Backyard Adventures: Toiyabe Trails - Part 3
We personally believe any trail story is best served up with a cuppa steamy brew (or a frosty barley pop, your discretion) and the right music. Find your trail traveling theme music right here, courtesy of the Risky Biscuit Hayseed Hoot's weekly podcast.
The morning after our unplanned layover day dawned clear and sunny, and while there was still a stiff breeze, it was nothing like the howling winds of the day before so we packed up and headed north. The TCT is split neatly in half by the Ophir Creek Road and the three of us have been backpacking long enough to never pass up the chance to lighten our load – we took advantage of the road to drop a food cache at the top of the pass before starting our hike. By lunch we were at the cache and by dinner we were enjoying cold beer and hamburgers.
[Flat spots are a rare treat along the northern stretch of the trail. Photo: OldSchool]
While the southern section is not exactly overrun with people, (we didn’t see one person in 3 days) the northern section felt like we were the first people to hike it in years. This section apparently suffers from bad PR. Even Mike White’s otherwise excellent book Backpacking Nevada gives the impression that the trail north is a hard-to-follow ridge route with virtually no water for the entire 30 miles to Kingston and he suggests that anyone attempting it should carry enough fuel to melt snow. In actuality, the trail drops off to the west numerous times and crosses quite a few streams and springs so, in early June at least, there is plenty of water. In any case, if there’s enough snow for melting, there’ll be plenty of liquid water as well.
[The Toiyabe Crest Trail stays true to its name for long stretches of its northern section. Photo: OldSchool]
The trail itself, far from being indistinct, is actually beautifully engineered and designed, and considering the lack of use, quite easy to follow as well. There were of course the occasional confusing spots: dirt roads that aren’t on the map, mazes of cattle trails and fence lines crossing the trail, but most little used trails are like that and that just adds to the fun of being in a new place.
More difficult was finding places to camp. Compared to the Sierra, where nice sites are seemingly everywhere, finding campsites in Nevada can be a bit more of a challenge and the TCT is no exception.
While the southern TCT had a smattering of horsepacker camps, for the 30 or so miles north of the Ophir Road we didn’t see one established site, just a few scattered fire rings (no self-respecting Nevadan would dare camp without having a campfire), and most of those were just a grassy ring of rocks with a pile of rotted wood sitting beside it. Finding a spot that was both flat and level was pretty much impossible so we couldn’t be too picky. The flattest places on the whole trail were the numerous saddles we traversed along the ridges, but for us it was too windy and, unless you really wanted to melt snow, too far from water as well.
[Short on water, but big on views, the TCT offers hikers a generous helping of blue for those thirsty for a deep draught of Nevada skies. Photos: OldSchool]
Further north the trail again climbs back to the crest, combining alpine vistas with stunning views of the arid valleys both east and west around every bend. Although most of the new snow had melted, there were still long ribbons of corn snow crossing the trail and dropping over a thousand feet below us, begging to be skied. My non-skiing companions quickly tired of hearing, “Man I wish I had my skis!” Although truth be told, some of the early morning snow crossings actually had me thinking, “Man, I wish I had my ice axe!” We spent the last night at Washington Creek where the mercury dipped below 20 degrees and my water bottle nearly froze solid. Desert heat indeed.
After a final climb to the 10,000’ crest, the trail dropped 3,000 feet to end in a well marked but little used trailhead just past Graves Lake near the tiny town of Kingston. After enjoying celebratory ales (still cold!) we hit the road for the hour-drive south to retrieve Chris’ truck. We took a short side trip for a well-earned (and quite necessary) soak at a nearby hot spring before making the 4-hour trip back to Reno.
[Nearing the northern end of the Toiyabe Crest Trail, near Kingston, NV. Photos: OldSchool]
Nevada has a lifetime of wild places to explore and as with anywhere in the West (or the world for that matter) many of these places are threatened by mining, development, and rampant ORV use. The Nevada Wilderness Project, who make their home right here in the Patagonia Service Center, has taken up the fight to preserve wild Nevada and protect its wildlife corridors; check out their website and see what you can do to help at: www.wildnevada.org.
This concludes Old School's tales from the Toiyabe Trails. Stay tuned for future ramblings -- Old School tries not to spend too much time behind a computer, and is rapidly racking up more Nevada trail miles than most anyone here @ Patagonia Reno. Ask him real nice, and he might tell you about some of his favorite spots tucked away in those dusty hills.
While this trip's over, remember to keep your ear right here at the Risky Biscuit Hayseed Hoot for trailside tunes and more for those sunny summer days and warm, breezy evenings.