Ride Report; Clan Alpine Mountains

Sometimes I know I have ridden in an area but when I look for my blog post I can’t find it. This was the case for my ride in the Clan Alpine Mountains from May 17, 2018. I am scratching my head, why didn’t I write this up? I covered such great terrain in 65 miles with 5,500′ of climbing and the views made quite the impression. The ride was so eye opening ten days later I brought a friend along to car camp and bike in the Clan Alpines.

Climbing above Bench Creek

For whatever reason I had driven past the Clan Alpines a handful of times and never gave them a second glance. The same could be said for the Desatoya Mountains and New Pass Range. From the car they look nondescript, route and experience free. Not so. From my rides I realize every mountain has something to offer. There are always changes in the geology, creeks, wildflowers, and wildlife beyond my description.

Riding on the edge of wilderness brings you to canyons invisible from the highway

It was the sign off Highway 50 for Bench Creek Ranch that caught my eye. The narrows of Middlegate, Eastgate Wash, and the new “shoe tree” are all where this ride begins. I had a loose plan to cross the southern edge of the Clan Alpine Range and poke my way into any canyons I came across. That was all the planning I had.

Emigrant trail markers are like an Easter Egg Hunt in the desert

West Gate (closest to Middlegate Station Bar and Grill), Middlegate, and Eastgate are geologic pinch points along Hwy 50 and SR 722 of significance such that mines, mills, washes, and businesses share their names. My primary source for naming are the USGS topographic maps, my apologies for any ambiguities. I strive for accuracy when describing places I ride. Technicalities aside this area is rich in ranching, mining, and western expansion history. I am told this is an area for bighorn sheep viewing, my eyes are peeled.

The “new” Shoe Tree

The start up Bench Creek between two legs of the Clan Alpine Mtns was through a wide open but undulating valley. I knew it would pinch near the to at Bench Creek Ranch. I was anticipating a 4WD trail crossing the Clan Alpines before my ride might get interrupted by private property. And there it was.

Leave no lupine underappreciated
Hike-a-bike? No, smelling the flowers!

This track followed a power line through the mountains. I am glad I don’t have to drive it regularly. It was steep and rocky forcing a hike-a-bike, or “looking for rocks” as we call it. In this case I got to check out the wild flowers at a much slower pace. I really wasn’t minding the slower pace, admiring the colors along the trail. It is so easy for the uninitiated to see the desert in shades of brown when really it contains the brightest blues, reds, yellows, greens and purples. Cresting the ridge over 6,500′ I had great views of Camp Creek below. The descent was a fun winding two-track with the hope I wouldn’t have to climb it on the return.

A great descent off the ridge
This area is very susceptible to lightening strike wildfires

I followed the roads in an easterly direction and poked into my first canyon following an intermittent stream. The road went through a burn area and eventually petered out. I took the bike on a little hike-a-bike to see where things go. The trail may have been a game trail or hiker/hunter’s trail but didn’t further my biking. I looped back and exited the canyon.

Edwards Creek Valley

I crossed into Edwards Creek Valley onto Clan Alpine Road. The historic Clan Alpine Ranch is a rich area to ride through but the land is private and occupied. There are ruins at the mouth of Cherry Creek but my memory is that the roads to Cherry Creek were posted private.

Lined by lupine, lupine up the middle, War Canyon

The next major road to take lead into War Canyon. It was a road lined with lupine. There are certain bits of common wildlife and flora that you might take for granted. I encourage you to try not. I want to be amazed by every raven, hawk, lizard or squirrel. I want to be awestruck by lupines, paintbrushes, pines, and sagebrush. Give everything a second look. I have a couple of friends who do scientific research on pollination ecology in the Great Basin. I always pass on my anecdotal information of what I see, where and when. In a time when our environment is changing rapidly from climate change and/or land use patterns we can all act a citizen scientists. If you see something, say something.

Upper War Canyon
Looking over into Dixie Valley

Climbing War Canyon made such an impression on me I brought a friend back the next week to camp. We car camped from a little clearing off the road. We climbed to the ridge with views into Dixie Valley and we rode on the playa out from the spooky ruins of Byers Ranch.

An impressive playa, dry lake bed
Waiting for the next thunderstorm

My return route from Clan Alpine Ranch to Middlegate followed the Old Overland Trail stagecoach route and Highway 50. There are interpretive markers through the area that are easily overlooked at highway speeds in your car. I have always said I wanted to stop as I flew past to the next gas station… because gas stations are so interesting. Even by bike I am often in too much of a hurry, on a schedule, needing to get back, easily generating reasons not to stop and appreciate the history I am riding through.

Much of the Clan Alpine Mountains is wilderness study area. I can see a loop of the mountains in my future to explore War Canyon and loop to Cherry Valley, Byers Canyon, and Stone Canyon. There is the option to go over Shoshone Pass to follow Shoshone Creek in this counter clockwise loop, or continue on to the north east corner of Edwards Creek Valley and work your way between the Clan Alpine Mountains, New Pass Range, and Augusta Mountains. From the north west side of the mountains you can explore Deep Canyon and Cow Canyon. I included a couple alternative route makers on my map to extend the adventure in the Clan Alpines.

4 thoughts on “Ride Report; Clan Alpine Mountains

  1. I was struck by your comment, “…give everything a second look.” One of my absolutely favorite quotes comes from Ed Abbey, where he writes, “…you can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you’ll see something, maybe.”
    What better time than now to practice slowing down and seeing.

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