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Hooten Well, Nevada to Squaw Valley, California

This chapter comes to you courtesy of the Squaw Valley Administration Office.

Note: Correction to Chapter 27, Crested Butte to Grand Junction: Tom and Gretchen, after seeing the scabs on Laurie's arms from her fall in Grand Mesa, noted that this should not be labelled "slightly scratched" as diagnosed by Bill. A more appropriate description might be "really scraped up". Bill stands corrected!

July 14, Monday
The Amtrak train wasn't scheduled to leave Grand Junction until 5:30 pm and we quickly learned that it was running almost 4 hours late. This left us the day to accomplish our errands which included getting our bikes down to the Bike Peddler where they had offered to help us break them down and supply us with boxes for shipping. We had to take off both wheels, pedals, and the handlebars to get them to fit in the boxes. In this setup Amtrak would only charge us $5 each to add them to our baggage. With those 2 boxes plus 3 more (one was for a wheel that wouldn't fit into our bike box) and our 2 loaded backpacks, we hardly felt like we were traveling light. Due to the late departure of the train, the sun had set and we were unable to catch a view of Canyonlands or eastern Utah as we rolled through the night. The train is a wonderful way to travel — roomy and comfortable compared to an airplane. This train was also composed of double decker coach cars so we had a "tall" view of everything we could see. Still, we only were able to sleep in fits, but did enjoy our breakfast and lunch in the dining car and lounge car.

July 15, Tuesday
Rolling through Nevada, we saw plenty of salt flats, playa, scrubland, and mountains. Bill was excited over the landscape while Laurie wondered how in the world we would be able to work our way through it. Eighteen hours later we arrived in Reno where we were picked up by Bonnie Ryan and her Granddaughter, Kayla. Bonnie and her husband Dale are the Nevada coordinators for the ADT. They had graciously offered to let us mail our maps to their house and invited us to stay with them. Kayla is a bright-eyed 2 year old who is deaf so we were soon busy trying to learn some sign language and play dolls. Bill reassembled the bikes and plans were made to day bike some nearby trail sections.

July 16, Wednesday
Bonnie and Kayla drove us to Virginia City for our day ride west to Lakeview where the trail leads up into the high country above Lake Tahoe. Virginia City looks like a cowboy town with wooden sidewalks but different from what was shown on Bonanza. We rode up the Ophir Grade (an old rail grade) to a small reservoir. It was a surprise to see some water running at this elevation in these arid looking mountains. Actually, Nevada seems to have quite a network of undergound aqueducts to carry its water to population centers. Further up we ran into a small grove of aspens before reaching the top of the mountain which was dotted with a series of communication towers. On our way down we became confused by a plethora of unmarked roads that were not shown on our map. A recent mine in the area added to our dilemma. We took a wrong turn which took us down off the mountain to our intended destination although the road was rough in places. Then around the south side of Washoe Lake and up to the trailhead before returning to Bonnie and Dale's house by way of a Carson City casino. We lost $20 pretty quickly at this one. Later in the afternoon we met with L. D. Bennett, a local trail supporter, to go over the maps and route between Lakeview and Squaw Valley.

26.3 miles, 7.7 mph, 3 hours 22 minutes

July 17, Thursday
Bonnie was kind enough to help us get an early start so we could beat the heat. She drove us back to Virginia City and today we biked east. We rode quickly down 6 Mile Canyon, across US Route 50, and then on level gravel road to Fort Churchill, passing a tire testing plant on the way. Fort Churchill is a state park with nice camping sites with water, and it has the remains of an adobe fort built to protect the Pony Express route. Our route to and beyond Fort Churchill was along the Pony Express Trail. The Pony Express only existed for two years from 1860 to 1861 though it left an indelible impression on American history. Bonnie and Dale are members of the National Pony Express Association which rides a reenactment of the entire route from St. Joseph, Missouri to California each June. In Nevada, the route goes through desert and alkaline flats and it is hard to imagine the bravery of these lone riders passing through this terrain. Old ads read "Wanted: wiry young men, preferably orphans, for the Pony Express." We ended our ride at Hooten Well, which may be a real well, but it has an electric pump and you would have to be carrying a generator to get water out of it. There is a picture of Hooten Well in Eric and Ellen's book, "American Discoveries".

Back at the house, more logistics — how to get the bikes to Auburn, California which is at the end of our next hiking segment of 140 miles. Plans were made to have Bonnie and Dale transport the bikes to Squaw Valley where a couple we met on the train have a cabin. They, in turn, will take the bikes to their home in Auburn. With Dale home from his business trip we finished the day again reviewing the maps and the route we will take.

45 miles, 11.7 mph, 3 hours 47 minutes

July 18, Friday
We started our backpacking section with a 2400 foot elevation gain on steep gravel road. On our way up we passed a large water tank which supplies water to Virginia City, some 20 miles away. An aqueduct and elaborate siphon system was needed to accomplish this. Our trail then took us past Hobart Lake and Red House. Red House is an abandoned caretaker's cabin for the Virginia City water system. We were pleasantly surprised to see signs at some of the trail junctions today. This is always a reassurance as there seems to be a number of intersections or routes which don't agree with the maps exactly. Passing the defunct Franktown Campground, we found ourselves on a road which seemed to be taking us in the wrong direction. Backtracking, we found a very dim trail marked with a small cairn. Blowdowns and logging in the area obscured the trail even more. Bill was able to follow pieces of it for about 1 1/2 miles until we intersectied with a good dirt road which was our trail. We are surprised by the sandiness of much of the trail. We had expected more rocks. Passing a privately owned section of land, we met two ecologists from the University of Nevada who are doing studies of the pines and chipmunks in the area. We camped at Upper Price Lake, elevation 7,200 feet, beneath the towering Slide Mountain. This mountain had actually had a huge slide from its side a few years ago which completely obliterated Lower Price Lake.

13.8 miles hiked, 3100 feet elevation gained

July 19, Saturday
We had a beautiful sunrise this morning, when Slide Mountain was lit with the warm glow. We ascended on the Ophir Creek Trail for 1300 feet to Tahoe Meadows and a road crossing on Nevada 431. We then joined up with a so-called pack trail that climbed another 1000 feet into the mountains. This unnamed trail led us through forests of gigantic fir and pine trees, many in the 4 to 5 foot diameter range. Next, upon crossing over a small pass, we couldn't believe our eyes. Three thousand feet below us and lying like a cool blue sapphire was huge Lake Tahoe ringed with snowcapped Sierra Nevada mountains. We both stopped and just stared for 5 minutes. The trail then skirted around the ridge for more and ever-changing views of the lake. We descended to Grays Lake where we filtered 4 quarts of water as we would not pass water again for 8 miles. After leaving the pack trail, we successfully navigated through a maze of old roads. We also picked up the Tahoe Rim Trai near Martis Peak and followed it for several miles. Finally, we arrived at a spring near Martis Creek where we camped for the night.

15.2 miles hiked, 2600 feet elevation gained

July 20, Sunday
For once we had a fairly easy day, hiking mostly on well graded road. We took the Fibreboard Freeway, an "improved" gravel road. We then took the Deer Creek Trail down to the Truckee River and passed through more pine and fir forest. One thing we noticed in the Tahoe National Forest is that we have seen extensive logging activity, but no clearcuts. Large trees appear to be selectively cut, leaving all others to grow to maturity. This method leaves a more attractive landscape for hiking, although there is still a lot of slash and partial logs on the forest floor.

When we reached the Truckee River, we found the cabin belonging to John and Helen Power, the couple we met on Amtrak. They were out for a walk but we could see that our bikes had already been delivered here by Dale and Bonnie Ryan. We jumped into the crystal clear and chilling Truckee River to wash the ever-present dust off of us. John and Helen and their two granddaughters came back and we spent the afternoon lounging by the river. John grilled a turkey breast for dinner and we ended the evening toasting marshmallows around a fire. Trail Magic is certainly alive and well here in California. We also met a neighbor who lives near Sacramento. They have also invited us to spend a night with them as our route will go within two miles of their house.

13 miles hiked, 1,000 feet gained

© Copyright, William & Laurel Foot, 1997, Lynchburg, VA.
The Happy Feet

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