2014-04 WA/OR/NV/CA 3/6
Day 8/Monday/April 14:
This morning I walked the .3 mile down the paved trail to the base of Burney Falls. It was a steep descent in a few spots but stairs were provided. I am glad I did as I concentrated on the springs that were seeping from the porous rock under and around the main falls. Using my Singh-Ray variable neutral density filter I was able to slow the water to a cotton candy effect. The green vegetation brightened the scene and a few glistening logs provided a contrast.
After hiking back up to the top, we dumped our holding tank. However, the winter drought in California brought water restrictions so the fresh water was unavailable.
I realized that we should have come down 139 from Klamath Falls then east on 299 rather than followed 140 east to Lakeview, 395 south to Alturas and 299 east. Since fuel is so expensive in California, it would have been wiser. We barely made it to Alturas for the $4.25 a gallon diesel. We had about 25 miles to spare before empty.
Our next destination was an agate and petrified rock source just south of Cedarville in the Surprise Valley on the east side of the Warner Mountains. Cedarville is a ranch town with wooden and brick buildings. Just south of the cemetery we turned up a county/USFS road to explore. We passed a few ranches and the well-maintained road followed a stream.
We looked around for petrified wood and agates but since it was published information, the area had been picked over. We did find a few scattered along the stream.
There were a few established campsites along the road but we chose a spot where we would get morning sun. We met an archeologist with the Cedarville BLM office walking with her dogs. Her 3 legged dog could keep up with his buddy. She said that this part of the Warner Mountains south of 299 was wilderness so that explained the large pines surrounding us.
We set up camp, ate dinner and fell asleep listening to an owl and the stream.
Day 9/Wednesday/April 16:
A stop at the Cedarville BLM office confirmed that Nevada highway 34 is a well-maintained graded gravel road. Rather than drive 447 to Gerlach, Nevada, which is paved, we opted to drive 34 for rock hounding opportunities and view the George Lund Petrified Forest. And, just for a change of scenery. The BLM ranger told us that the gate for the High Rock Canyon would be closed until the second week in May so that side trip would have to be postponed. Access is off 34 so it would have been nearby. That canyon and other remote areas are why we drive a 4×4 with the off
From Cedarville, you follow 299 to the Nevada/California border where it becomes 8A. We saw no trespassing signs for a White Pines Ranch Corporation posted frequently for miles. No cattle so possibly mineral extraction or a tax write off? When we turned south on 34 the signs were still posted on the barb wire fence. We encountered little traffic, just a few pickups, a road grader, and a cattle hauler.
We stopped on the road for a stretch and found lots of broken obsidian. We took a single track rocky road to investigate a canyon with aspens thinking that there may have been a homestead. Instead we found a few campsites and some interesting rocks, mostly jasper? There was a small spring we crossed where the aspens grew. There was a cave in the rocks near the stream.
Returning to 34, the petrified forest site came up quickly. 15 million years ago Giant Sequioas stood where there is now desert scrub. The logs were enclosed in wire fencing due to prior vandalism. We picked up a few Apache tears along the road; later we discovered their source in a county gravel pit.
Highway 34 eventually became paved and soon we were at the Black Rock Desert Playa. We drove down the Mile 8 playa access road to camp for the night. I walked quite a ways out on the white surface to find a foreground without tire tracks. The wispy clouds didn’t allow for any wall hangers even using the Singh-Ray warming polarizer. The mountains soon were out of the rays of the setting sun losing detail. The spare clouds turned pink but nothing as spectacular as last October.
I wandered back to the camper in the quiet, walked the dog, ate supper and went to bed.
Day 10/Thursday/April 17:
Today we awoke to a bright blue sky and a chilling wind. After breaking camp and walking the dog, we headed for the small town of Gerlach to check out the back road conditions to Smoke Creek/Sand Pass route which would eventually skirt along the west side of Pyramid Lake. We also wanted to visit the Cui-Ui fish hatchery which raises that fish endemic to the lake. Neither the BLM office nor the Friends of Black Rock were open so we headed down 447 to Fernley for fuel and points further south and west.
We encountered little traffic until Fernley. We fueled up at the 76 station on highway 50 (diesel at $3.79) then continued east to Fallon on a nice 4 lane divided road. At Fallon we left 50 to travel 95 south to Hawthorne and Walker Lake for lunch. Most traffic consisted of semis, including a 3 trailer rig and numerous returning snowbirds haul huge fifth wheelers. We ate on the shores of Walker Lake at 20 Mile Beach. Great view of the mountains reflected in the water. A few small (7″) lizards joined us.
Back on 95, we turned onto Nevada highway 359 toward Mono Lake and highway 395. We again encountered little traffic. Along the way there was a large US Army bomb disposal area that looked heavily guarded. A sign marked it as a demolition site; public not welcome. A road that led to some buildings went further in to a canyon where excavation was partially hidden by a ridge. We still gained altitude until we reached our highest pass so far at Anchorite Pass at 7626′.
We followed Cemetary Road where we went down a dirt road to the lake but couldn’t remember where it was. And, yes, there is a cemetary on the road. We could see the lake and the snowy Sierra Nevada range. The lake was a beautiful aqua green. We arrived at 395 and headed south to the Mono Lake Visitor Center. The ranger informed us that 120 West into Yosemite was closed as were the campgrounds. He showed us a dispersed camping map for camping off of 120 East. He also answered that the lake color was from the algae. The shrimp that eat the algae were just emerging from hibernation so the algae was plentiful.
Our next stop was Navy Beach to check out photo ops. The tufas weren’t as plentiful there. We did watch an osprey fly by with a twig for nest-building. The main birds had not yet arrived such as the Terns and seagulls.
South Tufa is a short drive from Navy Beach on a better road although still gravel. I walked the path down to the water and the main tufas. The light was spotty and this location really is a morning shot with tufas as foreground, the lake in the middle and the Sierra range as a back drop. Also, the wind quiets down and the lake is calmer. I shot a few telephotos then returned to the truck.
There was some idiot who brought a remote-controlled spaceship to the water and actually flew it out over the water in a nature preserve with sensitive species. I called him on it but the guy was an a$$h0le who didn’t care. It also annoyed the hell out of me as I like quiet when in beautiful places photographing. He finally left and went down another road to start up again.
As we needed a camping spot for the night, we drove east on 120 and found a previously used campsite off a forest service road. We are in Inyo National Forest which has the usual mix of pines and bunny brush. The pines glowed as the setting sun hit them. We ate our soup and went to bed. It was getting dark and a walk would have to wait until morning.
Day 11/Friday/April 18:
I just missed the alpenglow on the Sierra range by a few minutes. I did a few good images as the rising sun lit up the tufas and the mountains. The lake wasn’t as calm as I would have preferred initially but later there were some passable reflections.
It was quiet and beautiful until some idiot started up his drone and flew it overhead. Another photographer was there who was also annoyed. I mean you are enjoying some nice light and the quiet when a loud buzzing intrudes. He said if he had his shotgun, he would shoot it down. We noticed a pair of pelicans in the water and an osprey was still gathering twigs for a nest. As of April 1, people are not allowed to be within 200 yards of the nesting birds.
We returned to the Mono Lake Visitor Center to ask about legalities and why this intrusive activity was allowed. We were told it was legal and under FAA jurisdiction. However, there may be some changes to where these buzzing pests can be flown.
Down 395 through the exits for Yosemite, June Lakes loop, Mammoth, Crowley Lake and Convict Lake. 395 is 4 lanes from Lee Vining to a Bishop and is nicely engineered. Any vehicle pulling a trailer or fifth wheel has a 55 mph speed limit so we passed a few of them. Surprisingly few semis. Bishop was our destination for fuel, Tony’s meds, and groceries. The really nice ladies at the Von’s grocery store allowed me to fill our 4 water jugs with what they call the best water anywhere. It is from the streams that flow from the Sierra range and it has no off taste at all. It was really hot in Bishop and we enjoyed the heat that we may get in August.
Highway 6 would take us north out of town and into Nevada. Some large ranches sat at the base of the White Mountains on our right. In fact, the roads were named after the ranches. We were surprised at the many semis driving toward Bishop. Usually these roads have only local traffic.
Boundary Peak, Nevada’s highest mountain, was snow covered, it is visible from the highway. We passed Benton and the start of 120 west to Mono Lake. We also drove by the burned out abandoned former house of ill repute. The land is for sale. A few wild horses were visible, part of the Montgomery herd. They look fit and healthy. Montgomery Pass, at 7167, was easily driven up but whoops down we go for 8 miles at 6% grade. Our turnoff for 264 was next which would lead us to some colorful hills and the back roads leading to them.
At the junction with 773, we turned north and shortly found our rock hounding destination. The road was a sandy, gritty single lane that lead over a wash, up a small hill and around to where only shorter based vehicles would dare to venture. We were greeted by some gorgeous rock formations in pastel colors of pink, mint green, and tan. It was hot but we wandered around finding some interesting rocks. There were some big black rain clouds around Boundary Peak (we were on the east side) and we were pelted with intermittent rain. Boundary Peak, at 13,140 feet probably makes it own weather.
Our camp site for the night had a great view of the east side of the White Mountains Nevada shares with California. We were away from the wash, high enough to avoid any flash floods. And the highway which maybe sees 20 or fewer vehicles per day. After a quick dinner and a short walk with Toller, we crashed after a busy day. No one drove by on the highway during the night.