This weekend we went on what Jeff Potter advertised as a “Mixed Terrain Ride”. The plan was to ride roads, doubletrack, and singletrack, and ride through the mountains to Silver City, Dayton, and along the Carson River. We had only a vague idea of what trail conditions we’d encounter, so we just prepared for anything and would improvise along the way.
We were able to ride from our houses to the Centennial Trailhead with no problems, but we weren’t sure if the singletrack would be rideable. The snow wasn’t deep, and it looked like hikers had tramped down the snow. We also hoped that southern exposures of the trail would have less snow. We voted to give the trail a shot, and started riding. Less than a quarter mile in though, we were forced to walk. After nearly two weeks of melting and refreezing, the old snow had turned from powder to crusty ice, and prevented our wheels from rolling. We decided to keep walking, hoping that the trail would clear up around the bend.
As we got further up the trail, the hiking tracks started to disappear, and the snow got deeper. We decided that hiking the the singletrack all the way to Moundhouse would be a death march, so we turned south and followed the pole line road back to Highway 50. As it turned out, we had to walk almost all of this road too. Even the downhill wasn’t steep enough to get momentum through the icy crust. I fell off the bike trying to get it to go downhill, and the bike just stuck in the snow, standing at an angle like a arrow shot into the ground. I suppose this was good timing though, as the sign along our shortcut warned that we were hiking through an archery range!
Once we made it back to Highway 50, we opted to climb the hill to Moundhouse. At the top of the climb we turned onto the side roads on the north side of the highway. We meandered around the back roads, taking any good road that looked decent and that took us either north or west. We eventually came to snowy dirt roads again, and fortunately, a few trucks had been there before us. We were able to ride the packed truck tracks for quite a ways, only having to walk when it got too steep or the snow got too deep.
I had my 29er single speed, Dusty had his hardtail 29er, and Jeff P brought his Cyclocross bike. After riding the 26er single speed with ice tires the last two weeks, I was impressed at how well the 29er did in the snow and bumpy ice. I think I was even more impressed with how Jeff P did on his cross bike. He didn’t have the flotation or braking power Dusty and I had, but those skinny knobbies plowed through almost everything our fat tires did.
We saw many old and interesting structures along the way. Some had fallen, and some were tipped over. Some were spray painted with foul language and riddled with bullet holes. I’ve never understood why somebody would shoot something up of possible historic value. Is it really that much of a thrill to fire rounds at a concrete wall? There was no shortage of old couches either. The fee to dump an old couch at the public landfill must be exorbitant!
As we pressed on into the mountains, the snow started to get deeper, and finally the truck tires stopped. It wasn’t too long though before we could see Silver City at the bottom of a canyon. A steep, powdery snow descent got us down to a road that had been well traveled. The wheel tracks were wide and packed, and we flew down the hill. Jeff P’s rim brakes were pretty iced up, so I’m sure he had the most exciting descent of all. I think it was my favorite downhill of the day.
We finally reached Silver City! Since there isn’t much to do in Silver City on a Sunday unless you live there, our visit was brief. We bundled up, descended down State Route 341 a bit, and then turned off onto the Dayton Toll Road. The road was maintained only a short distance, and then we were back into the snow. This was the beginning of most of the mud too, as we were dropping elevation, and getting out into more exposed areas.
As we came to each intersection, we voted on which way to go. Dropping down into a big ravine seemed like the best choice. It would probably take us to Dayton, and there were some tire tracks headed that direction. After we got down a ways into the ravine, we came upon the source of the tracks. A guy was living in his truck and camper, and he had a decent size camp set up. As we got closer, his big dog bounded towards us. Worst case scenario: This is a Meth Lab, and this is the Pit Bull that guards it. Luckily it was a big friendly Yellow Lab, and the camper was friendly enough too. It’s a good thing, because this is where the downhill ended. It was either back up the hill we came, or cross the ravine and climb up a giant switch back in the snow!
As it turned out, the hike out of the ravine wasn’t as bad as it looked. And by not dropping all the way down into town, we were able to bypass the steep road climb out of Dayton. The switchback actually got us pointed the right direction to start making our way towards home too. We rode flat packed snow for a while, and it gave us a chance to dry off and warm up. The temperature was warming up though, and it wasn’t long before our snowy road turned to mud. We rode through one or two miles of mud to get back to Highway 50, and it sapped our strength. My water bottle was covered in mud, and the only way to drink from it was to remove the cover. We considered the amount of daylight left and the strength remaining in our legs, and decided to bypass the Carson River leg of the trip. We’d save this section for a time with less snow.
We finished the ride with several miles of asphalt. We rode up the gentle incline through Moundhouse, and then bombed down HWY 50 into Carson City. It felt strange to go that fast after slogging through mud and snow most of the day! We hadn’t eaten much the entire ride, so refueling was the first order of business upon returning home. Jeff P had some pizza in his pack, Kristy got us started on some New Belgium 2 Belows, and my son brought us out some cookies. While we were refueling, the guys helped me change a flat tire on my 4×4. It seemed like such an ordeal for such a simple task, and made me further appreciate the simplicity of bicycles.
In the end we rode and walked over 23 miles. I’m sure at least 2 of those miles were spent walking. There were a a few miles of mud, and several miles of snow. The return trip back into Carson City was on nice clean asphalt. It truly was a day of Mixed Terrain. Looking forward to 2010, I’d like to do more adventure rides like this. Utilize the network of back roads and trails, and get to see Nevada a whole new way.
A few more pictures can be found on Flickr HERE.