July 25 – Smoke Creek

Head out of Fernley to the Pyramid Lake Reservation to see about a camping permit. We cross over the Truckee River to Nixon, a picturesque spot that the river runs through. Stop and talk to a native officer, then drive up the west side of the lake. We did pick up a great piece of tufa – not for carving, just for looking. (UPS – they’re everywhere!)

We arrive at the Smoke Creek Desert and continue on following the edge of the playa. Looks like the playa is still flooded – but it’s just a mirage. I wonder, how does a mirage create a reflection of trees and clouds? Smoke Creek Desert and Black Rock Desert were flooded such that folks were kayaking on them this spring. The two deserts almost join together, with Gerlach in the center.

Stopping at Smoke Creek Ranch we rest in the shade of giant Russian olive trees that were planted many, many years ago. After Smoke Creek, we drove around the playa and found a great reservoir and drove trails around the lake until we could drive no further. We see Avocets, Blue Herron, Stilts, Ravens, Canadian Geese, Ibis and raptors galore – so many things we’d never see if Steve wasn’t driving. We will keep this as a future camp spot.

We begin to see the little immigrant signs, which site a time and quote from a pioneer’s journal. Some from the Lassen group and some from the Nobles group. Facinating to see these markers. We have found them on many journeys and in the most remote places. To imagine how they made it with the equipment they had is truly amazing. These are alternate routes of the Oregon Trail.

Heading to Gerlach now, we aim for Planet X and land safely. We stop every year and visit, pick things up, laugh. John and Rachel Bogard are such interesting and interested people. We would love to purchase the Wall Springs property “next door” on Smoke Creek Playa west of Planet X, but they aren’t selling.

After our visit with Rachel (John was in Oregon fishing) we head into Gerlach for a bite at Bruno’s Country Club – there’s fun history here – and share a plate of 3-meat ravioli that is Bruno’s grandmother’s recipe. Delish. Now out to Frog Pond to camp.

We get to our spot and pull out our relax chairs and do just that – relax. We are very happy to be here. While we are relaxing, a group of 7 trucks of people come in – they are on a tour of the region coming from Virginia City. They walk around, have a film crew comemorating their adventure. Seemingly unimpressed they say a quick hello and leave. Hmmm. One of the two leaders of the group was certain he saw multicolored fish on a previous visit in the pond…was that during Burning Man, perhaps? There are no multicolored fish, only “regular minnows” as one said. They are actually Desert Pup Fish.

Storms seem to be forming around us. We’ve been through storms here before, so we head for Bruno’s Motel in town. This has been a very unusual year for the region, having rain long into the spring. As we drive into town we start getting drops on our windshield. After we check into the room, we hear thunder and it rains so hard, and looking back at the playa we see a 500′ sand storm (haboob) right about where we would have been camped. Whew. Stormed all night.

The crews are slowly arriving in for set up of Burning Man at the end of August. Steven D’Amelio, you must plan to come to Black Rock City. You will enjoy! Later, storms still ongoing, a full double rainbow appears – Arches Over Gerlach! Beautiful!

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