Thursday, March 26, 2009

Epic Road Trip - Carlin, NV to Reno, NV

In the morning, we were bustling with excitement. This was it! The day that the whole trip was centered around had arrived. After breakfast, we carefully planned our route, knowing that the potential for danger around our "The Flip of Beijing" coordinates was huge. We snagged a map of Nevada from the room and a couple of pens from the front desk. After that, we were off!

Finding the road to TFOB was easy. Getting up it, however, was not. A sign at the entrance posted a speed of 45 miles an hour, but I started sliding doing less than 30. The roads were muddy and unstable from supporting the melting snow. As we approached the top of the hill we had to stop and assess the viability of the situation. The earth was squishy and the trail wasn't solid, but we felt that if we tread slowly then we could make it. We got back in the car and drove a little more carefully. Eventually, we came to a place where we had to get off of the gravel road and head east on a dirt trail. The trail was obviously intended for 4-wheel drive vehicles, but because we were more than 5 miles away from TFOB we decided to give it a shot.

Under normal conditions, across normal terrain, a five mile hike would have been completely acceptable. The problem was, the terrain was rocky and covered in sagebrush with barely an inch between each plant. Plus, the elevation was high and the weather was freezing. We were able to drive within 2 miles of the point, but then the ruts in the road became so deep that the bushes growing between them were hitting the underside of my car. A few feet later, the bushes made the trail impassible.

Like responsible little hikers, we made sure our day bags had all of the appropriate accouterments, 2-way radios, locator beacon, handwarmers, and a deck of playing cards. I even wrote a note to leave in our car with our intended destination, just in case. We marked the location of the car on the GPS and started walking along the road as far as we could get before we needed to forge through the scratchy plants. Less than 20 feet from the car, we saw our first set of big cat tracks in the snow. Our guess was mountain lion. After that, deer or elk, and some kind of crawly thingy. We did our best to be both noisy and alert, simultaneously watching out for animals and preventing attacks. With about a quarter of a mile to go, it was time to start heading north, which meant leaving the trail. Fortunately, we hit a dry river bed that was headed the way we needed to go. Grateful for our luck, we walked along until we came to a barbed wire fence.

After coming all that way, we weren't going to let a little thing like breaking the law stop us from getting to where we wanted to be. Like a true gentleman, Dalby let me go first. The fence wasn't very high, so I hopped right over and waited for Mike to come join me. Our GPS counted down the fractions of a mile. We had just hit .15 mi (792 feet) when Dalby noticed something in the distance. Nudging me, he pointed in the direction we were headed. There, less than 800 feet away was a herd of bull. It was hard to tell whether or not they had noticed us, but some were definitely looking in our direction.

For a few minutes we talked about what we should do. How far could we get before the bulls decided they didn't want us to get any closer? It would have been alright if we had the ranch owner's permission and maybe new the temperament of the herd, but since we didn't have any idea what to expect, we didn't feel comfortable approaching them (especially because there was an obstacle preventing us from getting to the car quickly). We decided to inch parallel to the cattle in an attempt to get closer to the exact coordinates and see how near we could be before they noticed us. We got about 740 feet away before we saw one of the bulls stand up. That was it. We decided to settle for pictures of the location of TFOB and get back to the car. Plus, it was starting to snow.

Now, when I say snow, what I really mean is hail. Actually, I think it would be more accurate to say afflictive little ice balls. These miniature bullets were hurled at us from the clouds - at first, one by one, then by the thousands. As we headed back to our location, we were assaulted with wind and miniature meteors made of ice. That had to be the longest 2 miles I've ever walked. We were so thankful for our little hand warmers. It would have been nice if I could enjoy mine longer, but the wind kept blowing the hood off of my head and I was holding onto it for the safety of my own porcelain skin ;)

By the time we got back to the car, ice was covering everything, including my chest. My pants were wet and covered in mud and snow. My face and hands were frozen, but dammit, we got a picture of the western coordinates from the cache that we found in Beijing University. Yay, us.

The topic of conversation on the drive back to the freeway was whether we considered the mission a success or failure. I think we decided on success, because the location that we got to was still the western version of coordinates at Beijing University...AND we did get a picture of where the actual location should have been, even if there *was* a herd of cattle in the way. Dude, to me that screams mission accomplished. Besides, we had the last laugh. We stopped in the very next town and had ourselves some hamburgers!

With full bellies we hit the road for the remaining 4 hours to Reno. That part of the trip sucked a little. The mountains were steep and covered in snow, plus, the sun was down so I couldn't see much of the view except that at several moments I knew that we were driving along very steep cliffs. We rolled into Reno, Nevada at 11:00 pm and got us a room at the Circus Circus. We were both a little tired, but we were in RENO, baby! How could we not do a little gambling? Together we hit the slots and for every dollar Dalby won, I lost two. His success cost me a lot! About 3 in the morning I couldn't take it anymore and decided it was time to turn in for the night.

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