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  • Jason Sheck

Ophir, a little Jumbo, some Virginia City, and a Brunswick Canyon

After last week's trip to the Feather River Canyon, we found ourselves headed back into the Nevada desert. I am getting anxious for the high elevation roads and trails in the Sierra to open but it helps to get out on some trails that will be too hot and dry to enjoy in the summer months. Even though I am looking forward to Jeeping in the Sierra, I can't help but notice the lower-than-normal snow pack and how quickly it's melting. I learned from a friend at work that California and the surrounding areas basically start their next drought as soon as the current one is over. The trees seem to have incredible resilience to the extreme weather patterns, but dry weather means more wildfires. Since nearly 9 in 10 wildfires are human-caused, I can't help but fear what's coming this year - especially as people pent-up from COVID head to the mountains. Maybe we'll get some rain this spring that will push back the peak wildfire season?


Anyway, we left the pavement just outside Gold Hill, NV and headed up the Ophir Grade. Like many of the towns and roads in Northern Nevada, this area has been heavily influenced by gold and silver mining. Google the "Comstock Lode" if you're interested. Old mines, mining equipment, and tailings are almost everywhere you look. Ophir Grade was rocky so we aired-down pretty soon after leaving pavement. There was a steady stream of side-by-sides, motorcycles, and Jeeps coming down the grade as we worked our way up. We also came across a heard of about 20 wild horses. The horses looked skinny, which most wild horses seem to, and you could tell they were in the middle of shedding winter their fur. A few of them looked pretty rough.


We connected with Jumbo Grade because the plan for the day was to make our way around the Jumbo Grade loop and return to pavement in Washoe Valley. Before we got too far down Jumbo Grade we stopped for lunch on a little spur trail that led us to the top of a mini-peak. We cooked out up there. Nothing amazing, just hot dogs and beans, but I wanted to try out the new Coleman Triton Camp Stove. The stove worked great and we had hot lunch in minutes. Once we were back on the trail we crossed through some mud and made our way into some very tight Pinyon and Juniper trees. Both Bri and I were a little disappointed by the beating the Jeep was taking as we drove through branch-after-branch. It wasn't long into the trees that we came a steep and snowy section of trail that I decided was too dangerous to descend. So...we turned around and headed back through the tight trees.


Needing to find a new route we left Jumbo Grade and used GAIA to choose series of trails that would take us to Virginia City. Our revised route was also steep. We descended nearly all of it in 4 Low, and even with using the engine to slow us down, our brakes still got hot by the time we made it to Virginia City. The descent was very rough and rocky and I am not sure I'd want to climb a trail like that. When we got to Virginia City, it was alive! There were people in front of every store and many people were walking the boardwalks.


Since our original route didn't work out, I decided to take Brunswick Canyon and Sunrise Pass Road on the way home. These roads aren't all that exciting, but we did have regular panoramic views of the Sierra as we worked our way through the Pine Nut mountains.


What did I learn?

Riding around in the Jeep with the Freedom Panels (the front portion of the hard top) removed can give you a quick sunburn. I've already added bottle of sunscreen to an online shopping cart that I plan to leave in the center console. I'll be prepared next time. Trails are great with parts of the top off, but highways are kind of drag when the Freedom Panels are removed. This is because the wind makes a lot of noise against the rest of the hard top that we chose to leave on. I still very much look forward to riding with all the hard top and doors removed.

GAIA GPS Link (Ophir Grade)

GAIA GPS Link (Jumbo Grade, then down to Virginia City)

GAIA GPS Link (Brunswick Canyon out Sunrise Pass Road)


A shot of Ophir Grade, which happens to be probably the smoothest stretch of road we were on today.


Looking down toward Gold Hill and Silver City from Ophir Grade. You can see old mines, old mining roads, and equipment left to rust (very slowly) away.


The wild horses...


Our lunch spot, equipped with easy parking, good views, and a stable place for the stove.


Looking down into Washoe Valley from our lunch spot.


Descending from Ophir Hill into Virginia City (our reroute).


We took a spur off Sunrise Pass Road that took us to the top of a small ridge. Behind the Jeep are the Sierra.


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