31-Mar-2001 -- Summary: N41 W119 is right next to the stunning Black Rock Playa in Northwestern Nevada.
Incredible open space is what you sense in this area. The mountains - some rugged, some rounded, surround the vast playa. That’s a dry (mostly), alkali lake bed. It seems to bring out the big kids toys. Drive fast cars. Launch big rockets. Dance around the Burning Man. Yet many others are content to just feel the space by just sitting outside their RV or hiking hidden canyons.
I started by loading my modest pickup with the tool box and a kit filled with vital vehicular fluids and tire fixing stuff. Took water for both the truck and me. Then off to Reno to lose money! Gambling doesn't interest me but I can’t resist the Patagonia warehouse outlet next to the river.
The last stop was Gerlach. This water stop along the railroad boasts five bars but no stores to buy groceries. Had a fine lunch at Bruno’s. Driving across the playa is like setting sail. You can just set a course by compass or GPS, and off you go. After a while, that idea didn’t seem so good. The lake bed was dusty on top but getting a little mushy underneath. Warning lights and buzzers were going off in my brain - but you can't stop! So I veered north to find a track that was heading to Double Hot Springs.
This was a rest stop for emigrants on the Applegate Trail. They recounted how they had boiled their beans and laundry with the steaming water. I’d passed by Double Hot a year ago on a wonderful Desert Survivors trip to the Black Rock Range. Desert Survivors is a conservation and outing group (www.desert-survivors.org). I camped a little away from, but within walking distance of the springs.
It was still dark, when I got up. The route seemed straightforward. Go south about 5 kilometers to Casey Hot Spring, then head east. The dirt road looked passable for my vehicle. But I decided that walking would be pleasant. It really was. The morning light and the bird song kept me entranced. I passed several springs but after about an hour I came to Casey.
Oops, another idea gone wrong - Walking directly into the rising sun! Well it did not last long. Away from the grassy spring, then swishing through sage. Finally it was an rocky open area with little vegetation.
The location is in the upper edge of a band that is between the playa and the Black Rock Range. This the home of pronghorn "antelope." They must compete with cattle for the grasses and shrubs. Big horn sheep live above, in those mountains, along with herds of wild horses. Most of the area that I could see came under a measure of protection just last Fall by an act of Congress. It’s called the Black Desert - High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area Act. What a mouthful. It was apparent that I was not the first to visit this site. People had been at work nearby, setting up markers made from white drainage pipe. A mining clam? Then I thought they were forming an X at the degree confluence! Maybe a little discrepancy based on a different datum? But then I saw some that weren't in alignment. Well, it’s a question for the friendly BLM ranger.
The highlight of the hike back was watching a coyote trotting through some tall grass.
maps - USGS 1:100,000 metric "Gerlach" and "High Rock Canyon"; Topozone 1:25,000
instruments - Garmin "eTrex" and a Trimble "Scout" brought out of retirement.
Nevada info - Friends of Nevada Wilderness (www.nevadawilderness.org)
Facilities in Gerlach: pay phone (no cell coverage), motel, fuel, meals, pottery sales at Planet X, T shirts at Bruno’s.