6399 ft (1950 m) — 1590 ft gain
Sometimes you must go to the desert.
We are in the middle of a rather drastic change. Although we may have been leaning, at least occasionally, toward simplifying what and where we call home, we had rarely considered really doing anything. And then, last month, our leanings turned into a full-on run as several coincidental details led to the sale of our Gardnerville home and purchase of a much smaller property in Carson City – if only it had been in that order, we purchased before we sold. Although we are certainly fortunate to be able to do such a thing, the stress and distraction of negotiation realty and planning a move is all-consuming. We fear we have lost touch with who we are – “Why can’t we spend a normal day together,” has become a common refrain among cheers and a few too many tears. Have we made the correct decision?
So, after a bit of closure on the move, at least as far as having a nice offer and solid moving day next month, 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.
The Sinkavata Hills are small group of volcanic bumps and outcrops north of Rawhide Flat and south of Fairview Peak in west-central Nevada. I have often forgotten about this small group of hills even as I gouged around adjacent basins. After circumventing NAS Fallon’s B-17 Range, which takes up much of Fairview Valley south of Highway 50, I turned off the pavement onto a relatively easy two-track into Little Bell Flat. The sun emerged above the Sinkavata Hills as I bounced easily along, the cold autumn sky free of clouds; it is the first morning below freezing this fall. I could feel the day warming, however, as I walked from the truck, traversing a set of alluvial fans and washes to gain a sandy drainage that originated in the outcrops above. I would follow this.
I wandered among tuffaceous outcrops, banded on this west-facing slope, for a couple miles before negotiating a steep cleft in a small summit band of volcanic rocks. A barbed-wire, drift fence, likely separating grazing allotments, surprised me on the upper slope. It seems relatively new. I can drop my pack and crawl under easily enough, but I am often perplexed by these expensive and hard-earned boundaries. I do not suppose they are arbitrary – I have worked with the local agencies enough to know the difficulties of range management – but I often think these might be better-placed around springs and other sensitive habitats rather than draping the high-country ridges and summits. At least the newer fences have a barbless lower wire so that pronghorns, coyotes, and others can duck under to move about their home ranges – as I squeeze under, I also appreciate it, and, yes, I am at home here.
As with many of the otherwise forgotten hills, the summit views are wonderful. The larger ranges crease every horizon. The glaring sky pushes my photo compositions toward the ground but I am relatively uninspired – I need to move beyond this. This is my landscape, the altered wild with its hard sky, muted color, and elusive beauty. I can feel it in the crisp calmness of the summit rocks, how do I see and express it.
I drop quickly from the summit to the drainages below the west outcrops, volcanic flows that reach to the low hilltop summit. It is a nice walk through the sandy drainages to reach the water trough that rests in the northern reach of Little Bell Flat. It is good to be out, quietly alone, among the hills of the Great Basin. The Sinkavata Hills are not obvious on any map, they do not have prominence, but they can bring mindful quiet to an otherwise noisy and restless autumn. It is good to be out, if only briefly.