Grabbing Gravel off Gabbs Highway

  1. I sympathize with your mud issue. We were once caught out in the desert in a steady rain that turned a normally fast track into an impassable situation. The mud so quickly clogged up the forks and chains that we had to abandon bikes and hike out, only to return days later with the Jeep to claim the abandoned steeds. By then the mud had become “desert concrete.”
    Love those old mines. Nice post.

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