In 2010 I started to look for other places to fly fish. In checking the Nevada Division of Wildlife’s Fishing Regulations I came across Desert Creek. Ever since I have made at least 3 trips a year there, car camping, often solo, mostly to hike and fish, but I have made a few trips out there with a bike. But this was a first to make a bikepacking trip out of it. I offered it up to the BurritoPackingNV Facebook group as our July outing and voila – we were a party of six to beat the excessive heat warnings throughout northern Nevada.
Although I have visited Desert Creek as early as March and as late as November I thought this would be an ideal July outing option. The 27 mile loop is essentially a day of climbing along the creek from 6500′ to 8500′, then a day of descending. There would be plenty of access to water and shade. Elevations above 8,000′ start to feel cooler. I had done it as a day trip with my friend Dave Larson and thought it could be a good overnight.
I had promised a mix of forest service roads and single track along a mountain stream. There was some doubt in the audience as to the flow of Desert Creek, but I knew it would deliver the goods. No dry feet in the party. There are so many water crossings. We had about 4 miles of single track that proved to be a welcomed trail. Although it could be rocky, loose, or steep it really added to the riding experience. There was one particular hike-a-bike section that was a real grunt, but fortunately it was short. It wouldn’t be a Bikepacking Northern Nevada trip without some hike-a-bike. The views were spectacular, from our vantage of riding from 7,000′ to 8,000′ we were looking at peaks in the range between 9,000′ and 10,500′.
We took a break at a river crossing marked by two big ponderosa pines. Marc, Shay and I tried to see if the creek would give up a few of its trout. This was a good spot to test “reading the river.” There is an art to predicting where trout will lie as ambush predators. They need cold oxygenated water. They need a food source swirling by. They need calm water as to not expend unnecessary energy as they wait. And they need concealment from predators.
I made a decision to camp in a meadow mostly inspired by the first of three major thunderstorms. We had plenty of options between cow pies to set-up. The creek made sweeping turns around our camp providing great spots to fish. We had stands of willows, aspens, sagebrush, and wildflowers. Am I painting an idyllic setting? This package was wrapped in 8,000′ elevation so the temperatures were moderate. We set up in a thunderstorm, but we dried out quickly after it passed. And then the second one came through, then the third.
I had promised everyone could scratch their fly fishing itch if they pleased. Marc and Shay were on it. Shay passed of her rod to Mark and he got to “feel the tug”. As expected once the evening sun was off the water the trout were much more cooperative. Desert Creek has always been generous with me, and now to my friends. Since this trip Michael Morris has ordered two Dragontail tenkara rods for his son and himself. Step 1: Conversion, step 2: Retention. I see more fishing trips for this group.
Our night was peaceful but we all woke to wet tents. There was so much moisture from the thunderstorms there was no way to avoid it. Once we broke camp I had everyone pose for the Rider and Rigs photos. I’m pretty sure it was Shay’s idea to have everyone pose in the creek crossing. No one gets to ride with dry feet.
In about a mile we turned away from Desert Creek and climbed up to Jackass Flats. Our descent along Jackass Creek back to Desert creek was about to begin. Though the climb between the two creeks was substantial, exposed, and the heat was mounting. It was clear this area had burned, but in my untrained assessment it looked to have good recovery in native rather than invasive plants. The wild flowers were a huge bonus. It was a reminder to me that healthy ecosystems can recover from fires. Every year I hold my breath that Desert Creek can make it through another season without devastating fires.
The climb out of Desert Creek was a hot 2.5 miles with 500′ of climbing. But then it was 5 miles of downhill to the cars. What a great trip! Desert Creek exceeded our expectations in a Nev-Cal trip. We topped off our adventure with a great meal at Rosie’s Place in Wellington. They had a self service beer fridge! My kinda place, “Hey, while you are up…”
With six bikepackers, all with a different eye for photos, the shared pictures on social media and shared photo album are a real treat. As a group we have been taking monthly, or more frequent, trips together but on this trip we got to ride with Mark Yakushev, hailing from Scotts Valley, CA, for which which we all felt fortunate.
I want to do a Bottom-to-Top trip, from Wellington to Lobdell Lake. It could be an out and back or some sort of figure 8 loop-de-loop. It could go bigger, drop down into Bridgeport then return via Aurora/Masonic. We spied a handful of roads that made us wonder, so no doubt we will have more trips in the area.