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Ely, Nevada: a Hike in the High Desert

The heat did not let up until this morning. Hot to the point of sweating just by looking outside. When we arrived in Utah a few days ago, it was one-hundred-and-nine. Sunny, clear. But let’s back up to Nevada. I don’t think I’ve given enough credit to how beautiful Nevada is at the elevation of 7,250 feet.

Ward Mountain: Ely Nevada

We ventured to Ward Mountain outside the tiny town of Ely, Nevada. Clutching our phones on a Sunday afternoon after driving for four hours, we hoped against hope that we would be able to find some of the ingredients on our digital lists for our weekly menu. In small towns, we often find that we do a lot of rearranging of our weekly menus. We grab local quirky produce and meats when we can find them. However, oftentimes we’re out of luck on some of our more specific ingredients. So, when we walked into an aisle of gochujang and bags of potato starch and rice flour, we were more than a little surprised.

I’m a bit of what people might call a competitive nature. And by bit, I mean everything in every aspect of my life is a competition. I have a laminated menu in which I have a weekly goal average of the meals I cook. Jeremiah ranks them separately from me on a scale of one to ten. I like to cook delicious meals, but I really like winning, even if it’s against myself. It can be hard to do when I can’t find all my ideal ingredients. (If you like learning about local groceries, you can check out these blogs here and here.)

So, after this long tangent, the point is Ely Nevada has a substantial grocery store and a beautiful campground.

A hike at 7,000 feet

On a 90+ degree day, I strapped on my little green daypack, subdued the dog with some puzzles (basically I put a pig ear in a box) and left her and Jeremiah in the comfortable air conditioned motorhome before taking off for a 3 mile hike. Three miles doesn’t seem that long, at least at sea level, or on level terrain. Three miles is a lot at 7000 feet and climbing.

A ski lodge reprieve

After about a mile on the hike, I found a little ski lodge of sorts. I remembered the time that my older sister, Darcy, and my dad and I went cross country skiing. Then, a blizzard hit. I was 10. My skis were slightly too large for me since they were handed down from Darcy, so my weight didn’t press them down into the snow. Before the snow started blowing sideways, we had made it to a little ski lodge: my older sister and my dad paving the trail since my legs were too little to do enough on the powdery fluff. There, my dad uncapped a thermos of metal-tasting hot chocolate that was somehow still molten hot. We ate pieces of warm cheese that had sat in the pockets of my ski jacket, and I puffed on my albuterol to catch my breath. We waited, overheating in our jackets, while groups of skiers clambered in behind us, thanking my dad for cutting through the snow. My dad, of course, did not take the credit, handing it off to Darcy.

That’s when the real snow hit. The wind picked up, and as we exited the tiny cabin-like wooden lodge, a reprieve for skiers and hikers alike, my dad made the executive decision that we would turn back. That’s when shit hit the fan.

It took over twice as long to get back to the car as it had to get to the wooden lodge. Tiny sharp pieces of icy snow cut into any exposed flesh that I had, which was very little, and my hair collected little snowy ice balls every time I fell, which was often. Each time I fell, my skis became twisted, and snow worked itself into my gloves. We reached what would likely be considered a slight slope in good weather, but in the ever-growing snow and wind, grew to the size of a mountain that I could not climb. Time and time again I fell. My dad stepped behind me. With every step I took, he put his skis down on mine, forcing his weight into my skis. Little by little, we made it over the hill. I was exhausted, frustrated, and my older sister continued to cut through the trail that was quickly becoming snowed in.

I cried as we pulled our weight across the rest of the flat snow. We made it to the car, all of exhausted, slightly frustrated, and hungry and cold. If you haven’t spent time in the snow, you might not know how painfully hot you can become after getting out of the cold. Fingers begin to tingle with pain as they heat up in the warmth of a running car, but just as suddenly, any wet surfaces begin to cool at the touch of flesh. Sitting there, you’re somewhere between freezing and achingly hot.

Back to the hike

So, on my three-mile hike, I sought refuge in the little 3-walled cabin, looking out on to the high desert of Nevada, which reminded me very much of Bend. That snowy moment was pivotal in my life; I never went cross country skiing again other than in my own yard.  26 years later, and I’m still afraid I won’t be able to press my skis into the snow, although my weight is significantly increased now – so I think I could manage.

Hikes, though, are something that I think I’ll always love. This Nevada hike was no different. I thought about cougars attacking and later researched what to do if I see one, then tried to find a rattlesnake, but did not. I like to pretend I seek out danger, but I don’t stray from the path, and I carry a big stick.

In the little ski lodge, I ate some chocolate espresso beans that had mostly melted in my backpack – not a great strategy – and chugged some tepid water. I put my feet up on the wooden counters and cooled off in the shade.

Nevada: home for a week or two

Nevada felt a little bit like home. But truth be told, I’m pretty glad there was no snow this time of year. Now, we’re in Utah. Without giving away too much for our next blog, we’re driving separately now and smothered in smoke. (Well, until the fifty-degree temperature drop.) Ah, the unexpected realities of full-time RV life.

Next on the docket: Utah

If you have any suggestions for what we should do in the Moab area while we’re here, please let us know! We love exploring while we park our home on wheels on BLM land. (No surprise that we’ll be hitting the nearby national parks.)

2 thoughts on “Ely, Nevada: a Hike in the High Desert

  1. Wow! Nevada must throw its shoulders back and stand a little prouder after that piece. I had all but forgotten about that ill fated ski trip. It is no wonder you never cross countriy skied after!

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