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Headed South... to the Arctic | Connect the Dots #1

It was refreshing 6°F as we emerged from the tent on the first morning of our trip. Without a doubt, @mrs.turbodb's statement the previous afternoon as we pounded away the miles in the warmth of the Tacoma - "We're headed south to the Arctic" - was top of mind. I'd ribbed her at the time - geography is her thing - but there was no question that the trip was off to an auspicious start.

So, I'd better give a bit of background on how we ended up here.

There isn't any *good* reason to "be" in temperatures like this.

No matter where we travel, there always seem to be more to see than time to see it. The result - inevitably - is that areas are left un- or at the very least under-explored, leaving us wanting more; urging us to return.

Nevada is no exception. One of our first introductions to this fantastical state was along the Nevada Backcountry Discovery Route (NVBDR), a route that surprised us both with its beauty. Since then, we've returned several times, each time uncovering more and more that this underrated state has to offer.

But this time was a little different. Rather than heading to a specific region, we'd be looping through the state, jumping from place to place that we've discovered but - for one reason or another - have been unable to visit.

We were hoping to do it before the whole place was covered in snow, but we'd obviously missed our window with Lamoille Canyon.

The previous afternoon...

We'd crossed into Nevada - after stints in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho - in the Owyhee region. It's a favorite of ours, but we've not spent much time in the portion that reaches into Nevada - something we'll have to remedy on a future adventure.

As @mrs.turbodb napped, I snapped a quick photo of a familiar name, the hillside covered with the first dusting of white stuff we'd encounter.

The landscape didn't appear any warmer as we continued south.

Soon, we found ourselves climbing through Wild Horse Canyon, the roads clear, but the hillsides becoming whiter even as our elevation barely changed. Around a bend we stumbled on the Wild Horse Dam, built in 1969, and a striking structure that we knew we had to investigate in a bit more detail.

After wrestling to get a good angle with my camera, I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to break out the flying variant.

A boy with a toy, I couldn't help but to play around with angles and perspective a bit.

Wild Horse Reservoir - bigger than you might suspect; certainly bigger than we thought when we arrived at the dam.

After playing around with the drone for a few minutes - the first time @mrs.turbodb had seen it and more interesting than I think she expected - it was back into the warmth of the Tacoma as we continued south towards our first destination.

With the days getting shorter, we were still a few hours from camp as the sun set and the moon climbed into the sky.

Knowing that we'd arrive to camp late - and that it was likely to be on the chilly side - we'd stopped in Boise, Idaho for fuel, a quick lunch at Wendy's, and to pick up dinner - a 16" long Turkey Tom - at the local Jimmy Johns. Rolling into Lamoille Canyon just after 8:00pm, this last point turned out to be the most important. The road - covered in ice and snow - was slippery enough for me to shift into 4WD, and it wasn't a hard decision to simply camp in the parking area at the end of the canyon - all the campgrounds were closed and no one else seemed to have made the same silly decisions that delivered us to this place.

I braved the balmy 30°F temps to setup the tent and snap a few quick photos.

The moon - now high in the sky - did a great job of illuminating the glacier-carved canyon walls.

Dinner turned out to be a flop. Somehow our sandwich ended up devoid of mayo, apparently the sole ingredient responsible for any semblance of flavor. Still, we were hungry and eating slowly allowed us a few more precious minutes in the truck, so we each suffered through our meal with minimal complaints. And then, after a quick brush of the teeth, we zipped up all possible tent closures and snuggled down into the comforters for what would turn out to be a rather pleasant night's sleep.

And now, back to our "refreshing" morning...

That, then, brings us to the 6°F situation. I'd planned for us to tackle two hikes in Lamoille Canyon, but even as we'd headed to bed we'd decided to scrap the second - a trailless trek up a steep hillside - and evaluate the feasibility of the first - Lamoille Lake - when we had a better sense of the snow depths in the morning.

At least the tent was dry, and the views weren't anything to complain about.

I think we made the right call to skip the second hike, that looks rather treacherous.

Checking in with my companion, I was elated to hear that she was up for giving the first hike a shot. It was - we figured - only four miles roundtrip, and we could always turn back if the snow goot too deep or the trail unmanageable. And so, we found what we believed to be the trailhead ( it wasn't) and began our ascent.

Good advice in all situations.

Turns out that this would ultimately take us to the right place, but we were technically on the "Lamoille Lake pack trail."

The horses got some good views on their way up. Better than the regular trail, we'd later discover.

For most of the climb, the snow depth ranged from 8- to 14-inches, making @mrs.turbodb glad for the tall gators and Yak Trax she was wearing, and me happy to plod along in my soft-rubber-soled Muck boots. Along the way, springs and creeks still trickled down the hillsides, the winter's wrath not yet enough to fully impede their downward progression.

Waves of solid water.

A battle between the sun and cold.

All alone in a winter wonderland.

Who says a tree has no heart?

We arrived at Lake Lamoille a little before 10:30am. Having gained some 1,000 feet over the last couple of miles, we found ourselves at 9,700, our bodies warm from the exercise. Despite the snow, we were both glad to have made the decision to carry on - it was turning into a beautiful morning.

Enjoying the view.

The view.

The view behind us wasn't bad, either.

Having lugged it up on my hips, the time was right for a bit more pilot practice before heading back down to the Tacoma, so I compressed a DJI Air 3-sized pad of snow and unfolded my flying beast.

Soon it was in the air, my fingers alternately dancing over the screen and pressing the sticks, words I will surely not repeat here escaping my lips. Seriously - as someone who's never been into modern video games, which seem to use the same "control style" as a drone - I'm really bad at flying. Luckily, my hiking companion was happy to humor me, and we spent a half hour or so dorking around with various flying modes and posing for various videos that turned out so terribly that they've already been digitally shredded and shall never be mentioned again.

I assure you, we are in this photo. Somewhere.

This was a cool view that we'd have never noticed without this time-sucking-machine. Again, like Waldo, we are there. Somewhere.

While flying around - usually in the wrong direction or with the camera pointed in the wrong place - I'd happened to notice a few other lakes just to our east. These Dollar Lakes were ones that the official trail - the one we'd meant to hike - passed on its way to Lamoille Lake, so we decided that we'd try to follow that route on our way down the mountain. The trick - of course - would be finding it.

The Dollar Lakes at the end of Lamoille Canyon.

Snow bashing our way down - the snow a bit deeper on this shady side of the canyon - we made quick work of the three Dollar Lakes, each progressively more frozen than the last, as we enjoyed the expansive views to the north. This, surely, is a place worth revisiting during each season - the fresh green of spring and the brilliant colors of fall turning these canyon walls into a true work of art.

The snow was even deeper over here in the shade.

A small island beckoned in the middle Dollar Lake, but the ice was too thin to investigate.

A fantastic pallet, the white snow like a clean canvas for next season.

Back at the Tacoma, it was only noon, but we were hungry. Not sure if we'd find a frozen container of milk, we'd skipped our cereal breakfast, so @mrs.turbodb set about assembly of turkey sandwiches - with mayo, of course - while I stowed the tent which was pleasantly-warm-inside from sitting in the sun for the last couple of hours.

Lunch lasted all of about 20 minutes, and soon we were on our way out of the canyon, our decision to skip the second hike confirmed as we passed the "trailhead," where a sheet of ice extended up the trailless, nearly 60-degree incline.

We stopped near Lamoille Camp to admire the glacier-carved canyons.

250,000 years ago, two glaciers - each 1,000 feet thick - merged here and extended downstream to the mouth of Lamoille Canyon. Right Fork Lamoille Creek Glacier (above photo, center), extended three miles up canyon, while Lamoille Glacier began nine miles up Lamoille Canyon (above photo, left).

35,000 years ago, temperatures warmed and the glaciers melted. Then, the climate turned cold and stormy again, glaciers reappeared - though smaller than before. As rocks and soil were dragged from the left wall of its canyon, Right Fork Glacier built a dam across Lamoille Canyon and a small lake formed.

Temperatures have again warmed, and when the glaciers melted for the last time, the dam washed out and Lamoille Creek has since cut a V-shaped valley.

Information Sign

From Lamoille Canyon, we had a good distance to our next dot in the great state of Nevada. A mine, high at the top of a mountain, we knew we'd be arriving after dark, even having skipped the second planned hike of the day. Undeterred - we could always explore in the morning, we hit the I-80 and headed west.

We'd see a lot of wide-open country on this trip.

At Battle Mountain we filled up with fuel and turned south, a painfully slow process as the entire town was celebrating Halloween a few days early and traffic was backed up at every intersection as dinosaurs, princesses, minions, and their bodyguards crossed the streets in search of the perfect full-sized candy bar bonanza. Soon enough though, we were on dirt - albeit well-graded - for the first time, and making good time once again.

I don't know if Nevada has the most wild horses, but there are a lot!

With the hours ticking by and the sun racing toward the horizon, things were a little boring along this section of the route but just as we were nodding off, a small cabin presented itself a few hundred yards off the main road. Unsure what it was, but sure that it was something, I pointed the Tacoma down a small spur to investigate.

Whatever it is, that's one heck of a ventilation system.

Turns out that it was some sort of old electrical substation or switching shack or something. This made a lot of sense - and was probably something we'd have realized had we not been nodding off - as a series of power poles ran through the valley, passing immediately next to the structure.

Inside was a mess.

Anyone need a line amp? If I'd completed my training as an electrical engineer, I'd probably know what these do. Or did.

Blurry labels. These things must have been trying to escape when I snapped the photo. Because I have an ultra-steady hand.

Ready to get back to our naps, the last of the sunlight was dancing on the hilltops as we turned west and then south in the Tobin Range - headed for what we thought was the Tip Top mine. Just before turning off of Golconda Canyon Rd, we came to an old homestead that certainly seemed worth checking out.

A purple hue blanketed the landscape as we raced towards camp.

Some nice stonework on one of the outbuildings.

Never seen anything like this wood-fired boiler (room heater) I discovered in one of the buildings.

Now that's one way to make a roof!

I really liked the way this rusty old hardware looked against the weathered wood.

A blacksmith's shop, complete with hand-crank blower.

There were a ton of metal signs around. Mostly for beer, it seems.

By the time we were done poking amongst the half-dozen or so buildings that comprised this old homestead, the sun had set and the last of the days light was fading quickly. We'd made better time than I'd expected, but we were definitely going to be making dinner in the dark.

Our second dramatic moonrise in as many days.

Nearing the end of our planned route, we had a decision to make. Here, the road forked, and I'd labelled the left fork (at the top of the mountain) as the Tip Top Mine and the right (at the bottom of a nearby canyon) as Tip Top Mine cabins. While these labels were incorrect, we decided that we'd prefer waking up with a view (and some sun on the tent) even if it was a little cooler throughout the night, so we headed up.

Then, three quarters of the way to the top, we wussed out. It's not that the road was impassable - the Tacoma was doing just fine - but we had no idea how far the steep, narrow, ledge road would continue, and as the grade increased, we decided it was better to bail when we had the chance than find ourselves headed for the bottom of the canyon via a more direct route than the road.

And so, just after 7:00pm - after making our way back to the wye and down to the mining cabins - we leveled the truck in the road and set about prepping dinner. Let me tell you - it was not pleasant. Though we were 3,000 feet lower than where we'd started our day, it felt colder. We could only hope that we'd stay warm through the night.


The Whole Story



    JOHN D MORAN November 19, 2023

    Very nice, I don't do well in the cold weather at my age but it's nice to see the snow, from a distance! I've hiked in it and had to shovel it during my Army years and decided snow is NOT my friend, LOL. I liked the info about your cameras. I recently purchased a friends system of Canon bodies and lenses, R6 & R7 now have to learn to use them. Back when I did pro-photography (30 yrs) I had a big Nikon system. That first building immediately reminded me of some of our old phone company repeater shacks and the equipment confirmed that. Those equipment racks standard 1940's stuff, like some of the old Army communications systems I encountered in S.E. Asia. That was an interesting find. Again, a very enjoyable view and read and the drone is a great piece of gear for those high shots.

    • turbodb
      turbodb November 19, 2023

      LOL, we don't love the cold either - at least not that cold! It's been interesting to have conversations over the years about "sufferings" on the trail. Wind or Bugs? (we choose wind over mosquitoes/biting bugs, not sure about other bugs, probably depends on quantity). Hot or cold? (we usually choose cold b/c you can always bundle up, but I think we're usually thinking of 95+ °F vs 40 °F, not the 6 °F we ran into this time). Of course, we're out in all sorts of conditions, and always trying to enjoy wherever we are as much as we can!

      I bet you'll really like the R6 and R7. With some nice glass, they'll do great. I'm considering a second body myself - possible the R5 mark II when it comes out next year (if I can find it on sale). Definitely not something I need, but I think I'd enjoy it and I never really splurge for myself, so we'll see.

      Thanks for the note as always - I love hearing what types of memories are brought back by some of my adventures. Those stories from others are super enjoyable for me, and add a lot to my own memories and enjoyment of a place, even when I hear them after the fact. 👍

  2. David Fitzgerald
    David Fitzgerald November 20, 2023

    I'm afraid I must report you to Homeland Security for scoping out a Dam with a drone !
    Kiding... looks crisp and cold, maybe you should do a piece on Hawaii this time of year!


      • David
        David November 21, 2023

        Thank you for the offer ! Mrs Tubodb and I will send you pictures! lol 😆

        • turbodb
          turbodb November 21, 2023

          🤣 touche!

  3. Gerard Horan
    Gerard Horan November 21, 2023

    Fantastic pictures. I think your skill has increased!!!!

    • turbodb
      turbodb November 21, 2023

      Thanks Gerard! I'm always trying to get better... though maybe sometimes I just get luckier than others! 😉

  4. Gustav
    Gustav November 22, 2023

    GREAT stuff.
    There's something special about the Nevada chill. Call it muscle memory from so many quality winter outings in the American Outback, but I'm shivering while reading and looking at these... WONDERFUL! Thanks.

    • turbodb
      turbodb November 22, 2023

      Thanks Gustav, glad I could bring a little bit of the experience to the other side of your monitor. Hope you had some hot cocoa (or warm beverage of choice) to warm you back up!

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