My Solo Wanderings of the West


At the end of the causeway I arrived at the Nevada state line, and the end of the paved highway. This would be the starting point for a 5 day adventure into remote northwest Nevada.

I just caught up and read many pages and you leave me hanging here?!?!



With some of your recent pics, think I realized that you've told us all about your van setup but not the bike? Any tweaks, mods, typical repairs with it? When you head out exploring, what all do you take with you?

Looks like you added a cargo carrier behind the bike on the back of the van?

Again, thanks for bringing us along!



Thanks for another great update.
That volcanic rock looks like it would be hard to get around on.
I like your photo of the causeway,it captures the west...a new adventure just down the road...
As always, thanks so much for following, Chet. I always appreciate your comments.

I have been following you wanderings for a while now. We must have just missed each other back at the end of July in the Beartooths. We were camped there on the 26th - 30th when it snowed. We have property in Thermopolis, so Red Lodge, Cody , and Jackson are some of our favorite places.

I always look forward to your posts. Thanks for the pictures. I appreciate all of the effort that goes into you sharing with us.
I was actually gone by then, I was in that area earlier in July. I can't believe it snowed!
Thanks for the compliments!

You're doing life right!
I also appreciate the time you take to update the trip report! I'm always anxiously awaiting the next installment!
Can't wait to see 5 days of remoteness!
Thanks a lot, Stitebunny! It might even be 6 days, stay tuned,,,

... days until retirement. Until then we'll live vicariously through you and others. Thanks again for sharing.
Thanks a lot, Ranger.

I just caught up and read many pages and you leave me hanging here?!?!
Haha! Sorry about that! :)


With some of your recent pics, think I realized that you've told us all about your van setup but not the bike? Any tweaks, mods, typical repairs with it? When you head out exploring, what all do you take with you?

Looks like you added a cargo carrier behind the bike on the back of the van?

Again, thanks for bringing us along!

Thanks for asking. When I got the bike in 2012 I put on new tires, both front and rear are oversize, the rear is really big and just barely fits in the trailing arm. That was probably my best upgrade for the XT. The tires are Shinko 700s; I think they perform really well on and off road. I don’t like a full off-road knobby, they feel too squirmy on pavement. They’re almost worn out and I will buy them again. I changed the sprocket ratio for the bigger tire.

This year I added a rack to tie down my gear, and I put on lever guards. I got a nice little magnetic tank bag for camera, phone, maps. I always carry a tool kit with tire repair stuff, but I haven’t used it yet. I always carry water in case I end up having to walk, maps and a gps app on my phone, and an extra sweater in case it gets cold. That’s about it unless I’m riding to a trailhead with hiking gear and shoes in a pack.

The cargo box is great, it holds so much gear that now isn’t taking space inside the van, and it makes a nice table surface or seat at a campsite. I fabbed up some removable arms that pin into the bike rack; the cargo box nests in those arms with a strap over the top to keep it secure. I thought about a rooftop carrier, but this rig is out of the wind so it doesn’t affect my mpgs.

Thanks for following along!


Last year while driving 140 across northern Nevada I visited Sheldon National Wildlife refuge and stayed for 5 days.
I was really taken with the vast remoteness of the area, so this year I decided to expand on that experience. I looked into the Owyhee area of southeast Oregon and northern Nevada but it involved a completely different route than I was on. What fell into place was to see the Black Rock-High Rock Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area to the south of Sheldon.
Crossing into Nevada, highway 299 became Washoe County road 8A, also called Cedarville Road. The guy at the BLM office described it like a gravel highway.

My first side trip was to check out the BLM cabin/camp at Massacre Ranch but it was occupied with what appeared to be several hunt camps.

Returning to 8A I continued to the turnoff for Stevens Camp. The BLM map showed the 12 mile route to be a 4x4 road so I didn’t count on making it there with a van, but it was also the way to the north end of High Rock Canyon which I really wanted to see.

It turned out the road was quite drivable by taking it slow and watching out for softball-sized rocks in the road. The scenery on the way was just spectacular.

I arrived at Stevens Camp and it was deserted. I had hoped at best to find a campsite for myself but I was all alone there. There was a shallow water crossing where strong running spring waters ran through the camp.

The location had a long history of ranch owners before becoming public land; in the 1950s the cinder block cabin was built by ranch owner Ernest L. Ford, better known as Tennessee Ernie Ford. The BLM leaves the cabin for users on a first come, first serve basis; they have added an outside fireplace, and a pit toilet nearby.

I left the cabin site available for others and parked the van in one of the cleared campsites. I unloaded the bike to go check out High Rock Canyon.

The road leaves the cabin site heading down into the valley, just below was another water crossing where the spring runs through. That one was quite a bit deeper; as I rode through, the water was well up on my boots.

High Rock Canyon is part of the Applegate Trail, a historic wagon route through northern Nevada to California and Oregon. Where the spring waters flow below Stevens Camp was a historic watering hole on the trail.

It was getting late in the day so this would only be a scouting ride, my plan was to start early and run the whole canyon the next day.

The road starts out pretty nice, but turns very rocky. These smooth, loose rocks are really tricky to ride and get footing.

More of the trail.

Returning to camp, it looked like I was going to be alone at Stevens Camp that night. I got a campfire going and settled in to watch the twilight.

That night I pondered the remoteness of the area. There are no ranches near the site, and given the distance since I last saw people and the vast Wilderness area in front of me I believe I was probably completely alone in an area of hundreds of square miles. Pretty awesome.



As much as I appreciated the solitude, by the next morning I was kind of hoping for other people to show up at the site. I wanted to ride the canyon route but I didn’t want to take a solo ride like that without being able to inform someone that I was going. I even thought about leaving a note on the van, but by the afternoon, as forecast, a rainstorm started to move in. I decided to bug out before the road out got too muddy so I left Stevens Camp.

I didn’t get out before the first rainfall and the road did start to get muddy. There were a few interesting sections where I felt the van sliding in the curves.

It was a long 12 mile drive out of there on the rain-slick dirt road.

Arriving back at the main road, the van was covered in mud spray.

County road 8A continues into Sheldon NWR. Within the NWR there is no dispersed camping but there are 14 designated “campgrounds” throughout the refuge. The campgrounds consist of clearings to park in and a pit toilet for the area. I turned off 8A for a campsite at Fish Spring.

Light rain continued that afternoon and it was cloudy and cold. The rest of that day consisted of hanging around camp.


It got cold overnight; there was ice in my water outside and the ground was covered with frost.

As the sun burned off the cold, I was entertained by a pack of coyotes. Hearing their chorus, I was able to spot them out in the sparse vegetation and followed them with binoculars.
Here’s my camp at Fish Spring.

My destination that day was Soldier Meadows hot springs. I had to backtrack down 8A for a while then turned onto Badger Mountain Road. The road now was far from being a “gravel highway”!

As I drove, the blue skies turned cloudy and it sprinkled lightly.

Looking back north toward Sheldon.

Some time after leaving Sheldon, the road connected with Soldier Meadows Road and passed briefly through Summit Lake Indian Reservation.
Soldier Meadows Road was the roughest I had driven yet. I read later that there has been a historic dispute between Humboldt County and the Paiute tribe over who owns the roads. Judging by the condition I don’t think either do much road maintenance. I also heard that the Paiutes had been known to stop cars and charge a fee for passing through.

On Summit Lake I saw people on a boat, a rare people-sighting for this trip. Other than one or two cars that drove past the camping area at Fish Spring, I hadn’t seen anyone since the campers at the Massacre cabin.

From Summit Lake the road descends about 1,600 feet, some sections were steep and rocky and there were a few narrow shelf sections.

Finally the tall trees of Soldier Meadows Ranch came into view.

A few miles past the ranch was the turnoff for the hot springs. It was a couple miles from there to the cabin site. Two more miles beyond the cabin is a primitive camping area where the hot springs flow. There was only one camper there, but I decided to stay at the cabin site.
I did a little exploring of the area on the bike then returned and started a campfire. Before dark it began to rain.



It rained steadily for about 15 hours. In the morning the rain stopped and everywhere was a muddy flooded mess. There was a small river of water flowing under the van. The storm was a complete surprise, it was not in the weather forecast.

The camper from the hot springs area, a fellow named Chip, came by on a SxS. After surveying the mud situation we decided we would both wait a day for things to dry out and then caravan out together.

This was the road not far from the cabin; beyond it was completely flooded. The road had turned from dirt to soupy mud. When I tried to ride the bike through, it sank in and I had to get off and power the bike through walking alongside, with my feet sinking in mud up to my ankles.

I had told my son I would be out of touch for four days, as I knew there would be no cell signal. Since I would be there for at least another day I wanted to let him know. There was no phone, but Chip said there was satellite internet at the Ranch so I could send an email. There was no one staying there, but I found the manager and he kindly set me up at the computer.

The ranch was a pretty interesting place. They are completely off-grid, making their own power with a big diesel generator. Besides running a working ranch and tending a herd of 500 cattle, a manager and his wife take care of lodge guests, cooking meals and maintaining the lodge and ranch property. Their weekly shopping trip is 130 miles each way.

A road from near the cabin headed ten miles up to High Rock Lake and the south end of High Rock Canyon. I had hoped to make that run and ride in to see the rest of the canyon, but the trail was so muddy it felt too dangerous to ride. Instead I rode up to the hot springs and walked the trail through the area.
The main soaking pool was full of mud from the storm…

But this lower pool was clear and I enjoyed a long soak in the hot spring waters.

Another section of the hot running stream.

The camping area at the hot springs even had this unique, chest-high, open air toilet.

The bike was a mess from riding through mud and muddy water all day. The skies were crazy looking that day but there was no more rain.

Watching the twilight and clouds across the meadow, to the west the sun was finally breaking through just above the mountains.



The next morning was cold with clear blue skies. Chip came down and we started the process of ferrying all the vehicles across the meadow. Looking on a map I found that the area is actually named “Mud Meadow”.
First across was the SxS pulling its own trailer. We dropped the trailer and headed back up to the hot springs camp. Here’s a view of the crossing through the mud-splashed windshield; the cabin is straight ahead.

The water had actually drained some since the storm. The main road was too flooded so we took a bypass; we scouted the best line to drive through.

Returning to pick up Chip’s camper, the SxS had a tire come off the bead requiring a roadside repair.

Here I am following Chip in the camper; the truck was a Ram 4x4, but it was a dually with a big tall Lance camper so it could be tippy crossing through muddy holes.

Here’s Rusty, my co-pilot. The truck went through fine so we went to get the van. Earlier that morning I had aired down the tires and filled the air bags for maximum clearance. I would take it through without the bike loaded.

Using the line we scouted and keeping my speed and momentum up, the van went through perfectly.
One last trip in the SxS to fetch the bike and we loaded up for the trip to Gerlach.

Once we were back on Soldier Meadows Road, it was another 61 miles south to Gerlach.

Here I was getting my first views of the Black Rock Desert Playa. Across the playa here is Black Rock Point.

The road had some wet and muddy and rough spots from the storm, like this low section next to the playa, still wet from the rain.

Before we got to the turnoff for Gerlach, Chip and I parted ways. It was great that we were able to team up for the trip out of Soldier Meadows.
When I reached the road that led into Gerlach, I had driven the van just over 200 miles since leaving the paved road at the Nevada state line.



Arriving in the town of Gerlach, population 161. It was day 5 since I entered Nevada. I decided I wanted to head back north and spend one more night on or near the playa.

There is no cell service in Gerlach, but I found an open wifi from the Burning Man offices and emailed my son with the latest update.
Across the road was the iconic Bruno’s Country Club. Up the street at Bruno’s service station I bought some expensive gas and aired my tires back up.

I backtracked about 20 miles from Gerlach, back up Soldier Meadows Road…

Back to this area with a network of old mining roads and a great campsite overlooking the playa. The playa in the view beyond the van is the exact site where the previous month there was a city of 70,000 for the Burning Man Festival.

View to the north of a low mountain range in the late afternoon sun.

Watching the twilight on the hills across the playa.

To fully experience my stay at the Burning Man site, I used some sticks I found in a firewood pile and made a “Man”.

And that night, when I had a good campfire going, i had my very own Burning Man.



Day 6! That morning I took the bike and headed down to the playa. Here’s a look back at my campsite.

As I might have guessed, after all the rain the playa surface was pretty gooey and as soon as I started to ride on it the bike started to sink.

Looking south toward Gerlach, the playa is shiny from wetness. In places I could see standing water out there.

Looking at the vast view of the playa reaching to the north.

It was time to move on; later that morning I packed up and headed south through Gerlach and continued south on 447.

Coming soon: the Extraterrestrial Highway and Area 51!


Great thread.

I spent about two minutes trying to clean my screen until I read that it was in the picture, mud on the windshield.


New member
I just caught up with your journeys after starting from the beginning. Great stuff. I've definitely been inspired by your postings and saved some spots on my map to explore in the future. Thanks for all the great info and pics. I hope the wife and I can be this nomadic some day... Jason