View Full Version : Black Rock Desert
12-24-2011, 08:50 PM
This was a scouting trip to determine the best route for getting to an area where a USN plane had crashed in 1955, and to also see the Black Rock Desert.
While I was hoping to hike and look for the crash site, I knew realistically it was going to be just a scouting trip. There were three likely ways into the area I wanted to start the hike from. The most direct route involved a significant amount 2 track roads. The next option was not as direct, but remained in the Black Rock Desert and was good county gravel roads; the third option was mostly paved, but took a very roundabout route. Since the secondary goal was to see the Black Rock Desert, we opted for the county gravel roads.
Heading up NV 447
Looking toward Pyramid Lake.
NV 447 disappearing into a dry lake.
Gerlach, NV on the left with a train entering town.
Betcha didn't notice the train at first!
It is a moderately long one sticking out into the playa.
Close up of the train.
Trego Hot Springs.
It was a cold day, so the water was steaming.
The water was bubbling up through the sand creating mini sand volcanoes underwater.
The black rock that Black Rock Desert is named after.
Cruising down NV 49.
Interesting rock outcrops.
Heading towards the settlement of Sulphur, NV which is really just a large open-pit mine.
Realizing we could not make our original destination in time to have enough daylight to hike, we decided to divert to Black Rock Springs and Double Hot Springs to sightsee and find a place to camp.
About to hit the playa with Black Rock in the background.
12-24-2011, 09:32 PM
The Quinn River at this point ceases being a cut in the desert and flows gently out onto the playa. When there is water flowing, this stretch can be impossible to cross due to the soft gooey mud. Fortunately for us, it was dry.
This section of the road is on top of the old Applegate Trail. Along this trail a historical society has placed markers at various points of interest.
The upper portions of the playa are not as smooth as the lower end.
Made it to Black Rock, note the remains of the old covered wagon to the right of our truck.
Old and new forms of transportation across the desert.
Black Rock Hot Spring. There was even a boardwalk leading to a little dock allowing easy access to the water.
View of the dock.
I stuck my hand in and the temperature on this end was quite pleasant. However a guide book warned that the source end can be quite hot. The book told of a story of a group of pioneers who stopped at the spring after crossing the dry hot desert. Their dog, excited by the water, ran and jumped in to cool off, but was sadly boiled to death before he could get out.
The source end of the spring with Back Rock in the background. Steam is rising into the crisp, cool air.
Looking across the spring at the playa.
Looking into the source of the spring.
Close ups of the old wagon.
Apparently this is a sheep herder's wagon rather than a wagon abandoned by the early pioneers headed to California or Oregon.
The truck’s shadow on the desert floor.
2-track headed to the next spring.
Steam rising from some smaller springs along the way.
Made it to Double Hot Springs.
Despite being several hundred yards from the spring source, steam is rising from the creek.
12-24-2011, 09:44 PM
More seam rises as you go further upstream.
Green plants survive the cold dry climate thanks to the warm water.
Hmm, I wonder if it is hot?
Looking into the bottomless spring.
Rasa exploring the springs.
Looking back at the springs as we go for a hike.
Back at the tub and the truck.
Adjusting the pipe to fill the tub with warm water. The tub did not warm enough to soak in that night, but by the next morning it was nice and warm despite the sub freezing temperatures outside. A perfect way to refresh oneself for the day’s adventures!
Sunset, and the temperature is dropping fast.
Time to make dinner and head to bed despite it being so early.
It dropped to at least 10°F that night (that's what the thermometer said when I got up in the middle of the night to heed the call of nature) and when we woke up, there was a layer of ice inside the tent.
Bumping the tent created mini snow storms inside! We did stay nice and warm in our new sleeping bags using a 12V electric blanket between the air mattress and the sleeping bag and a sleeping bag liner. However, because it was so cold, it made us not want to get out of the sleeping bags the next morning.
A few morning shots of camp.
The steam condensing on the grass next to the stream turned to ice.
12-24-2011, 09:56 PM
Rasa is making (a warm :wings: ) breakfast as I explore the morning sights.
Off for another day of exploring.
Some color in the hills.
up and out of a wash...
We're heading for that notch on the right.
Heading into a canyon that will take us over a small pass to the other side of the range. It is a bit of a gamble going this route. While it's the most direct route, depending on which map you look at, there may or may not be roads that go through. The most current BLM map had the road going from a thick green dashed line to thin green dashed dots that kind of goes all the way through, but the map legend does not say what that marking means.
On top of the pass looking into the next valley.
Looking back at where we came from.
And looking into the mini-canyon we came up.
Pinto Mountain off in the distance. We are headed to it via a circuitous route to the left (hopefully).
12-24-2011, 10:06 PM
Interesting rock outcropping.
We just passed an old sign that said the road dead ends 9 miles ahead. Well, we've come this far, we might as well see what is at the end and take a look around this desolate valley.
Looking around the valley…
We passed another warm spring…
…which had an old, unused rock corral next to it.
Off in the distance, a remote ranch.
We (fortunately) learned the thin green dashed dots on the BLM map meant either a planned road (at the time of map making) or a road that had been put in since the first printing of the map. The road worked its way around private land and wilderness area and…
…connected to good ranch road.
12-24-2011, 10:19 PM
What’s that white line on the top of the hills?
Snow of course!
Back on 2-track roads headed to Pinto Hot Springs.
The first creek, err ice flow, crossing.
The second crossing, I choose the bypass to the right going this direction, but stayed on the road on the way back out.
The ice was several inches thick. We thought we were the first to travel this road in a while since it was so thick. But a week after going through here, I found someone on the WTW forum who reported getting stuck here just several days after we were there, and his photos showed the ice had reformed just as thick.
Pinto Hot Spring West
The West spring was way too hot to soak in (and, in fact, was fenced against animals wandering in). the water fed a livestock tank down the hill a bit, which gave the water a chance to cool.
So hot it was actually boiling!
Rasa is staying safely on the other side of the fence at this one.
Boiling water in the middle.
Pinto Hot Springs East.
Interesting rock with a quartz band in it.
Close up of the quartz band.
This particular spring had a channel cut to funnel its water.
Travertine mounds and caves.
Mini tufa mound.
12-24-2011, 10:37 PM
Look, so cute, a mini volcano!
Water bubbling at the top.
And yes that is ice at the bottom!
There is water and steam coming out of that rabbit hole!
The main springs.
A rabbit bounds across the landscape.
Close up of the rabbit from the previous picture.
The rabbit sitting.
Great colors in the creek downstream from the main springs.
12-24-2011, 10:48 PM
Where streams from two different springs meet. See the “travertine” build up on the right? This is where I made my near fatal mistake. :o
Rasa standing at the confluence of the two streams. I decided the old board going across the stream to the right seemed pretty dicey, so I decided to test the “travertine” build up with my foot and see how solid it was…
…only it was soft silty mud with absolutely no resistance and I lost my balance. Fell in all the way up to my hip in what was essentially quicksand. Fortunately the water was only warm here and not scalding! And fortunately Rasa was standing right next to me. This picture shows the hole that I left behind after Rasa pulled me out.
You can see how far my leg sunk in.
And there was a stream nearby that had warm water to do laundry!
The end of the stream, it just empted out on flat land.
Another spring in the Pinto Springs East area. This was the only one we found that was structured for soaking in.
This spring was a good temp for soaking, but was infested with red spider mites.
Old in-ground building.
Water from the springs further up the hill had turned to ice.
12-24-2011, 11:02 PM
A duck (though in this photo it looks more like a grouse or chukar, but in person we thought it was a duck and did see several ducks on the trip) takes flight from its hiding spot.
Close up of the bird in the previous photo.
Somewhere in this valley a Navy JD-1 crashed claiming the lives of 2 of the 3 crew members. Someday we will come back to look for it.
But for now, it's getting late on Sunday afternoon, and it's time to head home. But we're going to take the long way around the north and west side of the Black Rock Desert area and down to Gerlach.
The ice broken from our previous crossing.
A little ranch.
Another ranch, this one definitely looked abandoned. We wanted to stop and check it out, but we were running out of daylight. Next time.
A dusting of snow on the hills.
12-24-2011, 11:09 PM
Losing daylight and we still have a ways to go.
Made it to Soldier Meadows campground with just the last little bit of remaining light. I had never been here, so wanted to scout it out for future trips.
The warm creek at Soldier Meadows.
Checking one of the soaking pools.
We still have another 60 miles or so before pavement… and the fuel gage was getting low. We actually ran out of gas in the middle of the Black Rock playa, but I brought two jerry cans of gas for this trip. I could have added the 5 gallons sooner, but had yet to run out of gas in the Tacoma and wanted to know where empty truly was on the gas gauge. Driving the playa at night was a surreal experience. Even though the off-road lights lit up 1 to 2 miles ahead of us, all you could see was flat and featureless terrain. It felt like traveling in an illuminated bubble of light and all sensation of speed, slow or fast, was lost.
Time to unload at home the next day. We made it home a little after 1:00 AM. 250+ miles of off pavement over 2 days and we only saw one other person the whole time! It was more than 800 miles for the whole trip; tiring, cold, but worth it. We will be returning in the spring!
12-24-2011, 11:36 PM
Another good thread by PHXtaco.
12-24-2011, 11:54 PM
great write up & pics...
all that clear water and some of can kill you...amazing.
Also good to know you didn't suffer any burns/damage from the misstep.
Thanks for posting this and your other adventures, checking out plane crash sites is not something I would have thought of but it looks like a great excuse to travel remote areas
12-24-2011, 11:54 PM
I enjoyed your photo trip report. Thank you for taking the time to post it'
12-25-2011, 12:06 AM
Great photo's. Looks like it was a nice place to visit.
12-25-2011, 01:52 AM
Thanks for the write up and photos...good read!
12-25-2011, 04:03 PM
Terrific write up. Felt like I was long for the ride. One of the best ones I've seen in I can't remember how long. Thanks!
12-25-2011, 04:32 PM
I always love your trip reports.
The perfect mix of words and pictures. Not too many words and plenty of great pictures!
I can't believe you fell into the quick sand! :snorkel:
12-25-2011, 10:59 PM
I'm with everybody else! Great write-up and great pictures! Great adventure!
12-26-2011, 10:45 PM
Fantastic write-up. Great pics too.
12-27-2011, 07:32 AM
Thanks for the comments!
checking out plane crash sites is not something I would have thought of but it looks like a great excuse to travel remote areas
Definitely is! I have a few other trip reports posted where we found the plane and a couple more from this summer I need to write up.
I can't believe you fell into the quick sand! :snorkel:
12-27-2011, 06:48 PM
Great report. One observation and one question.
Observation: The place you camped at Double Hot Springs was the same place our little ExPo group camped in May of 2009. Of course, it was much hotter then! That was on Memorial day at the same stock tank that was too cold when you got to it. As soon as we got there we diverted the hot water away from the stock tank so it could cool! By 5pm it was down to 104 degrees so we stripped down and jumped in! Same thing next morning - a nice soak, followed by a "field shower" (took a bucket of hot water from the tank and dumped it on me, then soaped up, grabbed another bucket to rinse and after rinsing, jumped back in.) Fantastic! It's the only time I've ever been on a 6 day camping trip and felt "clean" every morning!
Question: Looks like you took the old Applegate Trail from Sulphur to Black Rock Point? I thought that area was closed to vehicles as part of the Wilderness Study Area?
EDIT: Disregard my last. Looks like that area is open to travel, it's the area further to the North and East (the "Eastern Arm" of the Black Rock Desert) that is designated Wilderness.
12-27-2011, 07:37 PM
Great trip, write up. Really makes me miss the Blackrock, we usually go every year (sometimes more).
Here is my crossing of the mighty Quinn river in May, 2009 (much wetter)
12-27-2011, 08:38 PM
Nice, thanks for sharing.
12-28-2011, 12:51 AM
Great trip report . Excellent pics . :sombrero:Black Rock Desert is one of my favorite places to go . It's a amazing place where you have solitude and beauty ! Always new places to explore .:bike_rider: You showed some new and some of my old stomping grounds.:smiley_drive: Thanks:camping::truck:
12-28-2011, 02:40 AM
Thanks much for an awesome trip report!!!
12-28-2011, 03:26 AM
2009 bike trip through Nevada. I really enjoyed Nevada, Utah, and new Mexico, traveling about 200-225 miles a day on back roads and trails. Took a few pics when stopping to open gates or take a leak.
12-28-2011, 04:00 AM
Thank you. Nice report.
12-29-2011, 12:20 AM
thanks I had fun reading your trip report. I saw a "bear gryillis "show one time about quick sand luckily you didnt have any trouble getting out.
12-29-2011, 03:26 PM
Thank you so much for sharing! Excellent report. Looks like a really cool place to explore.
01-10-2012, 03:13 AM
I enjoyed the pics thanks.
Great report, thanks. Great photos too. Hope to visit the area someday.
01-13-2012, 05:38 PM
Great trip report. I especially like the above photo. So cool to have frozen plants and greenery in the same shot.
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