Ride Report: Hog Ranch Mt. S24O

A great introduction to the canyonlands of Black Rock Country

April 26-27, 2023 I first rode into the Granite Range in December of 2018. I usually round up and say the Granite Range shoots up from 4000’ to 9000’ but for those who appreciate accuracy Granite Peak is 8980’. I admire the Granites more than any other range in the area and consider them to be the guardians of the Black Rock. The Granite Range is managed by the BLM for mining, ranching, wildlife, and recreation. When I heard about a mine proposal on Hog Mountain I was concerned what would be the impacts on the Granites. Who is the guardian of the guardians?

Taking the time to appreciate the perspective of climbing Leadville Canyon

When I was first curious about riding into the Granite range I was chatting with Patrick Smith, asking if he knew about roads into the Granites. He had done some hunting in the Granites growing up but didn’t think there were many roads. My incomplete exploring has traced hundreds of miles of very challenging roads, steep and rough. But these make great passages into solitude. Eventually tracing roads lead me to a loop around Hog Ranch Mountain.

Ahhh, the steep is over.

But it wasn’t until I heard about the mine proposal was a really motivated to ride it. It has been a very wet winter, so difficult to access the area, but after some warm weeks in April I made plans for a quick trip between community meetings in Gerlach.

Snowmelt continues to shape the trail conditions

The loop climbs Leadville Canyon from Co Route 34 to Leadville ghost mine along the southern slopes of Hog Ranch Mountain. Just below 7100’ the road splits turning south to Iverson Ranch, or north along the west shoulder of Hog Ranch. In this saddle you get a great view to the west, future rides inspired.

Alpenglow reminds me it is time to look for camp

I climbed out of the bowl following the road without a snowfield, a slight diversion from the proposed route. The sun was setting so I figured it was a good time to keep my sandal-clad feet dry. I rode into twilight then found a slightly more level place to bivy. The weather was mild so I only packed my sleeping pad, a down quilt, and light synthetic puffy. I was definitely pushing the my minimalist pack-list but it was just fine.

It was a very quiet night. There was a crescent moon and a starry sky after it set. I woke to a fairly animated morning chorus of birds that make their homes in the sagebrush and mahogany forests. I had crested 7500’ and camped at 7400’. After coffee I was super excited to get on the bike. It was all downhill (first 8 miles), through great rock outcroppings and mini-canyons. I was descending along Little Hog Ranch Creek. Around mile 3 I came across the historic Hog Ranch Mine. The open pit is a real eyesore and 30 years later remains an eyesore. So what will the new mine bring? What will the impacts of the leach pit and well be on the wildlife area. What will the impacts of the noise and light pollution be? Where will the traffic be directed? What will the impacts be on the wilderness experience for visitors to the NCA? There is also the concern for the buckwheat that was experimentally transplanted. Although the public comment period for this proposal has past my concerns will be addressed in an email. I think visiting an area brings a certain authenticity to my concerns.

I came out on Co Route 34 directly across from the designated route used the week prior in the loop around the Little High Rock Canyon Wilderness. I left 34 to follow Big Hog Ranch Creek. I was super excited to be off 34 and on new-to-me roads. As always there were side roads that inspire future rides. I crested a saddle and came into Willow Creek. These vernal water sources are pumping right now. It will be key to return in the fall to see what resources remain.

I popped back onto 34 at Swingle Ranch just two miles from the start. I finished the loop after riding a high road to Leadville. I would recommend this road as it brings you closer to the remaining buildings of the historic mine.

A few buildings remain of Leadville Mine

This 24 mile loop is a great S24O. I arrived late on Day 1, 6 pm, and rode almost 6 miles with 2000’ of climbing, in 2 hours. There was lots of picture taking, some hike-a-bike, and navigation questions, debate if this was a good idea based on the unknown snow and mud conditions, and other distractions that turned 1 hour of moving time into 2 hours of getting to camp. Such is adventure travel. Day 2 was 19 miles, over a 3 hour period, representing 2.5 hours of moving time. I was done by 11 am. I look forward to sharing this trip with others or connecting it to a bigger loop.

Pack List:

Admittedly I was having a hard time imagining if this trip to the Black Rock would include an overnight trip or separate day rides and camping next to my vehicle. This pack list is a bit haphazard.

  • Kitchen
    • small Ti pot
    • small fuel canister (3rd trip)
    • Coracle instant coffee
    • Bic lighter
    • Gas OneTi Stove
    • small folding knife
    • Ti spork
  • Sleep Kit
    • Thrmarest Neo Air pad
    • Sea to Summit sleeping bag liner
    • Sierra Designs down quilt 
  • Clothes
    • Patagonia synthetic puffy
    • Sleep socks
    • Light full finger gloves
  • Electronics
    • Phone – route downloaded in RwGPS app
    • Garmin
  • Food/Water
    • 1 L water bottle filled in creeks (chemical purification)
    • Snacks
    • Apple juice box
    • Ensure, Vanilla
    • Bourbon flask
  • Daily Cary
    • First Aid
    • Repair Kit
    • Lezyne pump
    • Crank Bros Multi Tool
    • Tube

I didn’t get the weights of everything but I imagine the bike was at least 10-15 lbs lighter than its last outing.

A stripped down Falconer B+

I rode my Falconer custom B+ with bags from Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks. I didn’t need a handlebar harness, or bags on the forks. Everything fit in the cockpit bags, frame bag and seatbag. I carried a new item on this trip, Tow-Whee tow strap. Clearly on a solo trip I was carrying it to just see how that would work. I was also curious if I would notice it looped on the nose of the saddle.

See you in camp!

One thought on “Ride Report: Hog Ranch Mt. S24O

  1. Great ride – thank you for sharing. We are finding our trails are so much more rocky after the heavy winter rains we; the top soil washed away. Are you finding similar conditions? Honestly, I don’t know a lot about mining (even though we lived on a mine for 16 months!) but I just cant see how the destruction can be justified. I hope they hear you.

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