Stories and landscape photography from Nevada High Points and Overlanding excursions. While every foray, whether for a mountain walk or a landscape photography outing, is an experience in the natural world, these stories focus on my aspirational obsession with reaching the high point of each of Nevada’s 314 (or so) named ranges. Encompassing much of the extensional faulting of the Basin and Range geologic province, Nevada is the most mountainous state in the lower 48 — more named ranges than any other state. I may never reach them all, but the excursions get me into landscapes, large and small, that I might not otherwise consider. Discoveries and experiences have been wonderful, many more await.
Occasionally, a highpoint excursion takes me into an area where our field teams are working, and this provides a good opportunity for a closer look at the landscape surrounding our project efforts. I left home early thinking I would get to the base of the Lodi Hills – my highpoint target on the day – to cover the relatively short, easy walk above Gabbs Valley in west-central Nevada; afterward I might check in with the crews to see how things are going.
The winter snows seem endless, the foothills of the Carson Range releasing the cold moisture from the lake effect that streams out of the Tahoe Basin. The Sierra snowpack is trending toward record depths, and we benefit from the overflow that has been prevalent this season. It does not look to be letting up as the atmospheric rivers remain productive. It means, however, that I must head farther south to find dry ground to explore. So, I am out early on Sunday morning – still a Second Friday weekend – and headed toward Tonopah where dirt will lead me into the General Thomas Hills, an easy-day outing.
Sitting at dinner in Beatty, after our nice afternoon in the Bullfrog Hills, Darren and I decided we would explore another small range on our drive home. The Goldfield Hills are a jumble of irregular hills around the mining town of – of course – Goldfield, Nevada. Mine tailings, head frames, and shacks mingle around prospects, some active, most not.
The thing about mining towns…
I have been turned away twice from Sawtooth Mountain, the high point of the Bullfrog Hills near Beatty, Nevada. Dressed in a crown of radio towers, the Bullfrogs do not seem a formidable obstacle; there is even a road heading up their western side. They are, however, a bit of a puzzle.
We missed a month – the move is complete, finally – but are in the Great Basin outback for December. It is another small set of hills as we head to Clayton Valley, a good winter excursion, to explore Paymaster Ridge. There is a cluster of named ranges here. In some ways the ranges are arbitrary; difficult to tell whether the named divisions are based on geologic structure, topographic prominence, or simply cartographic creativity.
I awoke well before sunrise and, with relief, drove east into the desert of the western Great Basin. One benefit of Nevada’s multitude of named ranges (325 on my list) is that there are many smaller sets of hills and relatively low mountains that I can save for quick approaches with relatively little planning.