Laguna Seca Trip: Day 3 – Bryce to Ruby Mountains Wilderness

Monday, July 11

Another good night’s sleep: I woke up a bit before 6 but managed to stay in the sack until 6:15. Got everything packed up and was on the road by 8:15 or so.

Red Canyon is the first stretch of road; half a dozen miles or so from the summit (where the campground was) to the floor of the Sevier River valley. Made my way to UT 21. Left a small town with about 3 or 3.5 gallons left in the tank, saw a sign that said “No services next 83 miles”. I can easily make 100 miles, so onward!

The road goes generally east-west. The valleys it goes through generally north south. The Sevier River valley has a river (obviously). The next several had no rivers, not even sign of flowing water – no gullies, the road has no culverts. The valleys are shallow and wide – the road goes straight across. At the top, a couple of curves then straight road nearly to the top of the other side, then a few curves again. Repeat several times.

It’s tempting to put the hammer down and go like mad. But the road isn’t exactly billiard table smooth, and there are cattle guards periodically. I didn’t want to hit any of them at more than 30 or so. Not much traffic on this road, and most of it passed me.

These are valleys of theoretical cattle. Plenty of cattle infrastructure: there are cattle guards and signs warning of free range cattle, even a holding pen and well. But no sign of any actual cattle, valley after valley. No deer or antelope warning signs, either, so one would think there’d be fewer of them than cattle. If that’s possible.

Not much plant life here. In many places it doesn’t reach more than a few inches off the ground. But the terrain does seem to support a healthy rodent and rabbit population, judging by the roadkill. Based on how little traffic seems to use this road, it must mean a fair probability of hitting an animal.

It has been a while since I passed that sign, “No services next 83 miles.” In fact, it’s been about a hundred miles and still no sign of an an open gas station. Needless to say, I was feeling quite anxious. I passed through two towns, both looked like ghost towns. Either I missed the gas station or the sign was wrong. When the fuel warning light had been on for 30 miles or so, I went from anxiety to resignation. I no longer had any doubt I’d run out of gas.

This would not be a happy experience, but I was thinking it wouldn’t be much more serious than a delay of a couple hours. Although not heavily traveled, there were cars passing in both directions so I shouldn’t have to wait long. Also, I was confident that the car gets so much attention nobody would fail to stop if I was out there waving my arms.

Topping the next ridge, the road was quite steep on the down side: 8% grade next 5 miles. I shut off the ignition and coasted at speeds sometimes over 80mph. Probably coasted 4 miles. Going up the other side of the valley I see a billboard in the distance. Perhaps there’s a gas station there? By now I was thinking I wouldn’t even make it that far. I did manage to get there, to find a country store. Only it wasn’t a store, it was a bar. A sign next to the door said “Plan your next party here!” This place is 50 miles from nowhere. I stopped and went inside. It’s dark as night; a bar with a pool table. A gal comes out of the back room, dour and smile-free.

“How far is the nearest gas station?”

“25 miles.”

“I’m not going to make it.”

“He can sell you some gas, 5 gallons for $40.”

“Take a credit card?”

“He prefers cash.”

I have no idea who “he” is, but it doesn’t matter. Eight bucks a gallon is a bit much but I’m not really in a position to bargain. Not the most expensive gas I’ve ever bought, but close to it. She tells me to pull up to the pump and exits the back. The pump is on one of two white tanks on stilts, without labels. Hopefully, one is gas and the other is diesel. “Can I buy two and a half gallons for twenty bucks?” “No.”

Her dog, penned nearby, is excited and barking. “Oh, shut up! You’ll get the goats excited!” Sure enough, a drove of goats arrives to see what the dog is all excited about. She’s pumping gas, but the meter isn’t running. She’s clearly done this enough to know how long it takes to pump five gallons and when I start the car, the gas gauge reads as close to half a tank as you can imagine. I’m soon back on the road, anxiety in the rear-view mirror.

I find Ely the described twenty five miles up the road and stop for fuel and food. Here I leave US 50 until tomorrow and head up US 93. When I arrive at the junction of US 93 and ALT 93 confusion sets in. I seem to remember needing to take an ALT route. Memory tells me I want to keep going straight, which ALT 93 does here, but it’s not in my notes. I stop here and fire up Navigator, but of course there’s no cell coverage. I throw the dice and take ALT 93. This turns out to be wrong – I end up in Wendover. I get a nice view of the salt flats, but I’m farther from my destination.

No big deal, hop on I-80 and head to Elko. This eliminates the need to use the offline maps I downloaded last night as I easily get service in Elko and have navigation right to my camp site.

Snow Lake Peak, 11,142'

Snow Lake Peak, 11,142′

Ruby Mountain Wilderness is a neat little hidden gem, shall we say. When I was researching camp sites I found this oasis of green on an otherwise drab and barren map of Nevada. Alpine, snow capped, and glacial, it’s out of character for the area.

I get camp set up. It seems I’m not in a tent site but one for an RV. There’s room for a small camper and a short, steep path to a concrete pad where a picnic table and fire ring stand. I have no suitable place to pitch the tent. I make do, but I’m on a bit of a slope. We’ll see in the morning how it worked out.

I hiked up to a little lake. Pond, really, or perhaps Puddle. It’s two miles each way. I’m almost always starting my hikes in early morning so it feels a bit odd to be starting a hike at about 5pm. I’m usually done hiking by then. This little glacial valley is oriented north-south, so it’s already partly in shadow. By the time I get to the lake (surrounded by vegetation, no suitable place to sit and take a break) it’s fully in shadow and starting to get a bit cool. I turn right around and head back.

I was back in camp by 7:15. Now I finally get to try my camp cooking. I grab a package of Basmati rice and Spicy and Sweet tuna. This dang stove heats up so quickly, I burn a layer of rice to the bottom. It’s not a bad meal, though. Even though it’s two servings of rice, it might be on the light side after a strenuous day of hiking.

It’s 8:20 and the sun has basically set. Still too light for stars, but a bit different than the last two nights. Here, we’re on the eastern side of the Pacific time zone while in Bryce we were on the western edge of the Mountain zone. Should be getting dark soon. Time to select some tunes and get ready for the show.

Settled on Ronin for sunset. But it was getting too cold for me to sit in my chair, so I retreated to the tent. Through the flap I had a view of the sunset. An SUV pulled into the next spot and four people piled out – mom, dad, two teen-aged daughters. I thought they were getting set up; they made a fair amount of noise. One of the girls walked up the slope behind their site, not realizing she ended up right next to my fire ring and picnic table. Once she saw me she sheepishly said “hello” before retreating.

Not being a camper, mosquitoes were not much on my mind when planning this trip. It wasn’t until tonight that I gave them any thought at all. They were a minor nuisance here, but I guessed I might want to stop somewhere before pitching the tent tomorrow for some bug repellent.

I turned in, expecting an uncomfortable night.