Go West, Young Man, Go West

Hard to believe it is already Thursday night and that I have been on the road since Saturday morning. 

Currently in the middle of Northern Nevada, camping out next to a raging creek in Water Canyon, a few miles SE of Winnemucca, Nevada. Ever heard of it? Me neither. 

It's been a busy 3 days since I finally got into some mountainous terrain. After camping in Eastern Colorado, I drove towards Denver to meet up with a friend for a quick lunch. I decided to run to REI to grab a map of Rocky Mountain National Park and headed towards Boulder. I've been using freecampsites.net to figure out where to stay for free every night. There was a campsite near Gold Lake in the Southeastern part of RMNP that I had completely to myself at 8800'. 

Driving up some crazy winding roads, I got to the campsite around 5pm, which gave me about 3.5 hours of daylight left to set up the awning, figure out a meal plan for dinner, and get a fire going. To my surprise, there was snow in the fire pit and a good amount of the dead wood on the ground was damp. It took a little bit to get the fire going, but by 7pm I had the fire roaring after throwing some stumps on the coals. The fire was ripping all night until I went to bed and I was hoping the coals would stay hot until the morning to make a cup of tea and not use another canister of fuel. 

About 100 yards from my campsite was an incredible view of the mountains. I sat on the highest rock and watched the sun start to set over the National Park. Some clouds came in before sundown, bringing flurries with it. I was shocked to see a 1/2" of snow on the ground in the morning, extinguishing my fire and any chances of having hot coals, but that's what happens at almost 9000' up. I packed up camp and started to head back towards Boulder to grab some breakfast before making the trek to Salt Lake City. 

I drove up I-25 towards Wyoming and connected with I-80 West. Halfway through Southern Wyoming, I found a free natural hot spring in Saratoga. It was only 20min off of the highway and I was definitely in need of a dip and a shower. The hot spring was surprisingly super hot and it was pretty tough to stay in it for more than 5 minutes or so. I stayed a little longer than I expected and had to start booking it to Salt Lake City. Driving back on I-80 west, I could see the Tetons in the far distance to the Northwest. Who knows, maybe I'll wind up driving up there on my way back from Tahoe.

Watching the sun go down over the Watasch Mountains was incredible. Utah is probably the most beautiful state I have seen so far. I got into Salt Lake City around 9:45, so I didn't get to see the city. I stayed at a friends house and it was nice to sleep on an air mattress. I woke up around 6am MST and jumped in my car to head up towards Alta/Snowbird.

I pulled into the Alta parking lot, with the goal of skinning up to the top of Mt. Baldy and snowboard down Alta. I got about halfway up when my skins decided to stop having any traction. I also might have started too early, as it was still really firm and icy. But I guess I have the bragging rights of saying I snowboarded at Alta. Also, I haven't hiked, let alone skinned up a mountain at that elevation since I was in Nepal 2 years ago. So by halfway up, I was pretty gassed and out of breath. 

It was only 9:30am when I got back to my car, so I drove down the road to Snowbird and spent the day there. Snowbird is incredibly expansive. You could spend just a day at each of the little sections of the mountain. You know it's going to be a good day of riding when you hear the avalanche bombs going off when you're getting ready in the parking lot!

After ripping Snowbird until about 3pm, I got back to my car to pack up and started to head towards Tahoe. Taking I-80 (yet again!!) I passed THE Salt Lake and the Salt Flats. Driving through the eastern half of Nevada reminded me of Kansas, but it had some incredibly big mountains popping out of the horizon. Before this trip, the only picture of Nevada I had in my head was desert and Las Vegas. But the northern part of the state is beautiful and mountainous. Don't get me wrong, it's still crazy flat, but these mountains just pop out of nowhere. 

I'm still not sure what people do out here in Nevada. There were a lot of mining towns along the way that sit next to the Union Pacific Railroad. I couldn't imagine being a pioneer developing this land. How did they decide to just say "well I guess I'm just going to stop here and this is my home"? As much as I like the quiet and solitude, I think I would go crazy living out here in the desert. 

This camp site is pretty desolate, but I don't need my headlamp to see anything. It's only a half moon tonight, but with no light pollution or any lights nearby, you can see this pretty clearly. So far on this trip, I haven't seen too many stars (besides the usual Big/Little Dipper) because it's either been cloudy at night at elevations or the moon has been overpowering them. 

The final push to Tahoe is tomorrow where I will meet up with my family for a few days and then the real adventure will begin. The plan right now after Tahoe is to go to the following National Parks: Yosemite, Sequoia, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Zion, Canyonlands, Arches, and then back into Colorado.

Not sure when the next post will be while I'm with the family. So until then, stay classy.