Thursday, May 28, 2015

The road between the Nevada/Utah Border and Delta, UT was paved wth good intentions...

...and power-washed by 'severe thunderstorms'.  According to the several
Weather Alerts I could see after the fact!.
During the preceding week the walk to state line from Ely, NV had brought various surprises and blessings, including the two aforementioned mountain passes, a couple of beautiful camp sites (and the discovery that my new tent was going to leak at certain seams, and would have to be sealed!)  I stalled for a night at Major's Junction (due to heavy rain/cold) and for 2 nights at the Border Inn (applying seam sealer to my tent and letting it 'cure'), while being generously looked after by the owner-angel, who made a visit to the Lehman Caves possible, among other kind offerings. This caves site is part of Great Basin National Park visitors' center. All of it awesome.

Well.  I have dodged, waited out, walked and camped through lots of rain storms in these last weeks.  But I was not quite prepared for yesterday's storm, which was billed as 'scattered thundershowers' at the last forecast 'check-in' before I left the Border Inn.  (This establishment straddles the state line, as well as two time zones.  You can sleep in Utah, and drink and gamble in Nevada, all in the same place!) 

Departing Nevada the weather was deceptively mild and still.  Much of the day (15 miles) was pleasant walking. Clouds gathered in the valley to the west as I climbed toward the 7000' peak where I'd intended to camp. But the rain and clouds did not seem to head east.  About 5-6 miles from the summit the wind abruptly changed direction, now coming from the NNW and blowing a gale.  Still no precipitation - yet.  But it was work just staying on the road.  Within the hour a fierce rain/hail was pounding the slope, the wind still blowing, complete with thunder and lightening display.  My rain pants leaked; my boots were squelchy. (No time to put on those 'waterproof socks'!) The driving rain was sneaking into my other gear.  A car stopped and I was offered a lift by an employee of the Border Inn, who was headed for Salt Lake City.  I got in.

What to do?  Would I see if we drove past the weather and then get out of the car in my sodden condition?  Could I dry out overnight?  That was never a question, as it rained and sometimes hailed heavily for the entire, wild and isolated 75 miles to Delta.  Four days of walking 'averted'.  I checked into a motel and found out that my water carrier had sprung a leak(!)  This feels vaguely unsatisfying, as if I've cheated somehow, in skipping over those last miles.  But the connection with my driver-bodhisattva was great, as were those contacts with some very helpful folks here in Delta.  My gear and I are dry again!  And there is more walking in my future!

Antique ballroom from the 40's (no longer in use), in Delta, UT

Ditto - all decorations are made from cut mirrored glass.

Border Inn. Wheeler Peak in the distance.

Lehman Caves

Campsite on Sacramento Pass

Same camping area, and Wheeler Peak.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A few photos.

Hotel Nevada in Ely. I didn't stay there but went to the cafe for a few meals.

Today's summit was Connor Pass - 7700'

Warm springs swimming area after a hail storm.

Wild horses at a creek across from a host's place.
Fenced off hot spring pool. You can still get in and the water is quite hot.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Did I say 'summit'? Arriving in Ely, NV - thanks to a great deal of help from a visiting friend from home, and a local family!

Ely, Nevada reminds me a little of Truckee, CA, where I spent several working winters.  The altitude is similar, I think, at about 6400'.  There are mountains all around, some of then snow-capped. Temperatures have been on the brisk side and the weather is changeable.  I'm told that they have had an unseasonable amount of rain this spring; it has rained off and on every day so far, and certainly is crowding the forecast as I try to figure out what day would be advantageous for departure.  To top it off, on my last night of camping the new-this-year REI tent snapped a pole(!) right where the repair piece that comes with it was rendered useless...  Bungee cords and merciful weather helped that night, and the timing was actually quite fortunate in that the tent can be replaced here in Ely.  After consulting at length about repair possibilities there didn't seem to be a choice. Another 'letting go' opportunity!

The expanse between Tonopah and Ely is about 170 miles, with no services. There were 4 summits to climb in that stretch and there will be two more between here and the Utah state line.  (Nevada is the most mountainous state in the lower 48.)  As mentioned last post, my support team of one(!) came from San Francisco to meet me in Tonopah, and helped me across the first part. After that I was 'handed off' (with logistical help from the mail carrier!) to a local lady who lives in the Railroad Valley area, and she took care of me as I walked for the next few days before her son and daughter-in-law (who live on the east side of the same valley) took over!  Thanks to these generous folks, I slept in a bed for another week after I left Tonopah, and got spoiled with meals and showers every day. 

Contrary to common assumption, the high desert is not flat, although there are flat stretches (some of them extensive) between mountain ranges.  It is also called the 'Sagebrush Sea' and covers parts of many of the western states.  I have seen wild horses and bighorn sheep, many flowering desert plants, and at moments have been stopped in my tracks by unfamiliar and elaborate birdsong.  Here and there hot/warm mineral spring creeks flow down from the mountains. In and between towns, defunct ranches and shuttered businesses stand, along with refurbished 19th/20th century hotels, expanding oilfields and mining operations, all of it bearing witness to rising and falling fortunes, and people moving on.

Also contrary to common assumption (mine, at least) there are plenty of people who are concerned about climate and its effect on economy, among other things.  These days a certain awareness of the impact of human activity on our environment seems to cut across the range of political persuasions.  It has been surprising to encounter hunters/gun enthusiasts, rodeo professionals, ranchers and hard working tradespeople, who, like me, also want to see money kicked out of politics and are concerned for their children's future, what with the abuse of shrinking global resources and the competition and violence that so often comes with it...  I have been very moved by many gestures of support and feel blessed to have this opportunity to connect with people; we have much more in common than we are generally given to believe! 

(Sorry! For some reason photos don't want to attach this time.  Will try again when I have a chance!)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Objects in the distance are further away than they appear...

Walking and walking...  how could it be that that it's already late afternoon, and somehow I am no closer to that range of hills I've been approaching for hours?  I am learning once again from this high desert walking experience (where distances matter) that, indeed, perception of distances can be very deceiving -- whether this is due to altitude, heat, airborne dust or a combination of it all I do not know.  Sudden changes of temperature, wind velocity and direction are to be expected.  Some days begin easily enough and I am working a lot harder than I like by afternoon.  But we (my trailer and I) keep on trucking and are sometimes greatly rewarded with mercifully sheltered camping sites, and generous people bearing 'care packages'!

The road between Bishop and Tonopah was highlighted by a couple of days (one of them donated!) at Benton Hot Springs -- so healing and relaxing; crossing into the state of Nevada and reaching the top of Montgomery pass that same day, at more than 7000';  and a gift/drop of food and water from some road angels from Chalfant Valley, CA.  There is a stark beauty about this undulating and unforgiving terrain; my ability to appreciate it varies considerably, but the 'awesomeness' factor is a constant.

For some days the road shoulders have been quite narrow.  I am trying to learn the art of walking on/around 'rumble strips', important safety features for vehicles, but brutal on walkers with trailers like mine!  It/she (the trailer) can just about straddle the bumps, and sometimes there is enough paved space for us to the right of them.  In either case it involves constant staring at the ground so as to avoid the jarring bumpiness.  Or I can simply walk to the left of the white line and hope that traffic will move over!  Goodness knows I am visible at a great enough distance.  (See photo)

Arriving in Tonopah I was immeasurably blessed with an offer of backyard camping, with all of the comforts of  home!  A Nevada DOT 'road angel' (in more ways than one!) and his family have taken me in for a few days while I wait for a friend from SF, coming to provide vehicle support for the next stretch.  (OK, 'vehicle support'.  What does that mean?  I will continue the walk, at a 'do-able' number of miles per day sans trailer, and return to a base in Tonopah at the end of each day, with rides to and from…)  In this interim I am enjoying exploring the town and relaxing!

Sign outside of Bishop, CA

Boundary Peak - 13,141'

Rumble strips

Historic Tonopah Cemetery
Taken from the hilltop mining museum site - in the distance (about 12 miles) you can see a rest area where I camped the night before arriving in Tonopah.

At the Central Nevada Museum