Today, we’ve got the final installment in Old School’s Toiyabe Trails series (previous posts: The morning after our unplanned layover day dawned clear andsunny, and while there was still a stiff breeze, it was nothing like the howlingwinds of the day before so we packed up and headed north. The TCT is splitneatly in half by the Ophir Creek Road and the three of us have been backpackinglong enough to never pass up the chance to lighten our load – we tookadvantage of the road to drop a food cache at the top of the pass beforestarting our hike. By lunch we were at the cache and by dinner we were enjoyingcold 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 withpeople, (we didn’t see one person in 3 days) the northern section felt like wewere the first people to hike it in years. This section apparently suffers frombad PR. Even Mike White’s otherwise excellent book Backpacking Nevada gives the impression that the trail north is a hard-to-follow ridge routewith virtually no water for the entire 30 miles to Kingston and he suggeststhat 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 streamsand 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 actuallybeautifully engineered and designed, and considering the lack of use, quiteeasy 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 linescrossing the trail, but most little used trails are like that and that just addsto 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 horsepackercamps, for the 30 or so miles north of the Ophir Road we didn’t see oneestablished site, just a few scattered fire rings (no self-respecting Nevadanwould dare camp without having a campfire), and most of those were just agrassy ring of rocks with a pile of rotted wood sitting beside it. Finding aspot that was both flat and level was pretty much impossible so we couldn’t betoo picky. The flattest places on the whole trail were the numerous saddles wetraversed along the ridges, but for us it was too windy and, unless you reallywanted to melt snow, too far from water as well.
[Short on water, but big on views, the TCT offers hikers a generoushelping 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 andwest around every bend. Although most of the new snow had melted, there werestill long ribbons of corn snow crossing the trail and dropping over a thousandfeet below us, begging to be skied. My non-skiing companions quickly tired ofhearing, “Man I wish I had my skis!” Although truth be told, some of the earlymorning 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 traildropped 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 awell-earned (and quite necessary) soak at a nearby hotspring 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 (orthe world for that matter) many of these places are threatened by mining,development, and rampant ORV use. TheNevada Wilderness Project, who make their home right here in the PatagoniaService Center, has taken up the fight to preserve wild Nevada and protect itswildlife corridors; check out their website and see what you can do to help at:
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.