Dreaming about a day on our bikes in the South Egans

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The first lighting of the South Egans and Shingle Peak, which would be our companion for most of the day.

August 23, 2015. Camped in the shadow of an old windmill. Long day today, but beautiful and high spirits.

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Our Kirch camp. Where we had spent Renee’s birthday the day before.

Started pretty early. The storms pushed out the smoke and when we awoke before sunrise all of the mountains around were crystal clear. It didn’t take long for the haze to make its way back though.

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This is how you begin a day!

First thing detour to the Hot Creek pool where we bathed alone in the soft light. Tremendous and now when I am trying to sleep among all of the things from today it is what I want to remember.

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Renee feeling her oats at the start of the Shingle Pass climb.

The morning ride out to the highway and to the rest area was silky smooth, mostly. A nice trucker at the rest area was very curious about us and offered us water bottles. The first of only two people we interacted with all day. Then a few miles up a rather corrugated highway and we were on Shingle Pass Road. There was a guy with an ATV there, interaction number 2, we asked him about the road, which he was right about, it’s been great, but he also said there was “lots” of water in Cave Valley, this bit of knowledge certainly hasn’t gushed forth haha so we have a dry camp, due to a mishap I’ll share in due time.

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Shingle Peak.

From the turn of Shingle Pass up to the mountains a bright steep line of gravel road daunting although Renee says it didn’t bother her too much. She did spook a cow through the fence, in all fairness to the side it looked it should have been on in the first place. Otherwise just pedaling, steady, in low gear straight up; our only marks of progress noted by looking back or watching the looming cliffed mass of Shingle Peak grow nearer like a castle protecting the pass from marauding giants or dragons, but now haunted and fallen into ruins. It dominated the skyline for the majority of the day.

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A grand day and a grand place and a grand girl. Life is good!

So up and up, eating here, resting in the shade there. My shoes still hurting tried adjusting more often but nothing does the trick so finally switched to sneakers, which also hurt but nothing so bad. Finally crested Shingle Pass and after some lunch started whoopty-doing the way down over these tremendous shining white rolling hills into the Cave Valley. The mountains beyond striking cliff faces glowing white and gray.

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Hijinks descending into Cave Lake Valley.

In the bottom a nice ranch, but, on the last up and down pinched a tire. Stopped to fix it and found out that the big dromedary, which had been inside the dry bag, was leaking from its lid. We lost maybe a third of its water and so that’s why we’re on water rations although we’re only about 20 miles to Ward Charcoal Ovens where there should be water. Put a spin of excitement and through combination of dehydration and power of suggestion I feel thirsty.

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The places we find ourselves and where we want to be.

Walked up hill behind the camp and sat in juniper shade for a while looking at our tiny camp below. Ate cold mini bagels and then dived into bed. Our plan to get to Ward early. Goodnight.

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Our dry camp from the hill above.

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Good night from the Egans.

NOTE: It’s a tired, cold night here in Reno and I feel like daydreaming about some places and adventures, so I’ve taken my journal entry from the day and added pictures. I’ve started a new category for memory lane trips I want to share, Day Dreaming. Just a couple of notes about the route: We passed Whipple Caves. It was just a ways off the road, but given that you need to know what in the heck you are doing and have special equipment in order to access, and that it apparently doesn’t show much just from the top, we passed. But this account of a visit is well worth reading. And we went near and along the Far South Egan Range Wilderness.

Cedarville Days and another account of Massacre Lake

Above Fandango Pass in Modoc National Forest in the Warner Mountains.


Have spent this long holiday weekend at a friend’s family’s second home in Cedarville, California. It is near and dear to my heart and a place that Renee and I tend to spend a good bit of time exploring around. It has been a really fantastic weekend spending time with friends new and old and coming even closer to this special place. I know that John C.  Frémont was the first Anglo to write about this place and so did a little research in which I randomly found another, quite varied account of the events that happened at Massacre Lake that I wrote about previously:

One of a large party of California-bound emigrants passing through Nevada near the present California State line found what he thought was gold bearing quartz. This being about the time of the great California gold rush when men’s thoughts were permeated with dreams of the fabulous wealth of Western hills, groups of the emigrants straggled while searching for further evidence of the precious metal. Paiute Indians attacked the disorganized party in force and in a fight of several days duration; forty- men were killed, besides a number of women and children. Less than two-thirds of this big party got through, minus most of their livestock and personal possessions. Massacre Lake in this section owes its name to this running fight with the Indians and to the lives lost in other surprise Indian attacks in the same vicinity.

The northern Warner Mountains, looking toward Oregon.

Down in the Sink

On the Humboldt Sink, where the water comes to an end. Here it either rises into the sky or seeps into the earth. 

View of the Humboldt Sink from the southeast. Courtesy of photographer Famartin via Wikipedia Commons

Water has been the theme of life lately. More specifically, lots of it! In various forms too: rain, snow, frozen rain, floodwater, ice. Not to complain, I am loving this winter’s latest explosions. Any inconvenience is more than made up for by the good it does for all of us and the world we share with so many other living things. Tonight though, I’m thinking about a place where the water ends. Specifically, the Humboldt Sink. It has always been a place to rush by, the part of I-80 from Lovelock until you crest the hill and start arrive at the Fallon cut-off. A sort of blip in the map. But as I start to learn more about the Great Basin it occurs to me that sinks, even more so than mountain peaks or lush meadows, are the defining features of our part of the world.

A sink is a distinctive geographic feature; a basin from which no water escapes. Rather than flowing into some other basin (like an ocean), the water that flows into a sink does not flow out. It only leaves by evaporation or penetration (i.e., sinking into the groundwater). The Humboldt Sink is the end of the Humboldt River.

One Saturday we set out to explore the Humboldt Sink a bit, along with Lovelock Cave. The cave is an amazing piece of the human record of the Great Basin, a place that was occupied for over 4,000 years! After the cave we drove down the road and just walked out toward the sink. While we didn’t make it as far as the actual playa bed, just walking among the greasewood-dotted sand dunes,  swales and salt grass flats was striking.

This was also the beginning of the dreaded Forty Mile Desert, perhaps the most terror-inspiring and horrific place on the California Trail. Travelers were no fan of the place,

“In place of a great rent in the earth, into which the waters of the rivers plunged with a terrible roar (as pictured in our imagination), there was found a mud lake ten miles long and four or five miles wide, a veritable sea of slime, a ‘slough of despond,’ an ocean of ooze, a bottomless bed of alkaline poison, which emitted a nauseous odor and presented the appearance of utter desolation. ” —Reuben Cole Shaw, 1849

“Even the very wagons seem to know that we are off today for the great adventure—in sand, volcanic ash, alkali, furnace heat, and the stench of putrid flesh—We crossed along the edge of an immense baked plain with the fetid stinking slough for a guide, although the wreckage along the way almost paved our route…. It must have been here that one emigrant said he counted a dead animal every 106 feet.”

It was also an important place for Native Americans, and as such they often came into contact with and conflict with the newcomers. I highly recommend reading Across Nevada, a pamphlet put out in 2012 by the National Park Service from which the top quote is taken. It’s definitely gone into the library. The bottom, unacknowledged, one is from The WPA Guide to Nevada (already in the library).

It is a sink, and walking along in its sand dunes we often started to disappear a bit, giving us an even deeper feeling of walking into a place older somehow than everything around it. A place where more has disappeared than has remained. And, as described by John McPhee in Basin and Range, where a new ocean will one day appear:

“Death Valley. Walker Lake. Carson Sink.” An Exxon map of the western United States is spread open on the seat between us. He runs his finger from Death Valley to Carson Sink and on northward to cross the interstate at Lovelock. “The ocean will open here,” he repeats. “Or in the Bonneville Basin. I think here.” (p. 138 of his collected Annals of the Former World)

I don’t know if this is the most current geology, but this was what most caught my imagination when I read this fascinating book and remains for me a striking image, a metaphor even for the ability of reality to be transformed by the passage of time. That the place that I had driven by hundreds of times, where I walked with Renee and Coco on a calm and cool early spring day, where emigrants had cursed and fought, where Native Americans had seen the beginning of the end of their life ways with the arrival of bands of newcomers with terrible weapons and new diseases, that this place will become an ocean. We come across a perfectly molted snake skin and stop to examine its contours. One day it will open and where we are will be swallowed by a vast expanse of cresting ocean. We walk on, it’s easy to lose yourself in the vast plain until you lift your eyes to the ringing mountains.

The Rises and Falls of the Truckee

The Truckee at flood stage West of Reno.


We had a very exciting night in Reno and Sparks last night and into today with the Truckee rising to flood level with heavy rain high in the mountains on top of snow. It’s a weather phenomenon that brings pretty regular floods to the Truckee Meadows and other similar mountain and basin landscapes in our region. We stayed pretty close to home yesterday, our location is rather near the flood plain as it extends south from the where the Truckee enters the canyon south across the UNR farms. 

Our feeder road, Rio Poco, became Rio Mucho last night. Here during a brief lull in the rain.


There was some flooding on our main feeder road, especially early in the day when I’m guessing a culvert must have been blocked. We walked out in the evening and it is extradordinarily stunning to see the power of water, especially when we’ve been in a drought for a few years now. 

The periodic rises and falls of the Truckee are something I’ve always known about, but I thought I’d do a little more digging on them and share any tidbits I found. The most interesting article I found was at a Tahoe-based site stormking.com, with an article “Floods in the Driest State.” In the winter of 1889-1890, a chinook melted snow and flooded the Carson River Valley with debris. Ranchers had to dynamite ice near Gardnerville to open the waterways. The winter of 1906-1907 was particularly active in both northern and southern Nevada. Las Vegas was for a time completely cut off and running low on food supplies. Meanwhile in northern Nevada there was chicanery, shotguns, and a flood surge that carried away bridges and entire houses. One rancher left his house, but wasn’t able to take along his dog. He returned in a canoe to find his home flooded but his pup safe and sound, atop the family piano! There are many more stories such as this at the above mentioned site which is well worth the read. 

Of course, famously, the flood of 1997 “created” the Sparks Marina, which had previously been a gravel pit (and superfund site). 

Well as the waters recede we look toward the next rise and fall of the Truckee. 

Rhyolite 1907, Where Are We Now?

This sculpture, in Rhyolite, Nevada, represents very well for me the tension between presence and absence that happens in Western ghost towns.

On our drive south for Christmas, Renee and I stopped at Rhyolite, a ghost town nearby Beatty right off the main highway to Death Valley. Despite going by many times I’d never been there before and it was a stunning ethereal experience of standing in what had clearly been an important place for many people now tumbled into ruins among vivid colored cliffs, only tempered by a threatening overcast extending all the way along the line of Nevada. We stopped and parked along the old railway station and walked down the entrance road, which had most likely been the main street, now just tortured facades reminiscent of photos of bombed buildings. The emptied building dominates the skyline.

Ruin dominates the skyline. Other than the mountains, of course, which always dominate the real skyline in most Western cities.

It’s an idea that has interested me for a while. We are, well, future dwellers, at least it has always been a persistent feeling I’ve had—and the pace of human development, of the development of human population and technology leads to the idea of our being on the crest of a wave. But being in a place like Rhyolite begs you to consider that, in the midst of all of this population growth and networks of communication, culture, industry, et al., why do those of us who want to explore out in the reaches of the West find ourselves in a much less  populated planet than anyone would have experienced at the turn of the century? Where there were thousands of people there is now no one.

The old train depot, sadly, was swathed in chain link.

Rhyolite existed more or less from 1904 to 1909 (if you’re interested in details of the history, based on my fairly cursory research and just based on the quality, read the wikipedia article on Rhyolite, in addition to telling you all you want to know about the town, it is, in my opinion, a really great example of a Wikipedia entry). In those five years of existence it came to boast a train station, a bank with Italian marble and stained glass, two railroads, a building made of emptied bottles, thousands of people, a school and then another school, concrete sidewalks, maybe some more pools (based on this ghost towns’ site, by the way the as far as I could see uncited, but clearly  best text on this site’s entry begins “one of the most interesting stories”).

Thinking about Rhyolite and how it represents the conundrum of the West in modernity, where even with the explosion of outdoor recreation we are still just a shadow of past use, I got curious about ghost town. Its specific naming seems pretty obvious, but I wondered, when did that term come into use? It had to have been in some way cultural, there had to have been a moment when “empty” or “abandoned” town became “ghost town” and based on my quick search, the date is 1931. The term seems to have been in use before this, based on a footnote appearing in Western Places, American Mythology: How We Think about the West by Gary Hausladen (which I found randomly, and is published by the UNP, and is now on my must-read list!), but based on a search of “ghost town” and 1931, that date is most likely the result of photographer Paul Strand and his striking photos. I don’t know anything beyond this, nor even if this is correct etymology, but it is really striking to come from 1931, when the West went for the first time from untapped area for exploration, to closed, to Dust Bowl and “nowhere.”

The famous bottle house. With a miniature bottle replica of the town. 

After walking the main street, we stopped at the Goldwell Open Air Art Museum, where Belgian artist Albert Szukalski created The Last Supper and, even more pertinently for me, the Ghost Biker. They capture really perfectly the idea of absence in presence that overwhelms me in Western ghost towns.

Welcome to 2017! Learn-Grow Drawing

My first Learn-Grow of the year, an attempt to render the Truckee River’s “silvery rills” from our walk today.

Welcome to the 2017 edition of Overland Passages! I’m so excited for this year to start and to spend it learning and sharing things that interest me, I love, or, sometimes, that cause me pain, or anxiety, or despair. All of it geared toward learning.

A few weeks ago I started a post thread called “Learn-Grow,” in which I am going to share the results of choosing to learn to do something or to do something better that has always interested me, but that I’ve always felt I didn’t have the time or the blah-blah whatever to do. 

One of these things is drawing and I thought it would be a great way to begin the new year to get back to it and to continue the lessons I started in the last post.

There are 2 activities from the lesson on enhancing visual intelligence that most interested me the last time that I wrote on this that I want to focus on for now:

  1. Maintain a Sketchbook: Render at least one drawing of an actual object or person every day from memory.
  2. Draw Mental Images: Imagine an object or living being and draw what you are visualizing in as much detail as possible.

I don’t know if keeping a  sketchbook every day is going to work, but I’m going to do at least 2-3 a week, even if they are only a line. Also I’m going to play around with drawing digitally and with pencil. Since these 2 lessons are pretty related I am also going to just sort of conflate them into one. I am not going to share all of the results of this experiment, but I’ll try to keep my readers up to date on my progress good or bad.

The first challenge to this is trying to separate memory and image. I’ve become such a prolific capturer of moments that sometimes I’m not sure if my memory is digital or real. So the “from memory,” and “imagine” portions of these lessons could be some of the more difficult aspects (other of course than really drawing, but at least I know that I’m not good at that so it doesn’t matter so much).

The second immediate challenge is deciding how to keep this digitally organized. I am a bit obsessed by apps and so I’ve spent a good bit of time tonight deciding how I’m going to organize these. The pencil ones are easy enough, just snap a pic of a real object, but the digital ones are more of a challenge. I used to really love this app called Paper 53 as it let you organize drawings (never many, but you know), into a beautiful interface of notebooks. They have since updated, in my opinion much to the worse, to make the app more utilitarian and I’m just turned off by it, as well as they really want you to use their Pencil, an aftermarket stylus. So that’s not going to work. Instead I’m going to sketch in Procreate, the best art app I’ve seen, although just a little heavy, not much in the way of organization. So I’ll just export and save them into my journaling app, Day One. I’m sure this will evolve, so I’ll keep you up to date on that as well.

Thanks so much for reading these crazy jots and again, welcome to 2017, let’s enter it bravely and make it ours! 

What’s in a Name?

For a while I’ve been working on a little personal project about the naming of places. It is based super loosely on my reading of Wisdom Sits in Places, I say loosely because this is just my thing. A mental construct. A “what if?” that starts with the question, “Why do we accept the names of places as they are?” They are entirely malleable, are the creation of a description that is lost on the foam extending wind-carried well beyond the wave that is the expansion of time and space in the galaxy. An atom or less, the flimsiest piece of gossamer floating out to disappear into the future. What if I make the planet into a place that carries the meaning of my life? I don’t know the answer to that question, but it seems an interesting one. So here are just a bit deeper explanations of some of my more recent #mymindmapping and #namesofmyplaces.


This place is at what I consider the Center of my existence. Wilson Place, out on the desert below the ranch. One of the original home sites out in this valley that is home, well, just really home, a home that encompasses hundreds of miles. So it’s a place I always picture myself to be, even when I’m not. In a real sense. I can close my eyes and be there. 

Meadow Appears because we spent a couple of really beautiful years living down south of here, where Casper was born and we roamed the hills all together. And riding my bike north to work, here is where all the meadow that is now a city came into view and the world separated into the present and a future. 

Thanks so much for reading this year! This will be the last one most likely of the year. I’m really happy to be writing again and sharing and I hope anyone out there reading enjoys any little bit of this. Peace and love and here’s to 2017!!!