Wednesday, September 9, 2020

GBT Guide Part 4

Great Basin Trail: Guide Part 4

GBT Map Set and Track:

I have a Great Basin Trail map set and GPX track available for aspiring hikers. These are available under certain stipulations. I have created an email address ( to address questions and for potential obtainment of the GBT map set and track. I am open to freely sharing the resource but I will only acknowledge the requests based on my intimate knowledge of the aspiring hiker or after a set of interview questions. The set I have potentially available is a third draft/edition, which will be updated by myself, or from feedback and information from other hikers as the time comes. When the updates occur I will resend the updated draft to the folks that have already had the previous map set drafts.

The 'track' is not a track. I am steering away from a tracked red line. Instead the 'track' is plotted waypoints from the field that will assist in navigation. These plotted waypoints act as checkpoints. This encourages the hiker to be engaged mentally and be present in the moment. Since the GBT is a suggestion of exploration through the landscape of the Great Basin and Nevada, I want the wapointed track to only bolster one's creativity of travel through that landscape. I do not want one to pigeon-hole there footpath by a solid GPS track where one has their head in their phone. The idea behind the GBT is to choose your own adventure, to stir up a sense of freedom in creating a route. I want you to to be engage in your own creation out there only letting my GBT waypoints to keep you in the framework.

Larry-Boy, route creator of the Deseret Hiking Route, a rugged 1,000 mile journey and trek through Utah and portions of Idaho, has some poignant words in regards to route-sharing and 'guthooking' a trail. I believe along the same lines as him in regards to actually making a GPS red-line track. So, rather than mince words and regurgitate what he is saying, here is an excerpt: 

'Share Information Responsibly:
Over the years, we've all observed trails that were formerly 'out there' become a bit more domesticated. The CDT has been blazed in its entirely (allegedly!). The Hayduke Trail now has a smartphone app and is attempted by dozens of hikers each season. Off-trail travel in the Wind River Range has been commoditized. None of this is necessarily a bad thing, of course, and to some extent, fighting this trend is akin to tilting at windmills. But I'd like the DHR to be different - to give each hiker the sense that they are pioneering something new, be they the 2nd hiker or the 202nd hiker on the route. 

The quickest way to kill this sense of pioneering, in my opinion, is to publish a GPS track. Following the little red line doesn't encourage engagement with the terrain, exploration, or problem-solving. Of course, nothing says you have to use a GPS track or smartphone app of it's available, but the mere existence of such a resource makes attempting the trail without it seem a bit contrived - an artificial challenge.

So, for the sake of the hiker who seeks an uncontrived navigational challenge and to keep the route from being Guthooked to death, I'm going to blatantly ignore HYOH and ask as a condition of using these maps, that you not record or distribute a GPS track.' 

The Great Basin Trail is for the hiker, whether long distance or section or day hiker, who wants to explore the Great Basin region. I have put together a themed route solely contained within Nevada that I believe hits some of the highlights of this often overlooked region. Because of the remoteness, general nature of the rugged terrain, and navigational and logistical challenges, I will have some general interview questions to discuss skill level and experience, realistic goals and expectations, safety precautions and measures. Reason being is I do not want anyone to get in over their head who do not quite understand the endeavor they are undertaking. I understand this trail is not for everyone, especially inexperienced hikers. I understand as well that that phrase, 'inexperienced hikers,' is relative and/or subjective to any person or hiker. But since I have developed and hiked this route I understand the rigors and skill set needed to hike this route. 

In time, I truly hope to have at least 1 hiker to thru hike the GBT. I really believe in this route in its scenic value, wilderness experience, the provided growth of skill set challenges, the small towns and people of the Great Basin, and in the design of the route. The GBT has been one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had in all the years of long distance hiking and besides the characteristics listed in the previous sentence I found the GBT to be incredibly fun. If enough steam is gathered up in the amount of GBT hikers and inquiries I will have a Databook developed. Furthermore, if interest continues to persist, I may end up charging a fee for the complete resource set, considering all the time and energy I have put forth. 

Resource Usage:

The Great Basin Trail resources are designed to be utilized in a triple-navigation method, which means to navigate the GBT I highly recommend combining the GBT paper Map Set (priority), with the GAIA GPS track (back-up and verification), and the Nevada Benchmark Atlas book (overview and safety bailouts). The map set and track are inspired by the Desert Trail map books, and plotted and hand drawn maps of the DT. Since the DT is a route driven trail, I have the same aspiration for the Great Basin Trail. On the GBT Map Set, I have utilized a red dotted line to guide one through an area with plotted waypoints. Since the GBT has so much cross country meandering and weaving I refrained from a thick red line that would somewhat show or allude to what I walked. Furthermore, I refrained from not having a sole waypointed track without a dotted line to keep a corridor defined. This is a choose-your-own adventure! 

I believe, especially since I do not envision a ton of hikers out there, that 'guiding' one through a corridor will help in alleviating any extra stress on the landscape. Besides, enough scattered and braided wild horse and cattle trail litter and meander the landscape. So, the red dotted line is a suggestion through from the multitude of options through an area. Plotted waypoints are a specific spot I plotted from to ground truth the route or any major intersections. On top of that, the waypoints are what one should be aware of or that a waypoint may ground truth and verify where one should be.

As with Larry Boy, I want the Great Basin Trail to be different. I am wanting this GBT to be a route-driven concept with the hopes of challenging the most ardent and experienced hiker. If you have enough experience, the plotted waypoints are surely enough and more engaging than blindly following that red-tracked-line. 

All that said, since the GBT Map Set and Track is route driven, the hiker will not have extensive information on what is in front of them. So, inevitably a high skill set is required in navigating through the Great Basin. The resource will help you but not walk you through. Because of this, I feel this gives the hiker the freedom to create, to have independence, to problem solve, and to be self-sufficient. However, the caveat is that the hiker will have to count the miles to the next water source, to the next town or road crossing, find their own campsites etc. I have not created a resource for you to not be engaged. The hiker thus creates their own experience. 

Mileage is not given on the map set and is only estimated in the route I have drawn on the GPS track. I do, however, feel my estimated mileage is accurate but that estimation only accounts for meandering in forward progress and not in getting turned around or misplaced. That being said I estimate a thru hike of the Great Basin Trail will be between 1050-1150 miles and will lean closer to the 1100 mile mark. 

The map set is in the clockwise direction which implies a Spring time thru hike. The 7 Sections and 23 Segments are in that same clockwise direction. I do think if one chooses a Fall time hike, the GPS route is solveable enough to figure out the directional cue and information since I had already made the map set with the track fairly basic and route-driven. 

Additionally, plotted waypoints, both informational and locational, are in red, while blue plotted waypoints are for water sources. I only plotted water sources that I found to be somewhat reliable. Until more hikers hike the GBT and provide additional water source information all water source information will be on the map set and track or found en route such as pools and ponds. (Water Chart now available!) Segment starts and endings are signified by a yellow flag, while towns are highlighted with a 'fork and knife.' Finally, cache point suggestions are marked by a 'red cross.'
As stated above, if you want any further information please email me at I believe the GBT Map Set and Track bring together my effort in sharing a route I have fallen in love with. The GBT is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. And if you are looking to further your skills, or a seeking another long distance trail, or require isolation and time spent in an incredibly scenic area, then the Great Basin Trail may suit your hankerings. 

Lastly, I cannot expect a future hiker to not track something. If so, I am asking that person to not share that GPS tracked line. Really, not only is it resource poaching, but it becomes a safety issue for those not experienced highly in navigation and map reading. Please share responsibly!

Monday, July 20, 2020

Section 6 of the Great Basin Trail

Sections of the GBT: Section 6

Section 6: Ely (at Kalamazoo Road) to Lake Valley Summit

Wheeler Peak finish:
(approx. 126m)
(section mileage with XC factor: 134m)
(section elevation: 26,450ft gain, 27,775ft loss)

Baker Creek finish: 
(approx. 123m)
(section mileage with XC factor: 129m)
(section elevation: 24,875ft gain, 25,675ft loss)

Section 6, Segment U: High Schells
Kalamazoo Road to Spring Valley
(approx. 34m)
(16m road, 4m trail, 14m XC)
(mileage estimation with XC factor: 37m)
(approx. 9,325ft elevation gain, 10,075ft elevation loss)

Continuing along the Great Basin Trail, the hiker once resupplied from Ely or McGill now has the task of venturing up into the High Schells. Still in the Schell Creek Range, the crest now topples out at 11,883ft on North Schell Peak. Bristlecone and limber pines reach timberline, dwarfed and wind-blown, and after picking your way over a talus-topped crest the hiker will eventually summit Taft Peak and South Schell Peak. After nearly 14 miles of spectacular spine walking (hoping the GBT hiker is blessed enough to have the fortune of good weather to amble the complete crest), where lingering cornices hang tight to the leeward facing bluffs, I decided to have the route venture into the North Cleve Creek drainage. (Note: The drawn and suggested route is to stay on the crest unless one absolutely needs the water in the upper reaches of the North Cleve Creek drainage). The basin is in an high alpine environment where spots of tundra exist before you enter the sub-alpine conifer forests. Clear water rages down and easy cross country exists in between the glades of aspen. At a hunter's camp a carved arrow etched into an aspen signifies the way out of the drainage where travel downstream becomes nearly impossible (believe me, I tried and did it, although painstakingly). Utilize more or less a cattle and game trail out of the drainage, then once over the ridge again a more discernible path appears to a rugged jeep track below that leads the hiker out into Spring Valley past well-constructed campgrounds.

The cross-country along the High Schell crest in this section is very tough. Although, the crestline is fairly easy to follow, the elevation profile is staggering, The length of time to do this traverse will vary with each hiker. Physical condition and fitness level will dictate how swift a hiker will traverse the crest. The initial climb is steep but follows a foot path. The rest of the way is purely cross-country and the 14 or so miles across the crest probably tops out at around 16 miles due to the exposure, ruggedness, and navigation skill level. Please, do not take this section lightly!

I'll share my experience:

'I flipped the couple $20 and told them a small party would be on me for the favor of saving me from hot soles. As I got ready to shut the rear door the old man told me to watch out for mountain lions up in these parts of the High Schells. 

"I hope I'm bigger enough. 'Cause I've lost some pounds. Ain't got much meat on me anymore, so I doubt I'll taste good." He smiled with his eyes, his gal with her laugh. Then, we bade each other safe travels and good luck and we split ways, a moment of connectivity in this chaotic world between perfect strangers. Then, in moments, an even older man, a rancher too, stopped by on his side-by-two and asked if I was okay. I hollered at him over the grumble of his engine that I was. He chuckled and zipped off to swing the ATV around. He swung back to me and said, "What did you say your name was?" "Ryan." "How did you know my name," he asked curiously. I said I didn't and he shrugged, so I asked him his name. "Jim!" he blurted, smiling. We shook hands and I thought about getting old. I thought I'd rather wither up and die out here than to wilt in the city. 

As soon as he left a truck rolled on up with two speed-freak looking dudes---no teeth and a strange glare. Pleasant enough, however, they too asked if I was okay. I told them I was and I was 'just walking.' The dudes couldn't wrap their head about what I was doing out in the middle of nowhere on foot, 'just walking.' They offered me water and I assured them I was okay, that I was good, my belly fat with water and food. The waved me onward but stopped shortly thereafter.

"Hey, where's your car??" the toothless driver yelled. "In Colorado!" They roared in laughter, in befuddlement, and the toothless driver laughed, snorted and stuttered: OKAAAAAY! I was on my way, ready to get out of anybody's way, no matter how extroverted I felt during those quick moments. A couple hours later I found myself on the High Schell crest just below a grassy knob that blocked the wind. I watched the sun set, the view enormous and wide, my belly fat with food and water, my head right, and my heart full.'

Section 6, Segment V: Mt. Moriah
Spring Valley to Snake Valley
(approx. 46m)
(24m road, 17m trail, 5m XC)
(mileage estimation with XC factor: 47m)
(approx. 7,125ft elevation gain, 7,375ft elevation loss)

Mt. Moriah is part of the Snake Range, in which the peak when viewed from a distance looks to be in a completely separate range. Wheeler Peak to the south book-end Sacramento Pass wedged in between to the two towering massifs. Mt. Moriah is the seldom visited little sister range of Wheeler Peak and the Great Basin National Park. The peak sits at 12,050ft that spires the top of a large tableland area where a large bristlecone grove resides. Although this wilderness has four wheel drive roads surrounding the area, access is fairly tough. Hikers and peakbaggers usually use the trailhead and well-groomed trail out of Hendrys Creek. The GBT utilizes the seldom tramped Negro Creek where once in the heart of the drainage what appears to be an overgrown path has been cut out underneath the majority of the canopy. Mt. Moriah looms at the head of the drainage reigning court over the high wilderness. Towards the main fork in the drainage, the hiker departs from the trail corridor and heads up Deerhead Canyon. A cattle path more or less meanders up the canyon through sagebrush and aspen groves. Travel feels straightforward as the canyon narrows with amalgamated rock and tall limber pines. Once atop, the hiker has the option of summiting Mt. Moriah or continue on to the broad table just beneath the flanks of the silver peak. I have chosen the route to stay on the Table because one may walk among the ancient bristlecone pines that just feel older than and larger than any seen so far on the GBT. From here you can admire the 5,500ft ascent to the west only to un-admire the knee-pounding 5,500ft descent to the east. 

The majority of this section is split between little used dirt road and well-groomed trail. This section is still as tough as others, however, it feels less-stressful due to the limited cross-country travel.

Once you have soaked in the expansive views of surrounding the wilderness and pondered the condition of your tender knees, one will descend into Hendrys Creek where elk roam the higher grassy slopes. Very good tread follows the ribbon of water weaving a lengthy way down until ponderosas appear. Views of the incredible chunky walls are hidden by a thick forest, but the hiker get an opportunity to gander at the high cliffs the further downstream one gets. The east side of Mt. Moriah is so much more dramatic, diverse, and rugged than the ascent up Negro Canyon. From desert to alpine and back again to desert, from sagebrush to bristlecone, from aspen to ponderosa, the incredible difference in elevation is astounding once you stand on top of Mt. Moriah.

The shorn and crumbly walls of Hendrys Canyon shows the preciousness of rock under such geomorphic pressures. The white underside of fallen rock tiles resemble flaky skin after a sunburn and show a striking contrast to the red rock in the cliff faces above. The cleaving of the rock shows the slow widening of the canyon, the slow drag of time and erosion. Thrilling to observe and to inspect the cliff faces, for the ledges and benches and faces play with one's imagination, flirts with the notion that ruggedness is soft, that the trait of being weathered is beautiful and crisp, that although excruciating slow time is swift and ruthless.

Section 6, Segment W: GBNP
Snake Valley to Lake Valley Summit
Two Options:

Wheeler Peak to Snake Crest (Main route):
(approx. 46m)
(22m road, 8m trail, 16m XC)
(mileage estimation with XC factor: 50m)
(approx. 10,000ft elevation gain, 10,325ft elevation loss)

Baker Creek to Mt. Washington (Secondary route):
(approx. 43m)
(30m road, 6m trail, 7 XC)
(mileage estimation with XC factor: 45m)
(approx. 8,425ft elevation gain, 8,225ft elevation loss)

The Great Basin Trail weaves up and along the Snake Range's crest through Great Basin National Park. I had initially hesitated to have the route go over Wheeler Peak, which is the proclaimed highest peak in Nevada despite the discrepancy with Boundary Peak which is actually a sub-peak of Mt. Montgomery in the White Mountains along the California and Nevada border; I decided for routing the route over Wheeler Peak because of the doable yet challenging and incredibly scenic knife ridge above Baker Lake. In the end, this way through represents the most apt vision I have of the Great Basin Trail. This knife ridge just feels right, just feels the most intuitive, and provides one with the most profound moment while on the GBT. That moment: on top of the Great Basin at its highest point seeing all that you have encompassed through your hike. 

All the fluffy words aside, the Mt. Wheeler knife ridge towards Pyramid Pass is VERY difficult and requires excellent navigating on talus slopes and comfortability with exposure. I recently did this travers with Salty in June of '21. We had good weather, not too cold or windy. We also have a fair amount of exposure experience from living and exploring in the high country of Colorado. All this aside, I recommend this route over the Baker Creek route. Even though the mileage is quite comparable, the toughness of the Snake Crest Traverse far out-demands and out-challenges the Baker Creek way through. Please, take your time in considering which option to. There are multiple ways through and linkages. However, the thru-hiker who is about to tie up an entire Great Basin loop, I totally recommend the Snake Crest Traverse.

After one attains Pyramid Pass and replenishes water down about 200 feet below the pass, the hiker continues along cross-country towards Mt. Washington. While difficult enough, navigating and scampering across this section is fairly straightforward. After a steep climb up to Mt. Washington, the Snake Crest Traverse once again becomes focused and challenging. This is no easy feat, especially after having crossed the crest trailless from Wheeler Peak. Take a rest atop Mt. Washington and go for it---it will be so worth it. 
Following the Highland Ridge south, the ups and downs continue almost relentlessly. Mt. Lincoln is another block massif made of limestone and one continues to walk among the bristlecone. This is a very special place that is devoid of much human presence. One feels so isolated and solitude is so abundant one feels to be floating in a Great Basin globe.

I do not want to remove my initial impression of my first time through this area. So, what is typed below is from June of '20. After doing both ways through this area, I want the hiker to choose the way through. Both are the official GBT route (both 'red lines') and I believe the hiker should choose which way based off experience in high ridge exposure situations, weather, timeframe and window of time, and general stress management. Both are rewarding, incredibly so, and offer the feel of a true ending and non-ending of a completed loop. 

In June of '20, I went up the Baker Creek drainage, which for an added reward has the hiker passing by the Lehman Caves Visitor Center and the cafe that is there. For once, while I noshed on three separate meals on the patio of the cafe I felt like a 'thru-hiker' in all my glory and stench. But, in sincerity, the way up Baker Creek is dramatic and eventually reunites the hiker with the Wheeler Peak traverse at the Snake Range Crest. From Pyramid Pass, scrambling ensues along the crest and you reach a high point on an unnamed peak of 11,775ft. The views up here are breathtaking and simply awe inspiring. Wheeler Peak's massif dominates the skyline to the north, Mt. Washington flashes a brilliance from its limestone blocked summit to the immediate south, and some 5,500ft below Lake Valley Summit and the Fortification Range tantalize one's spirit of connection as the Great Basin Trail's loop seems within near-cinching distance. The feeling is simply exuberance, just pure joy.

I left Baker Creek campground after having another interview with Squatch for his upcoming Nevada documentary and hiked on into the evening. After a few miles, I set up camp in a lodgepole forest and fell asleep rather quickly to the hypnotic soughing of the wind through the trees. I felt pretty damn lucky at this point. Not only was I going to finish the GBT, a route I had been envisioning for some time now, I had a ride lined up with Squatch at Lake Valley Summit at Highway 93 the next afternoon. I rose early the next morning to get a beat on the day and after I attained the crest I headed straight towards Mt. Washington, which is such a totally different mountain within a range of granite. Limestone cliffs drop precipitously on the west side end on the east side the limestone is more sloped and eroded down into a pumice type of sand. Once atop a ramp, I headed down southwest slopes and after a couple miles I encountered a mining road intertwined with switchbacks enough to bring dizziness to the walker. After a knee crunching descent, you fall into the alluvial fans above Spring Valley. I jammed on that day listening to music, smiling to myself, grooving a little bit. I felt happy. I felt ready to share this Great Basin Trail with the long distance hiking community. I had put so much work and passion into this trail that I hope one day to have another hiker hike the GBT in its entirety. I felt the closure, the cinching of the loop, the completion of something unlike any other. Almost like I was revisiting an experience, I hiked into the place where I began to relive those moments of  before when I started, of seeing Ruta off, of feeling the excitement of something new. And now, I felt a part of the Great Basin having been immersed in the core of the Great Basin. My heart thumped. I looked around and felt so small, so insignificant and puny, yet I felt fulfilled, complete.

Section 5 of the Great Basin Trail

Sections of the GBT: Section 5

Section 5: Wells to Ely (at Kalamazoo Road)
(approx. 155m)
(section mileage with XC factor: 160m)
(section elevation: 24,850ft gain, 23,775ft loss)

Section 5, Segment R: South Pequop Range
Wells to Goshute Valley
(approx. 61m)
(42m road, 19m XC)
(mileage estimation with XC factor: 64m)
(approx. 5,925ft elevation gain, 5,825ft elevation loss)

The checkerboard patchwork of private property and public lands line either side of the Interstate 80 corridor between Elko and the Utah border. That being said, the advantage of coming this far north is to experience the East Humboldts. Plus, you have the fortuity of having a resupply point on trail that you can walk through in Wells. Despite the trickiness of navigating in this segment, the way across is fairly easy compared to what the hiker has already experienced on the Great Basin Trail. Less elevation gain and loss, flat and soothing basin walking is balanced with difficulty in long waterless carries and exposure. Wild horse trails are present and affords the hiker with a pleasant time in the South Pequops.

Of the 61m in this segment, much of the miles are divvied up with road. The 42 miles of roads are less traveled and hard to reach by vehicle, however, one may not be as surprised to see a dust devil whipping up behind a vehicle miles away. Of the 19 or so total miles cross-country, walking across a barren alkali flat takes up the majority, while wild horse trails meander across the crest of the South Pequops.

The checkerboard ownership in this area refers to the ceding of land during railroad grants many years ago where multiple land owners exist, including the federal government and railroad companies. Because of the checkerboarding, managing a healthy landscape is very difficult as plots of private land are utilized for different uses such as grazing. The checkerboarding, most importantly to a long distance hiker, can prohibit public access and a legal thoroughfare in an area. Most of the hilly land due south and east of Wells is managed by the BLM while much of that land is not as scenic as the surrounding taller ranges. Much of the Wood Hills has scrub land layering the lower rolling hills with pinyon and juniper dotting the hillsides above. Gravel pits dot the northern boundary with the railroad streaming through, while ranches and trailer homesteads dot the foothills to the west and east. I found a 'line' southward from Wells within the checkerboarding that eventually puts you in the Independence Valley, which then lays you up with the South Pequop Range.

Leaving Wells, the hiker embarks on the longest waterless stretch of the Great Basin Trail. For 50 miles water is non-existent and while you may be dragging tongue into Ninemile Canyon, the travel up to that point across the Independence Valley is fairly easy. The 50 mile waterless stretch feels more daunting in theory than what that stretch actually feels like. While that stretch is really rather long, thankfully one can time the travel across a flattish landscape after tanking up with fluids in Wells. Also, the Independence Valley is in the rain shadow of the Ruby Crest and East Humboldts, so the temps in this area are cooler than the basins to the south. This does not mean one can experience warm temperatures through here, though. A cache or two is suggested if one finds that necessary, too. Water caches are suggested in the Independence and Goshute Valleys where dirt roads are drive-able for most vehicles, however, these cache points are some considerable distance away from highway access. 

The GBT hiker for this particular section should be prepared and experienced enough to handle a legit 50 mile waterless stretch.  No joke!

Once atop the South Pequop the hiker will find incredible horse trails to saunter along. High up along the Pequop Crest the hiker can spy the High Schells and Mt. Moriah in the distance. After passing many horse bones and skeletons the GBT hiker will finally slurp up the spring water of Boone Spring. While not an incredibly tough segment, the waterless stretch poses an intermediate challenge to cross a dry area. 

The highlight in this area besides the horse trails of the Pequop Divide is the dry alkali lake beds of Independence Valley. During my crossing of the playa, I walked along in a foggy morning after having camped behind a tall and wide greasewood. A silvery, waning moon shined dimly upon the salt flats making the plant life and salt plates refulgent in a crystally, soft pinkish glow. The thin layer of fog lined the bottom rim of the mountains, and I wondered if I was visible to the outside world in the thick blanket of fog. The cumulus clouds rolled in from the west and roved across the grey sky like an army waging war against the ranges, like the waves of the ocean crashing against the shoreline, pounding and pounding the ranges with wind and sheets of rain with a cold and brittle air. For two days in this segment, I wore all my clothing, cold and clammy. I drank a gallon of water for that 50 miles of no water source. My lips cracked from the cold and the wind, my eyes now pleated from my squinting.

Section 5, Segment S: Dolly Varden Range
Goshute Valley to Boone Spring Hills
(approx. 31m)
(22m road, 9m XC)
(mileage estimation with XC factor: 32m)
(approx. 3,000ft elevation gain, 2,575ft elevation loss)

The Dolly Varden Segment has one roaming through an isolated and little known mountain range with an old mining history. This part of Nevada and the Great Basin is sparsely populated, although wild horses still roam the landscape. Evidence of the wild horses are in the form of braided trails in the juniper and pinyon forests. Of the 31m in this section, 22 miles are on the usual lesser traveled sort. For the 9 miles of cross-country travel, the majority follows the described horse trails. The hiker crosses the Goshute Valley and follows old two track up into the Dolly Varden. As the name implies for fishermen and Charles Dickens's fans, I imagine these mountains were more colorful during the mining days. I imagine the name still holds true with the good looking pink and purple sunrises and sunsets that are unobstructed from any dominating range nearby. In that sense, the views are endless in this area and one can see southward for some 100 miles I bet. This segment has water in the form of maintained springs for wild horses and navigation is fairly straightforward. This segment lays you up for the rugged North Schells.


Section 5, Segment T: North Schells
Highway 93 near Becky Spring to Kalamazoo Road
(approx. 62m)
(47m road, 8m trail, 7mXC)
(mileage estimation with XC factor: 64m)
(approx. 15,925ft elevation gain, 15,375ft elevation loss)

The North Schells are the northern extension of the High Schell range, which in its lengthy totality is vying for the longest range in the state at roughly 135 miles as compared to the Toiyabe Range. This extension range has a skyline dominated by Becky Peak and Lovell Peak. The range towers over the lengthy Spring Valley to the east and Steptoe Valley to the west where one high up in a mountaintop perch can view seemingly tiny toy cars shimmering along the highway down below. The air up on the peaks whistles with loneliness and the GBT hiker is sated with solitude. Point blank, I was completely surprised by this range--- in its beauty, its ruggedness, in its remoteness, and in my enjoyment. The northern part of the range is a high desert mountain range dominated with sagebrush and scattered with juniper and pinyon pines. The Pony Express used to zip through Schellbourne Pass and with the surrounding views and ranges the hiker is instilled with the wild, wild West. Wild horse still roam here, antelope hop through the sage, and elk are found grazing on the high grassy slopes.6

The type of travel and mileage in this range is very deceiving just reading the stats above. the 47 miles of road are mainly two track and border the Becky Peak Wilderness. These two tracks are rough, rugged, and ascend and descend straight up and straight down. The 7 miles of XC follows horse trails, and, finally, the 8 miles of trail are dreamlike that contour deep drainages below the crest. Please, do not take this section lightly. After hiking close to 100 miles from Wells through relatively easy basin and hill walking, the GBT hiker is now back in the normal tendencies of the character of the route.

Update: The Great Basin Trail is now routed from Highway 93 near Becky Springs through the Becky Peak Wilderness. The hiker now has a full length traverse of this part of the range spanning from Becky Peak to Lovell Peak. Water is more available with springs in the area. The chances of seeing anybody up here feels extremely rare. The section is now hillier, more rugged and wild, and scenic.

Besides the meandering highlight within the knobs and cones before Lovell Peak, I found the area just south of Schellbourne Pass my favorite. Hiking up McCurdy Creek I stumbled upon a coyote chasing a deer about 30ft in front of me. The coyote had shooed the deer from the canopy of a juniper but was not quick enough to ambush the deer to prey. The coyote stopped, unaware of me standing there, and glared at the deer with a frumpy and disappointed look. The coyote smelled the air puckering its nostrils, then he caught scent of me. Just like that, quickly, the coyote leapt away. Up further, about a mile away, I found a herd of cows grazing in a lush meadow. Looking down on the herd of cows two or three bands of horses watched the movements of the cows as they reacted to my presence. The cows panicked; the horses observed. Despite the need for the same feed, the animals reacted so differently. I hiked on admiring the wild horses. 

Up at the pass, I found an obscure trail head that my traced route went right along side. I followed the ATV track and within a 1/4 mile the ATV track turned to singletrack. As I stood between two tall rock cairns, a large yellow butterfly landed on my forearm. I had a fluttering thought of love. Then, I stepped onto the singletrack and sped along in glee. As the trail weaved around the bulky hillsides some 9,000ft high, a large shadow developed beneath the range. The conical Becky Peak stood guard in the north and I felt the coolness of the end of a long hard-won day. I found a crystal clear spring and slugged a refreshing cold liter. At a rise on a shoulder of a ridge, I found three bull elk grazing. They immediately took off and sprang away uphill. A few moments later, as the sun was almost, set I pitched my tarp. Suddenly, an elk bugled and broke the stilled silence. Briefly, my adrenaline pumped but I became subdued by my tiredness. I laid down and began to fell asleep under alpenglow of the Great Basin, as another bugle rang through the air.

The next day after a restful sleep I continued along the same singletrack contouring the same beautiful high country. The High Schells came into view. I knew I was closer to the end. I knew I was getting closer to tying off the loop of the Great Basin Trail.