Trail Week 2018.07.09

The 8-mile loop above Genoa, Nevada. Multiple trailhead possibilities, good climbs, and waterfall reward at Genoa Canyon. 1,400 feet gain with some quick descents along numerous switch-backs. Connects to several other trails, including the Tahoe Rim Trail via Sierra Canyon.

Trails: Van Sickle Down, Spooner Out&Back, Genoa Loop  — 19.5 mi; 4 hrs, 13 min; 2,621 ft gain

It’s time to get some regular trail time back in the mix. My trail rejuvenation and training has been hit-and-miss this year; it’s really been lacking since my running of Tahoe Rim Trail 50 last year, though I had some nice Winter Trail Series runs early in 2018. So, with motivation from Darren and Robert, who are running the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 next weekend, and considering I might get to accompany one of them as a pacer, it was time to lace ’em up and hit the single track. 

The summer heat is in full force with most days in the high 90s (or more), and that’s not the best time to jump back into trail training. And, of course, I’m older and less fit, so I can’t get discouraged by feeling slow and stumbly.  I’ll work back into it. I’m not targeting any particular race or heralded goal, I simply want to get back on the trail, clear the cobwebs from the body and mind, and keep it going. Maybe I’ll start thinking about finishing the Desolation section of the Tahoe Rim Trail in the fall, that could be good and practical motivation–I’ve yet to complete the Tahoe City to Echo Lake section of the wonderful circumnavigation of the lake.

With each afternoon at peak temperature, I decided it best to get up back up high. It is a bit of extra drive time to get up to the TRT, but the degrees fade with elevation and there’s usually an afternoon breeze to cool things somewhat. It sure beats the scorched trails of the valley bottoms. Plus, I hadn’t been on the TRT in almost a year, crazy as that seems to me. It’s time.

I got started with a short climb from TRT’s South Kingsbury Trailhead, soon veering onto the Van Sickle Trail, a route I’d never taken before. I thought it better to start confidently with a long downhill (though it hurt the next day). Better yet, Des could meet me at Van Sickle Bi-State Park at the California-Nevada line at South Lake Tahoe, and I could do a little point-to-point along the simple downhill. It’s a really nice trail with some open views of the lake. I had to be a bit careful because it’s mildly technical and rocky in a few places, and I was well out of practice. My 12-minute pace wasn’t impressive, but so happy to be up here and on the trail again. I followed up Thursday with an out-and-back jog at Spooner Trailhead, dropping to the Marlette Lake Trail for a few miles. I good still feel Tuesday’s downhill, but, again, this is a good thing.

For the weekend, I thought I top off the week with the good 8-mile loop that is the Genoa Trail. The trail weaves in and out of east-facing canyons and I got a bit of a late start. The mid-morning temperature wasn’t unbearable, but the oven of the canyons and the exposed ridges was ever-present. I climbed slowly and felt steady, even though it had been one of those mornings where I had to dig deep for motivation to get out the door and keep the training going. Somehow, those pre-run feelings of low expectations often translate into an enjoyable run. I didn’t break any records, and won’t be breaking any old records for a while, but I can already feel the rewards of mental relaxation and the small success of a return to the trail.

I’ll look forward to the coming week and a possible night-time adventure on the TRT.  

 

 

 

 

D. Craig Young

Host of Trail Option, chaser of light and old dirt, bound to wander and wonder. Not exceptional at anything, but a solidly mid-pack trail runner, photographer, geographer, musician, and writer — there is a little of all that here.

Geoarchaeologist and Principal at Far Western Anthropological Research Group.

With my wife Desna, a founding partner of StoneHeart Ranch, our home on an old alluvial fan above Gardnerville, Nevada.

Thanks for joining me on the trails of the Great Basin and far beyond. These form my personal geography of art and science.

Let’s keep going…  

Advantage of Windshield Time — Argenta Rim 2004

Rising above Interstate 80, Argenta Rim is an imposing fault-block and an exhilarating short climb.  

I drive a lot. Moving from project to project, I might be doing a pre-project reconnaissance, meeting clients or agency specialists, visiting field teams already on-the-ground, or seeking new study localities. It is part of the job and, for me, one of the pleasures of my vocation; it seems to be a highlight of my avocations too. Any highway or backcountry road puts me in touch with landscape and creates a discipline of watching for landform changes and of searching for new routes and trails deeper in. When a project takes me across the state (or anywhere really) I almost always take time for a trail, route, or locality excursion to expand my experience, or maybe just to bag a peak, run a ridge, or photograph an outcrop–there is little difference. In April 2004, I worked on a project on the US Air Force ranges of western Utah, studying the Wildcat Dunes at the margins of the Bonneville Basin and the Great Salt Lake Desert (i.e., the West Desert from the perspective of Salt Lake City). This required several back-and-forth trips on Interstate 80. Each time, between Battle Mountain and Carlin, Nevada, Argenta Rim called out for a walk.
The Range Argenta Rim is a volcanic ridge that rises prominently above Interstate 80 and the Humboldt River. A northerly extension of the Shoshone Range where Mount Lewis (2950 meters) wears the crown, Argenta Rim is a relatively low, tilted fault-block separated from its parent range by Whirlwind Valley. It is a minor set of hills and scarps that gains its prominence (and ease of access for a walk) as it rises abruptly above the Humboldt River floodplain and the busy interstate travel corridor – the escarpment looks more imposing than it is. The rim and adjacent rimrock-stepped hills are not your typical highlighted range or peak-bagging target, but on my many traverses of I-80, I have always stared at its capping outcrops and I simply had to get up there.
My Route Exit 244 – Argenta – provides a jumping-off point from either direction while traveling Interstate 80. Turning south and then immediately east, a paved road heads toward the mine entrance at Mosquito Canyon; do not turn for the gate. Continue east on the highway frontage road as it changes to a maintained dirt road. This road veers sharply south as it heads for Water Canyon on its eventual path to a set of radio towers at the southern prominence of the rim. The towers sit at what is sometimes referred to as Argenta Rim West, but I am not sure where databases in Googleland collect naming information – I have not seen this on a USGS map yet. As a very simple alternative, driving the road to the towers gets you to the rim, if hiking the escarpment without much elevation gain sounds attractive. I stopped driving as soon as the road overlooked the swale of Water Canyon. A cold morning rain made the road slightly interesting and the truck’s tires were beginning to chew things up and spit muddy clods into the wheel wells. Although some clearance gives confidence, the road is an easy drive for most vehicles, when conditions allow. There are places to pull off along the road and these provide good parking, but use caution and quickly shut down your rig as, in season, the grasses can be brutally dry and fires start all too easily. But on this spring day, the rain had soaked everything.
My route basically dropped into the dry wash of Water Canyon and continued straight east to southeast, up swales and ridges toward a narrow break in the rimrock. It was still quite cold and the freeze line seemed to remain at about the 2,130-meter contour (7,000 feet) where ice draped the rocks and pogonip clutched at larger brush. The ice crystals playing in the bright yellow lichen made for a pretty hike, the scudding clouds gave it a touch of drama. I cut through a few outcrops and gained the top of the rimrock – you could pick about any spot to access the top, but there are a few natural stairways. The summit is undramatic but the views into the Humboldt River Valley and along the slopes into Whirlwind Valley are worthwhile, especially when framed by the low, moving cloud-line. A thin veneer of snow and windswept frost decorated the sloping escarpment.
After the relatively brief vertical gain of about 500 meters (~1,600 feet) from truck to summit, the drop back to Water Canyon Road was quick and easy—500 meters is my minimum rule for thinking about an ascent as a “climb”. It is an arbitrary number, but it allows a lower margin for routes to search out and consider.  The point is to get out and see things, experience the pogonip, wander an escarpment, and get into the view that the windshield fleetingly provides. Argenta is worth a stop.

D. Craig Young

Host of Trail Option, chaser of light and dirt, bound to wander and wonder. Not exceptional at anything, but a solidly mid-pack trail runner, photographer, geographer, musician, and writer — there is a little of all that here.

Geoarchaeologist and Principal at Far Western Anthropological Research Group.

With my wife Desna, a founding partner of StoneHeart Ranch, our home on an old alluvial fan above Gardnerville, Nevada. Thanks for joining me on the trails of the Great Basin and far beyond. These form my personal geography of art and science.

Let’s keep going…  

Oh, I can process images? — An Odd Start

Death Valley is a common target of landscape photographers, and it’s a wonderful laboratory of earth processes, holding magnificent dunes and vast alluvial fans, along with the lowest elevation bottomlands in the US. It is as unforgiving in environment as it is in testing a newbie photographer.  I shot this at 1/8000 at f/3.5 ISO800, and I have no idea why… 
It is difficult to imagine, over a year later, not processing images, letting JPEG settings baked into whatever digital camera I was using dictate the photographic output. It has long been so cool to have immediate access to images, accepting that they looked “good enough”, that I never thought to concern myself with the fact that my composition did not match my impression of the scene or subject. I guess I did not even think to think that I could alter that – it had not even crossed my mind. I was mostly doing basic documentary photography any way, but can I not do that better?

In the early days of my landscape photography journey, everything seemed new and it was all an experiment and I was seduced by the joy of learning—I still am. I had been scheming my move into “better” photography with Daron, a friend and research colleague, who’s photos I enjoyed. Passing through his place in Las Vegas, Nevada, I showed him my new camera, along with a few photos from my recent Hope Valley excursion. He immediately explained a little bit about RAW files and post-processing in Lightroom. He was not deep into processing yet either, but he was at least one big step ahead of me.

I dove into my camera’s settings, shifted the file type to RAW, and headed home with the intent of downloading Lightroom, ordering a tripod, and continuing the journey. But first a stark, harshly lit road trip through Death Valley, Panamint Valley, and Owens Valley where—on the road to a project site I needed to visit—I jumped out of the truck to snap a few photos. I was so enthralled with taking a few RAW photos, thinking Daron had turned me on to something magically important—I simply failed to consider basic camera settings and had some atrocious results. I have no idea what I was thinking at the time. It was a bright sun-drenched day and my ISO seems to have been stuck on 800 and my aperture drifted toward wide open. This combination, therefore, required a super-fast shutter speed and produced rather poor depth-0f-field. I had absolutely no experience with post-processing so I wasn’t pushing things for some kind of effect, I just didn’t know what I was doing. The images here show some of my early processing; creatively learning Lightroom and Photoshop (the common tools of post-processing) is its own journey, and I had not started down the long road yet.

I have cropped this to salvage something from a terribly noisy and overly blue scene of the alluvial fans of eastern Panamint Valley. Our photographic journey can be a very long road.

If I’m going to photograph alluvial fans emanating dramatically from the Sierran mountain front, I may want to compose for the fan. It is completely lost here.  But at least I’d found the ISO button and dropped it down to a more suitable ISO200. 

I do like a few of the compositions I captured on the drive, but only because they emphasize the physical geography and geomorphic processes—here, the aeolian dust of Death Valley and the alluvial fans of Panamint and Owens Valleys—that I am most interested in photographing for documentary and creative purposes. There are some long roads in the images, maybe a conscious suggestion of my journey. I would like to find compositions and conditions that portray these interesting and dramatic features of the Great Basin (and elsewhere), as I continue my scientific investigation of past and present landscapes. But first, I need to take some basic steps of better photographic technique, composition, and practice. A lot of practice, with the camera and in my processing…

Let’s keep going…

DCraig Young

D. Craig Young

Host of Trail Option, chaser of light and old dirt, bound to wander and wonder. Not exceptional at anything, but a solidly mid-pack trail runner, photographer, geographer, musician, and writer — there is a little of all that here.

Geoarchaeologist and Principal at Far Western Anthropological Research Group.

With my wife Desna, a founding partner of StoneHeart Ranch, our home on an old alluvial fan above Gardnerville, Nevada.

Thanks for joining me on the trails of the Great Basin and far beyond. These form my personal geography of art and science.

Let’s keep going…  

First Day Out: Hope Valley, CA 2017.01.01

On my first day practicing Landscape Photography, I had no idea what Lightroom was, and I shot only JPEG like I had with every other point-and-shoot digital I had owned. My first attempts at Lightroom were pretty bad, and maybe some dramatic clouds would have saved me from the unsubtle vignette. Plenty of room for learning…

It seemed I was the only car in the darkness, on Highway 89 in the pre-dawn of New Years Day, the first day of 2017. I had packed my snowshoes and was looking forward to my first outing with my new camera, the capable-looking Canon 80D that I had recently picked up at Gordon’s Photos in Carson City. Sometime over the past few months, in the field with my S110 point-and-shoot, I felt the urge to up my game in landscape photography. I knew early morning light in the mountains helped the magic happen and I was ready to kick off the new year by nurturing something that felt like a growing passion. I have always enjoyed dark early morning highways. The dashed yellow lines ticking into the high-beams with a freshness of recent awakening; very much the opposite of driving into night after a long day of highway.

A pre-dawn dashboard, a dark roadway split by a high-contrast yellow line, and a travel mug of home-brewed coffee, these easily entice me to get up and get out—so here I am. Driving past Woodfords, California, along the West Fork of the Carson River, climbing into Hope Valley. I was headed to Red Lake at the valley’s southern end. I would snowshoe a short segment of the historic California Trail, climbing toward  Carson Pass, to overlook the frozen lake with a sunlit view of the Carson Range with its three-pointed crown at the peaks of Freel, Jobs, and Jobs Sister.

Still, not another car. And that’s probably a good thing given that anyone I encounter may simply be driving off their New Years’ shenanigans on a swervy mountain highway. A bad way to start 2017 for both of us. But I make the Red Lake turn-off below the switchbacks to Carson Pass and the tires crunch into a snow-rutted parking area at the dam. The wind is up as sunrise approaches and I gear up against the cold as much as possible then strap on the snowshoes. The excitement of my new camera warms my hopes for the coming light. My excitement, however, soon turns to puzzlement. This is more difficult than I thought.

The sunrise highlights the Carson Range and nearer summits, but they are light-years away in a relatively wide lens—I thought we used these for landscapes? The sky is perfectly clear—where is the alpen glow and drama that I see on all the calendars? My very necessary gloves (it was 4° F at sunrise) make some of the camera controls a bit fiddly—gloves off, gloves on, gloves off, gloves on—and I’m not at all clear what all the controls on the 80D do. I should have taken some more time to get acquainted with the camera in the warmth of home. My photos on the back of the camera don’t look any different than the photos I took on my point-and-shoot, maybe worse.  On the other hand, it is so good to be out here in the brisk, quiet ring of a cold wind on a mountainside. That’s the thing that resonates. I can learn the camera, I hope, and I’m suddenly very curious and intrigued as I begin to remember a few things that go into capturing images. This is fun.

Looking back on it now—I’m revisiting these first trips and journal entries several months later—my complete inexperience, with the camera and what most photographers take for granted in post-processing, is almost funny. I did not own a tripod. I did not know what a RAW image file was. I did not know that processing software like Lightroom existed. I could not have explained the exposure triangle of ISO, aperture, and shutter speed to anyone, even though I had taken some nice pictures in the past, relying heavily on “P-mode” and simple speed adjustments. I gradually thawed during this first, cold morning, learning by watching the results on the camera back, and captured at least one image that still makes me smile.  

This one I still love. Great shapes, good detail, and soft background. Got lucky just walking back to the car…
We all start somewhere. I emphasize that it was those few hours in the early morning, wandering in the forest, across the frozen lake, and along the shining river, while kindling the possibilities in the camera (could be any type of camera) in my hand, that transformed me ever so slightly into a chaser of light. We’ll see where it takes me. For a gallery and image notes from the First Day Out in Hope Valley, click here.

D. Craig Young

Host of Trail Option, chaser of light and old dirt, bound to wander and wonder. Not exceptional at anything, but a solidly mid-pack trail runner, photographer, geographer, musician, and writer — there is a little of all that here.

Geoarchaeologist and Principal at Far Western Anthropological Research Group.

With my wife Desna, a founding partner of StoneHeart Ranch, our home on an old alluvial fan above Gardnerville, Nevada.

Thanks for joining me on the trails of the Great Basin and far beyond. These form my personal geography of art and science.

Let’s keep going…