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  • Writer's pictureJason Sheck

The 5 Times We Crossed Desert Creek (NFDR 027 from Wellington, NV to the Junction with NFDR 050)

It was cloudy and snowy all week in Incline Village but the snow never really seemed to accumulate at our elevation (about 6,600 feet). This gave me hope that the mountains east and south of us, near Wellington, NV, hadn't accumulated much snow during the storm. With higher elevation roads in the Sierra still impassable from snow that came earlier in the winter, I have been scouring desert forest roads on GAIA GPS to find an area to explore. Since I had good luck in the Pine Nuts a couple weeks ago, I figured I would try a little further south. GAIA GPS and available satellite images showed a National Forest Development Road 027 (NFDR 027) starting near Wellington and snaking its way through Desert Creek Canyon, and then another road connected and went west toward Topaz Lake.

The road was rocky but in good condition. As we made our way around some travel trailers and side-by-sides looking for a spot to camp, one of the people in that group told us we wouldn't make it to the top (i.e. the junction area) because of "some big ice thing". This was discouraging but we decided to see how far we could make it.

As we worked our way up the canyon we crossed through several puddles and eventually negotiated five crossings of Desert Creek. The crossings were a little tricky because there were ice ledges at the entrance or exit - so we'd drop into the water, cross the creek and try to climb out the other side. Only one of the crossings rejected us and required a second attempt, but that was only on account of me not exiting at a slight angle to allow one wheel to climb the ledge at a time. The bottom of the crossings were solid and rocky, which helped a lot.

Even though Juniper and Pinyon Pine aren't as impressive as the towering Jeffrey and Ponderosa Pines found in the Sierra, the creek was quite pretty with the snow cover. As Bri photographed an especially nice section of the creek, a man with 3 beagles in the back of his side-by-side showed up. It turns out he was hunting Mountain Lion with his dogs and was excited about a track he wanted to follow with the dogs. Hunting Mountain Lion wouldn't be my thing, but the dogs were cool to see and definitely seemed interested.

The snow got more frequent, then constant, and then deeper. When we turned west on NDFR 050 we encountered snow that was deep enough that quickly convinced us turning around would be best. We made it farther than I expected but not our whole route. We turned around on a shelf road which meant any slipping or sliding would put us at risk of sliding off the edge. The drive out was fun, we made all the crossings again, with even less difficulty, and even saw a 2 door Jeep headed up the canyon. Between the warm temps, clear skies, and canyon views, the trip was definitely worth it. As a final note, getting a travel trailer into Desert Creek Campground would put the trailer at high risk of tire, undercarriage, fender, and side damage (i.e. scratches and dents).

What did I learn?

The desert forest roads are a blast in the winter. It would have been nice to make a loop instead of an out-and-back, but it was still a lot of fun. The Jeep does an outstanding job with the trails we take. I was impressed with how it climbed up the ice ledges, especially when we were able to hit them at a slight angle.

Just after leaving NV 338, headed into the Wellington Hills. The amount of snow we could see was a little concerning, at least with respect to our ability to make our entire planned route.

The first creek crossing, which was a pleasant introduction to all the crossings to come.

You can kind of see the ledge at the far end of the crossing. This is the ledge I cut my teeth on and the one that rejected us, but just once.

There were five crossings in all, so 10 total since we ended up doing an out-and-back.

As we made our way up over 7000 feet, the snow was nearly constant but didn't hold us back until we turned on NFDR 050.

This is the view from NFDR 050 after we turned around and headed back toward NFDR 027. We were up on a shelf road switchback.

A little lunch spot.

Two views in Hoye Canyon. We only spent 15 minutes here and will have to come back some day.

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