Home is where we are parked

Home is where we are parked
Home is where we are parked

Sunday, April 30, 2017

NV -- Sparks and Reno, 14-21 April 2017

Map picture
Map picture

One week in Sparks NV…

Why we came…

To fish Pyramid Lake and check out Lake Tahoe.

The campground…

Sparks Marina RV Resort is nice.  It’s big with over 200 sites and was busy during our stay.  We had new neighbors nearly every day.  It was quiet each night after everyone settled in.  The RV park has a big staff that works hard to maintain everything.  There are quite a few long termers but they keep their sites tidy.  We had a pull-through site that was paved, level, and had full hook-ups.  Satellite TV was good, but there was also cable, and probably a good selection of over-the-air channels.  Wi-fi was usually good, but slowed at times during high usage.  Our phones showed a Verizon signal with 3 bars LTE but acted more like 3G. 

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Sparks Marina RV Resort has over 200 full hook-up sites

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Mount Rose and the Sierra Nevada Mountains dominate the western sky line of the Reno area

We liked the location.  It was a couple of blocks off of the highway and within walking distance to a bunch of stores, restaurants, and Sparks Lake.  Downtown Reno was five miles west, Pyramid Lake 35 miles north, and Lake Tahoe was 40 miles to the southwest.  There is plenty to do in the area!

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We liked the two mile walk around Sparks Lake

Nearby towns…

Sparks NV, population 90,264 and elevation 4,413 feet, and Reno NV, population 225,221 and elevation 4,505 feet, make up Nevada’s second most populated area and the nation’s 114th largest metro area.  We usually avoid densely populated areas, but the region has a lot to offer.  There is an abundance of restaurants, stores, services,  and a busy airport.  Gambling and entertainment are big draws, but we came for the surrounding mountains and desert.  If we had to live in a city, Reno would offer us more than most.


Fly-fishing Pyramid Lake…

Time to fish! It would be the first time since Kolob Reservoir near Zion NP in early November. We started the day at Reno Fly Shop. Matt was very helpful and gave me advice on the best flies and the best places to fish on Pyramid Lake. We purchased some of the recommended flies and set out for the special lake that I have been reading about for years.

“Pyramid Lake is located 35 miles northeast of Reno, Nevada and is the property of and managed by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe... Pyramid Lake was designated as the first National Scenic Byway entirely on an Indian reservation.”

“The lake occupies 110,517 surface acres inside the reservation boundary and has a shoreline of approximately 125 miles. The lake has no outlet and is a residual body remaining from the prehistoric Great Lake Lahontan water body that covered most of northwestern Nevada thousands of years ago.”

          Lake Lahontan map2         Lake Lahontan map3

Maps of Lake Lahontan depicted about 15,000 years ago

“The lake is fed primarily by the Truckee River and was named one of the best fisheries in the world by Fly Fishing and Tying Journal in 2010. The lake is world renowned for its Lahontan Cutthroat Trout.”

The world record Lahontan Cutthroat was 41 pounds. Twenty pounders trout are caught fairly regularly. I would be very happy to admire a ten pound cutthroat and then watch it slip back into the depths of the huge desert lake.

As soon as we popped over the last hill and caught site of Pyramid Lake, we could see why it considered one of North America’s most scenic desert lakes. First, we stopped at the Ranger Station of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe to purchase a fishing permit. She was very friendly and helpful.

We made our way to Shot Dog point that Matt had recommended. We immediately saw fly-fishermen perched on ladders. The unusual method is preferred at Pyramid Lake because it’s easier to spot fish and it keeps you out of the cold water.

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Most people fish Pyramid Lake from ladders

We parked near some Tufa rocks. “Tufa rock formations are unusually shaped rocks found around the lake. These rocks are composed of calcium carbonate deposits that form at the mouth of a spring and lake water.” They made a perfect perch for me to stand on and get a good eye into the water.

As I fished I admired the bird life; Grebes, Cormorants, American White Pelicans, and one lone Loon. The lake is, “home to the Anaho Island National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was established 1913 by executive order by President Woodrow Wilson as a preserve and breeding grounds for native birds. Anaho Island supports one of the largest breed colonies of American White Pelicans in North America.”

Pyramid Lake harbors one of the largest American White Pelican populations in the US

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The pelicans are graceful when they glide inches above the water

I fished for several hours without so much as a bite. In the late afternoon four other fishermen joined me on my Tufa rocks.

Finally, as dusk enveloped us and the sky turned pink, I felt a slight tug. The average sized, 18 inch long trout, boiled the water for a few minutes before coming to hand. At last, I was able to admire an ancient Lahontan Cutthroat Trout!

Two nights later we returned. Again, it was not till early evening that I had any action. But this night was better. I brought in a Sacramento Perch and three cutthroat trout, the biggest was about 24 inches long and weighed 6 pounds. They are beautiful, hard-fighting fish that have thrived in the desert for thousands of years.

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Me fly-fishing Pyramid Lake near “Shot Dog” on the Tufa rocks

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The first evening was nearly perfect.  The second evening was cloudy, windy, and chilly…typical spring weather.

Pyramid Lake2 - 15 Apr 2017

My first Lahontan cutthroat trout!  It was about 18 inches long and hit a leech fly.

Pyramid Lake - 17 Apr 2017

My forth Lahontan cutthroat.  It was about 23 inches long and put up a great fight.  My biggest one was 24 inches long and twice as thick.  It weighed about 6 pounds.

Skiing at Northstar…

“Lake Tahoe is a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada. Lying at 6,225 feet, it straddles the border between California and Nevada, west of Carson City. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America, and at 122,160,280 acre feet trails only the five Great Lakes as the largest by volume in the United States. Its depth is 1,645 feet, making it the second deepest in the United States after Crater Lake in Oregon (1,945 feet).”

“Snow and ski resorts are a significant part of the area's economy and reputation.” Twelve major ski resorts are in the Tahoe area. Our Epic passes from Park City were still good for Kirkwood, Heavenly, and Northstar.

We decided to go to Northstar since its proximity was closest to Reno. We selected a good weather day following another blanket of spring snow.

Northstar averages 350” of snow a year. This year they have had 709”!!! And they keep getting more. In January they had 286”, February 188”, March 79”, and April 46”. We had monitored this all winter and had to see it firsthand.

We took the Truckee route to Northstar so our first glimpse of the lake was from the top of Mount Pluto. It was the first time that both of us had ever seen Lake Tahoe.

It was a pretty bluebird day with only breezy winds at the top of lifts. We thoroughly enjoyed the empty, long cruiser runs. The snow softened up nicely under the intense spring sun and pleasant 50 degree temps. The resort is so well signed it was very easy to take a tour of runs off of Backside, Zephyr, Comstock, and Martis Camp Express lifts without having to refer to a run map continually. 

We loved, loved Castle Peak and Burnout runs on the Backside. The consistently pitched blue and black runs are nearly a mile long and have great views. The Backside would be our favorite on a powder day if this was our home mountain.

Northstar ended up being our best day of the year as we racked up 22,500 vertical feet for the day.

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Ski route route at Northstar Resort  /  The beginning of a great day

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The Tahoe area received about 200% of their average snow!  /  Posing 2,000 feet above Lake Tahoe

Looking west from the very nice Zephyr Lodge

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The view from the top of Mount Pluto, 8,610 feet.  Lake Tahoe is in the upper left.

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Arleen on the empty Challenger run on “The Backside”.  We really liked the long consistent cruisers!

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Me on an empty run off the Tahoe Zephyr lift.  The runs face northeast and softened up nicely in the morning sun.

After the great day on the slopes, we drove down to Lake Tahoe. There are several towns around the lake and they all seem to run into one endless hodgepodge of homes, hotels, condos, restaurants, and stores. However, the intense scenery of the mountains 360 degrees around the lake makes it all feel remote.

We stopped in Tahoe City for an early dinner at Moe’s BBQ. Its authentic southern BBQ was exactly what we needed after a long physical day.

Finally, we took a walk on the city’s scenic path along the lake to the local park. There we saw corners of the area’s first jail, built in 1920, peeking out of several feet of snow and a 20 foot high snow marker from March 1952. We enjoyed the history and were able to fully appreciate the beauty of the deep blue lake up close.

     Reno NV55-19 Apr 2017    Reno NV56-19 Apr 2017

We enjoyed the food & the view at Moe’s Original Bar B Que in Tahoe City  /  20 feet of snow in March 1952

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Glad this sign was here!  Arleen thought about jumping into the 40 degree Lake Tahoe water!

Porcelain tiles…

Since we plan to build a house in a few years, we have been doing a lot of research on home products. For flooring, we thought Marazzi tile would be the answer to the durable, low maintenance yet attractive product we were looking for. Arleen was very excited to discover that they had a showroom in Sparks.  

Upon entering the American Olean / Marazzi Sales Service Center, we were warmly greeted by Roger.  After explaining that the showroom sells only to builders & designers, Roger still spent THREE hours with us.  

He showed us the products Arleen had preselected and took time to find samples in the "back".  He answered all our questions and listened to us, getting to know what style we prefer.  Then he made some suggestions we had not thought of.  He sent us away with samples and a satisfied feeling.  We know exactly which products we will use for all our flooring, bathroom tiles, and back splash.  Thank you, Roger!

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About to enter the Marazzi show room  /  Pondering a few of the MANY options

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Arleen has made her decisions!

Meeting new friends…

We have been “friends” with Adrian and Becky through the NROA (Northwood RV Owners Association) forum for six years. They live in the area and contacted us so we could finally meet in person.

We had a lovely time together discussing past travels. Though they do not travel these days as much as what they would like to, they enjoy following us through our travel blog. It was so nice to finally meet them in person and wish them happy travels.

Reno NV25-16 Apr 2017

Me, Arleen, Becky, and Adrian


We spent five days near Lassen Volcanic National Park CA and are currently near Crater Lake National Park OR.  Then we will spend a month near La Pine OR and the rest of the summer playing in eastern Oregon and central Idaho.

Parting shots…

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If you park too close to Pyramid Lake, you’ll get stuck!  This Toyota had to be towed out.

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Wild horse adoption center near Reno NV


Sunday, April 23, 2017

NV -- Elko, 10-14 April 2017

Map picture
Map picture

Four days in Elko NV…

Whey we came…

To visit family and friends!

The campground…

Iron Horse RV Resort was nice.  It’s conveniently located off the highway, but sits lower so vehicle noise is minimal.  The place is well run and the facilities are clearly maintained.  Though there are quite a few long termers, they keep their sites tidy.  We were in the transient area and were surprised that we never got neighbors.  I imagine that as the season progresses, the transient area experiences a high turnover due to the park’s convenient location near the highway.

We had a long back-in site that was fairly level and consisted of packed gravel.  We had full hook-ups, decent wi-fi, and a good Verizon cell phone signal.  There was no problem getting satellite TV, but they also offered cable.  We didn’t use the laundry facilities, but the bathrooms, clubhouse, pool and hot tub areas were very clean.  We were comfortable at Iron Horse RV Resort and would gladly stay there again.

Elko NV32-12 Apr 2017b

We were comfortable at Iron Horse RV Resort

Nearby towns…

Elko NV, population 18,297 and elevation 5,066 feet, has a semi-arid climate and its economy is based on gold and silver mining. “Most of the gold from Nevada is mined near Elko.” “It was first inhabited only in 1868, when it was at the east end of the railroad tracks built by the Central Pacific Railroad.” Elko lies along the route of the historic California trail. The trail ran through the area because it followed the Humboldt River. Elko is a Shoshoni word meaning “rocks piled on one another”.

The medium sized town has a good selection of stores, restaurants, and services. If you can’t something in Elko, you would need to travel 230 miles east to Salk Lake City or 290 miles west to Reno.

Approaching the Ruby Mountains from the east.  We enjoyed the drive over Secret Pass.

As we drove around Elko, we saw obvious reminders that we were in Nevada. There were a few casinos and slot machines were in convenience stores, grocery stores, and restaurants. We even saw a couple of legal brothels. In addition, there were aisles of alcohol in the grocery stores. It was all weird to us after spending the last six months in Utah!

      Elko NV4-11 Apr 2017    Elko NV37-13 Apr 2017

Slot machines in the grocery stores and legal prostitution…we must be Nevada!


Fun with my cousin and her family…

We met Cousin Tiffany and four of her daughters at the California Trail Interpretive center. It is one of their favorite places to visit and they had a good time giving a tour to Arleen and me.

“Between 1841 and 1869, up to 250,000 people sold their belongings, packed wagons, and set out for California.” We learned the stories of the pioneers who endured the 2,000 mile trek including the Bidwell-Bartelson and the Donner-Reed party.

The Interpretive Center had great displays on how the migrants packed up in Missouri, life on the trail, and the challenges of getting across the desert and the mountains. Finally, we learned about “seeing the elephant”.

After a good Italian meal with Tiff and the girls, we went to one of the local schools to listen to a recorder concert put on by the 4th grade class and Tiff’s youngest daughter.

Tiff’s oldest daughter met us there too. It was good to see all the girls, though we missed seeing her husband, Juan, again. We hope they are able to join us out on the road someday!

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Our adventure began at the California National Historic Trail Interpretive Center

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It was great hanging out with my cousin and her family!

Greg and the National Weather Service…

We both worked with Greg in Alaska. He heads the National Weather Forecast Office in Elko.

He gave us a tour of the office and explained the challenges of serving the area of most of northern and central Nevada.

We spent time looking at the new weather satellite images from Goes 16. They were amazing! Satellite has progressed so far since we joined the career field 30 years ago.

Greg took us to one of his favorite restaurants in Elko for lunch. The Star Inn serves Basque family style meals and is the top rated restaurant (out of 64 on Trip Advisor) in Elko. A number of Basque sheep herders settled in the area at the turn of the century.

    Elko NV35-13 Apr 2017

Greg and I at the Elko NV National Weather Service office  /  Greg showing us the new GOES 16 satellite capabilities…cool stuff!

Snowshoe adventure in the Ruby Mountains…

We left Elko and headed south on Highway 227. As soon as we crested the Elko Summit, the grandeur of the Ruby Mountains loomed ahead. They rise abruptly from the Lamoille valley and at first glance they reminded us of Wyoming’s Teton Range.

The Rubies are truly the jewel of the Nevada ranges. Not only because a ruby is a gem but because they are stunningly picturesque. Early explorers thought they had found rubies but they were actually garnets. However, the ruby name stuck.

The Rubies reach a maximum elevation of 11,387 feet on the summit of Ruby Dome and they run south-southwest for about 80 miles. There at least 25 lakes, and most of them have trout. Many of the lakes can be reached via maintained hiking trails, but others require rock scrambling and navigation skills. There are lots of good pictures and good info on the “Hiking the Ruby Mountains” web page.

As we drove up the Lamoille Canyon Road, we could see the U-shaped canyons, moraines, hanging valleys, steep granite cliffs, and cirques…all evidence this area was carved by glaciers during the recent ice age.

We only made it to mile 5 of the 12 mile Canyon road before we were halted by snow on the road. We were only a quarter mile short of our goal: the Thomas Canyon Campground. We parked and donned our snowshoes.

As we left, we noted one other truck. We greeted the snowmobilers unloading their toys. They offered to pull us up the canyon in our kayaks!

We made our way around the campground, still covered in 2-3 feet of snow, and across the bridge. The trail up the canyon immediately pitched up and the snow deepened. Unlike Great Basin, we would get good use out of our snowshoes here!

The view up the canyon was 360 degrees, from the jagged peaks ahead of us to the granite cliffs behind, and the ice choked creek making its way below us.

While we hiked we had hoped to spot the Himalayan snowcock. The Ruby Mountains are the only known location of this bird in North America. Mountain goats also reside in the rugged terrain.

Arleen heard a rumble and pointed out a small avalanche across the canyon. It would be the first of at least six avalanches we witnessed. The warm spring conditions had created unstable conditions, especially on south oriented slopes.

We expected to be safer on the opposite side of the canyon (north sloping). When a hefty load of snow broke loose, we both quickly glanced at its trajectory to make sure that we were safe. Luckily, I had the camera out and I was able to capture a video of almost the whole avalanche!

We stopped about 2 miles up Thomas Canyon where we had a great view of Mount Fitzgerald (11,016 feet) and Snow Lake Peak (10,885 feet). It was a perfect spot for a rest and a few snacks.

When we got back to the truck, we were amazed to see that there were seven other trucks parked near us. Every truck hauled snowmobiles up to play in the snow covered Lamoille Canyon. We were thankful that we had the peaceful Thomas Canyon to ourselves.

     Elko NV-12 Apr 2017-snowshoe      Elko NV8-12 Apr 2017

Snowshoe route up Thomas Canyon in the Ruby Mountains  /  About to start our adventure

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Entering the Ruby Mountains  /  Learning about the Lamoille canyon and glaciers

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Lamoille Canyon info  /  How the Rubies got their name  /  The road was snow covered within a quarter mile of Thomas Canyon (Click the pictures for a better view)

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Admiring an aspen grove and imagining it in the fall

Headed into the spectacular canyon

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Higher up the canyon.  Note the classic glacially carved “U” shaped valley

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We were blown away by the scenery

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We felt like we were in Grand Teton National Park!

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Just having fun

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See the frozen waterfall above Arleen?  /  Close-up picture of the pretty waterfall

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Headed back down the valley

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Thankfully there was a bridge across Lamoille Creek  /  This avalanche was exciting…Check out the video below

Video of avalanche in the Ruby Mountains NV - 12 April 2017


Our next stops are Reno NV, Lassen Volcanic National Park CA, and Crater Lake National Park OR.  Then we will spend the summer in eastern Oregon and central Idaho.  Life is great!

Parting shots…

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Keep an eye on your gas needle when you drive across Nevada  /  IS THAT SASQUATCH?!?