Ride Report; Fairview Peak and Bell Flat Loop

Have you ever gotten sick on a ride? Start out great, ride strong, then out of the blue, not doing so well. What do you do? Just that happened to me on this ride, this is how it went…

Water and art in the desert! And a bike!

November 18, 2019- I have driven past the turnoff for Fairview Peak and the earthquake faults at least a dozen times. I asked a rockhounding buddy about the faults and whether he thought they were worth the outing. He thought they were good for geology nerds. As a budding geology nerd I thought that was a good enough recommendation. Fairview peak (8,303′) was worth a visit because I figured it would have amazing views. Finally I wanted to visit the area before the US Navy expanded their bombing range, permanently closing this area to visitors. And most finally a ride out of Middlegate meant I got to reward my biking efforts with a cheeseburger, fries and draft PBR, second to none.

Climbing to climb Fairview Peak

I drove out in early morning darkness to start my ride shortly after first light. I rode through West Gate doing my best to stay off the highway and followed a dirt road turnoff to Fairview Peak. This diagonal across Stingaree Valley had me fixed on the knife blade ridge of Chalk Mountain to the north. I passed a water tank and dipped through an arroyo – water in the desert. The idea of an arroyo tour on fat bikes has popped up in passing conversations with fellow fat biker, Dean Magnuson. We have yet to do this. I was reminded of this by the a great arroyo paralleling the fault lines along Fairview Peak. But I climbed on the main road for now.

A geology nerd hangout, where is everyone?

After a bit of a climb I came to the fault site turnoff. I am thankful for the interpretive signs because I’m pretty sure I couldn’t pick out faulting in the landscape. I get the idea, the illustrations make sense, but by no means could I identify faulting in the landscape.

From Fairview to Clan Alpine Mountains
Great hike-a-bike! Desatoya and Shoshone Mtns to the east

Beyond that I came to the access road to Fairview Peak. It was at my limit to climb. It was all my legs could do, it was all I had traction for. And then it came over me like a wave. Even walking became difficult. I didn’t want to turn back. Summit Fever vs the Bug, this time the Bug got the best of me. I had to walk most of the descent as it was too steep and loose.

Yep, looks like my natural science textbooks

Off Fairview Peak the smart choice would have been return 11 miles or so back to the car. But I wasn’t thinking clearly. I decided to go forward with the idea I would shorten my loop. Going forward was downhill too. I wanted this ride to be significant, interesting, worthy of the effort to drive out and back to Middlegate. And so I did.

A closed Bell Canyon, doesn’t it look grand?

One destination I had in mind was Bell Canyon on the south side of the mountain. On several maps there is a jeep road that connects Bell Flat to Fairview Valley. Something I haven’t mentioned, Fairview Valley is home to the US Naval Baker 19 Bombing Range. According to all the maps I can find Bell Canyon is south of B-19. According to the DoD it closed. While it would be easy for me to shrug my shoulders and continue south, it isn’t. I don’t like it when people think they can do whatever they want. My soap box is low so I will step off now.

Monte Cristo’s rising from Bell Flat

While admiring the beauty of Bell Canyon the next wave of “sometimes you just don’t feel so good” hit. I decided I would lay down. I set my timer on my phone for twenty minutes to see what a nap could do for me. I wasn’t convinced I was sick, maybe I was just really tired. My day’s routine for these one-day rides is to wake up at o’dark thirty, drive across the state, burn daylight on the bike and drive home. I was woken by a group of hunters in a side by side ATV. They too thought they might get through Bell Canyon. Nap’s over, time to ride.

Bell Mountain to the north

Although I had a 70 mile route downloaded to my GPS I was able to follow a major dirt road southeast to Gabbs Highway, SR 361. Covering Bell Flat between Bell Mountain and the Monte Cristo Mountains was fantastic. But my legs just weren’t turning over. Maybe I’m just out of shape? Bonking? Now I was focused on getting back to the car.

Rock nesting birds as I passed in an arroyo

My return on the highway still had me looking around for possible side roads to explore. But I stopped to lay down one more time. Eventually I got to my car in the dirt parking lot of Middlegate Bar and Grill. I had no interest in a post ride burger and beer. I spread out a sleeping pad in the back of my Subaru and took a two hour nap. I woke feeling feverish and decided I better try driving home. Once I was home I was sick in bed for a day.

I felt so good at this point in the ride, long shadows, long climbs, long day ahead!

This has never happened to me. I wasn’t sure how to write about it. In some way since I didn’t summit Farview Peak, I didn’t complete my proposed route, I chalk up this ride as a failure. How I measure my successes and failures is something I need to adjust. It was a great outing. I hope to share this area with others. Have a plan for if you get sick on a ride.

The knife blade ridge of Chalk Mountain, Dixie Valley, has long captured my imagination

Pouring over the maps It would be fun to checkout the north end of Monte Cristo Mountains around the Kaiser Mine. I want to checkout the lower Fairview Flat. My friend Alan Kaplan is an avid rockhound and has some experience in the area. It would be great to get out there with him. Now to crawl back onto my soap box. The US Navy is hoping to expand their bombing ranges in Nevada. The impacts to recreation will be everlasting. For more information on this and other struggles to keep our public lands open to the public please visit the Friends of Nevada Wilderness as well as Bikepacking Roots.

If you see something, say something.

6 thoughts on “Ride Report; Fairview Peak and Bell Flat Loop

  1. This ride a “failure?” I’d say not. Getting sick isn’t something you could anticipate. Years ago I had to abandon some summit attempts because of sickness (mine or others). I called those “failures” at the time. Now I don’t think we should apply the “f” word so casually to voluntary, non-competitive, supposedly fun activities. Even if you hadn’t gotten sick, you still got outside, saw some new scenery, had an OK ride, and shone some light on the Navy’s land grab. So I’d just call this a ride that took a detour. As you say: “How I measure my successes and failures is something I need to adjust.” 🙂

    1. Thanks for your feedback. I used to be critical of other’s failures and didn’t want to write about my own. But this ride had so many teaching moments I thought it was good to reflect and share. And there is value in seeing a route to expand upon. Glad to see you out there BOOTS.

  2. Kurstin, I do a LOT of solo bikepacking and backpacking, and my experience, plus the experience of EMT’s that have treated me for dehydration, that if something doesn’t feel right, get back to civilization IMMEDIATELY. I live out in the high desert of west Texas, not unlike where you live, and people die out here every year as a result of a day where they started feeling great. Sometimes it’s dehydration, sometimes it’s food poisoning, sometimes it’s the 24-hr bug, but it’s always dangerous. Live to explore another day.

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