|Backpack||44.15 Miles||4 Days |
|13,971 ft AEG|
We dropped the 9Loldsmobuick at Road's End at 7:30 and headed toward Harrison Pass. It took just under an hour to get there, but we had the good fortune of a truck capable of knocking off the first 2.8 miles of trail on the 4wd road (and 900aeg!). I wasn't sure what to expect from this, and it was definitely rougher than expected. As it turned out, the brush had recently been cleared by fire crews so the previous mandatory pinstriping had been eliminated, and only the steep and rocky road surface remained as an obstacle on the drive.
9.25mi / 2,496aeg / 4:19
At the 4wd trailhead, we headed off at the crack of 9. There were several little creeks or springs along the three miles of additional double track before reaching the Wilderness Boundary. We took a lunch break at McCutcheon Creek, one of the possible spots I had marked to camp. Others had camped here, but sites were not shaded and it was quite windy. It was still early in the day so we headed up the big hill crossing over into the next drainage and dropping down to South Fork Smith Creek after about a 9 mile day.
Day 1 Extra
4.03mi / 1,325aeg / 2:24
Since it was early, we decided to push an extra 1.5 miles to Middle Fork Smith Creek to camp there. This turned out to be a disaster as there was absolutely no option for camping. We searched high and low and wasted about two hours until finally deciding to just backtrack to South Fork! Instead of a reasonable 9 mile day, it ended up being about 13!
6.59mi / 2,841aeg / 3:53
A short day but with a big climb, we made no real rush to get going in the morning, hitting the trail around 9:30. Of course we got to start our day with the 1.5 miles back to Middle Fork for the 3rd time! At least it's a pretty nice stretch of trail. From Middle Fork the climb to the pass begins in earnest and we made it to the pass around 12:30. I struggled hard on the climb with aggressive shortness of breath and was super happy to reach the pass. At this point, the switch flips from the green rolling hills and aspens of the southern Rubys to rocky granite, snow, and glacial moraines. The view from the pass down to Overland Lake was a relief and we cruised down and were able to secure an outstanding camp site on a rock outcrop.
I had gotten signal on one of the ridges and taken a screenshot of the forecast discussion. Though the point forecast at 10,000 feet officially called for sunny skies and dry weather, a weak disturbance was passing through that apparently featured an outside chance for a raindrop or maybe even a rumble of thunder. So it was a bit of a surprise when we spent two hours in our flattened tents holding on for dear life as rain and winds that reached at least 60mph rushed across the lake and pushed the capability of our tents to the limits. When the weather cleared, we had a little ptsd every time the breeze kicked up a little bit, but the night ultimately ended up being quite pleasant. As it turned out, we were happy to be at camp and not mid-hike along the high exposed slopes of the Rubys for that event!
16.4mi / 4,877aeg / 7:40
This was always going to be the biggest day. There's no water along the crest and while we knew there was snow to draw from if needed, I wasn't aware of any good camping spots that made any sense, so we just decided to push for the full 13 miles. The first couple had plenty of water but eventually we pushed up to the crest and exchanged running drainages for incredible views. Once reaching the crest, the trail ascends four separate peaks, culminating with the highest point at Wines Peak. Each is a reasonable climb of only about 500 feet, but at that elevation, each hurts a bit too!
We took a short detour at Wines to find the benchmarks and hit the highpoint. It's about 1.5 miles down to the North Furlong Creek junction, a popular camping spot due to reliable water for the first time in 11 miles. Despite being pretty tired, we opted to continue an additional two miles to Favre Lake to set up our 3rd night of camp.
Day 3 Extra
1.6mi / 569aeg / 0:55
After a short nap, I decided to check out Castle Lake, a smaller lake about 300 feet above Favre but with much more dramatic mountain scenery. This was a great little evening hike from camp as sunset light turned the mountaintops fire red.
6.21mi / 1,786aeg / 2:37
We finished with another relatively short day and didn't get started too early. The exit starts with a thousand foot climb to Liberty Pass, going by the very scenic Liberty Lake along the way. Camp sites here are limited, but on a holiday weekend we passed a couple of groups. Upon reaching the pass we began the 3.5 mile descent back to Roads End. It was the 4th of July and we passed a good number of people on this very popular section of trail, but it never seemed crowded and the views of Lamoille Lake, the Dollar Lakes, and rugged mountains here with a fair bit of snow remaining made it an beautiful morning to finish up the crest trail.
The parking lot was overfull but we took a good relaxing break by the car before heading to Elko for celebratory lunch.
Having read that the Rubys are home to bighorn sheep, mountain goats, marmots, pika, deer, elk, mountain lions, beaver, bobcat, and Himalayan snowcocks, (but no bear or moose) -- we were disappointed to have seen nothing over the entire trip! A deer visited camp one night (woohoo!) and we saw a couple of marmots while driving in Lamoille Canyon, but otherwise came up empty.
Nevada is under fire restrictions, and as Arizonans we are accustomed and prepared to enjoy fireless camps. But we were apparently the only ones as there were multiple other groups having camp fires every night. To be fair, there is zero fire danger at 9000-10,000 feet and the restriction may be covid related rather than weather or fuel related, but it was odd to see so many people so blatantly ignoring posted restrictions without a care or concern.
This was a great trip and an introduction to a beautiful range that I'd like to spend some more time exploring. Ruby Dome is calling my name!
|Championing breakfast since 1994.|