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Four days, Four wheels. Round the playa we go.
600 miles south of Portland in the North West corner of Nevada, lays a vast plain of a former lake bed called Black Rock Desert. With the exception of one week in September, when large crowds swarm in for the Burning Man festival, this land stays pretty much empty. Crisscrossed by only a few developed roads with plenty of rough stuff, it attracts the soul of 4 wheeler overlanders with its emptiness and natural beauty.

We've been paying annual homage to this region for four years. 3 trucks from Oregon, and 2 out of California. The core group is made up of friends and some newcomers for a total of 10 people. Few of those who didn't make it shall envy our travels.

Full daylong drive from Portland was uneventful. The darkness settles down early during November.

When we arrived at our randevu point, it was pitch black. Frog Pond was a small, seemingly artificial hole fed by a well that supplies the pond with hottish water, populated by a considerable number of large specimens of class amphibian (hence the name). The hot bath is always a welcome addition to camping at freezing temperatures. Innumerable small fish nibbled at us when we took a dip. This particular spot was not quite as hot as some others we visited, but it still allowed for a decent soak as long as you bolt out quickly. The cold windy night prompted us to huddle closer to the heat however.

First night's gathering keeps people awake for awhile. Huddle around the fire, talk, feast, even poem recital, a first. Coyote paid us a visit.

Train rumbles by on the frosty morning.

Wakey wakey.

Our next destination is King Lear Peak.

The prominent mountain is just shy of 9000 feet on the west edge of the playa. It stickup up over 5000 feet above the plane. Seldom climbed, there is little in terms of an established route. After some reading, it seemed ascending it from the eastern side would shorten our climb to about 3000 feet as the back road reaches just about small saddle at about 6000 feet. Round and round we go via maze of rough dirt trails. Sometimes the road is barely visible and at one point we ran into the washout of a creek bed and the road simply disappears.

Yet road prior to that hinted to though seldom but use. Quick run around showed hard to discern bypass.

Eventually we reach our destination some 4 hours later.

Distances and time required to cover those are deceiving in a desert. More so when staying in dirt. There was an easier and likely faster way to reach this place. I felt like we didn't come here to just rumble down graded gravel roads and hopefully my companions were on the same page.

Reaching the summit hidden by clouds before dusk didn't seem certain to us.

I figured we can ascend a little, scope it out and "play by the ear" from there on. I tend to gravitate to this mode of travel as it offers us not to stick to hard set plan. I seem to like to just pick a general direction and then see what I find along the way, and stop at the place of my liking. Unless I'm in the race of course. Here unfortunately, it gave a bad card to me as the lack of communication caused somewhat of a misunderstanding as most of our group assumed that we climbed this far then return while me and Sergei end up heading higher and higher as conditions allowed. Yet the rest of the company enjoyed local scenery from prominent rock on side of mountain.

Assumption is the mother of many evils. As I passed by most of our group I assumed our intentions were clear. For that I'm sorry.

As we pushed up, the surface covered by snow held together nice. We made good progress.

The summit was in our crosshairs now.

Last couple hundred feet were a bit unnerving with poor foothold on steep, solidly frozen surface with a scary drop-off on the side. Made it to the top less than an hour before sunset.

We didn't have much time to hang out especially having only a single flash light. The scenery is quite spectacular however.
Loud boom came from below.Our companions were either entertaining themselves or trying to signal us something.

Worst part of descent went surprisingly smoothly.

Descending through dusk we made it out of show zone by time darkness fell.

Base-camp was in state of mutiny. Issues of leadership and communication were discussed as well as plans for the night. Our next and final destination Black Rock Hot Spring lay some 90 miles away as road goes. Common sense prevailed and we called it a night. No we didn't go off to bed right away. We still had things to talk about, hear a song or two, guitar came out again, and the food was plentiful.

In the morning we set off for our final destination.

Black Rock Hot spring lays at the very tip of long ridge that splits ancient lake bed almost in half. Peninsula like in our prior two visits we accessed it along western side. At dry time short flight across white flat lake bed we could be there in an hour or less. Last visits lake greeted us with standing water and brown greenish hue. No tractor will come to your rescue there. Only choice is long way around across washouts hugging ridge base. Coming from east side this time I was wondering I we find a better way. Largely track proved to be in decent shape.

Here is another look at the King Lear Peak.

Except! Rounding last turn before ascending for ridge crossing vi so called Hidden Playa we came across familiar brownish goodness consistency of sour cream that sticks to everything and lets you sink-in happily. First real stuck of Mancation.

Wasn't real bad though. After airing down some more, Land Rover standing on very tiptoes to keep it's belly off mud, powers itself through.

On to the ridge

Hidden Playa was soaked.

Scouring around the edges.

Far end of playa was dry glass smooth ready for land speed record

Black Rock Hot Spring is spectacular feature in spectacular location.

Large pool of blistering hot water at the base of black pyramid at tip of massive ridge in the middle of vast lake bed.

I hear it can be impossible to get in during warmer time of the year.

Even now after cool day in late fall it was uncomfortably hot to get in.

That night gave us another celestial spectacle. US Navy test fired Trident ballistic missile across the sky.Trail of ionized air appeared pointing somewhere toward infamous Area 51 only added to mystery.

Here is some more incite into the that spectacle of night.

The morning was beautiful

Relax in style

Hot water cooled off a bit overnight provided very comfortable soak on a frosty morning after.

We couldn't avoid practicing with some mantoys.

They do make a funny sound or rather large boom when bullet hit it.

It not like we can jump on hwy right there. It takes few hours of rutted out road to reach more habitable places.

Newcomers got acquainted with some dangerously hot hot springs. "Double hot" hot springs.

Then more ruts.

Finally we reach better road. Time to air up the tires.

Time to say goodbyes and head home.

More random shots. There to many to post. All of above and below were pouched from all of the participants.

Dejavu 2013. Pickup where you left.
Nevada Trophy 2013 scheduled for Nov 1-3 was canceled as pretty much expected not unlike 2012. yet we've had a plan. Mancation it is then. After some tussle about dates we to stuck to original. Halloween  thrown a monkey wrench into this setup being on 31st. Since we are all family men we decided to head out after annual sweets extortion was over. Just past mid-night we headed south. Horrible fog as in you couldn't seed side of the hwy sometimes went alongside till we finally made it to high elevations of central OR. Rolling over CA/NV border sun was lighting up half frozen Surprise Valley.

Some unusual halo/freezing fog rainbow

It was no 2012 as just around same time that year day time temperatures reached up to 80 degrees. Mid 20s outside this time around. High altitude camping was going to be on a cold side. I've wanted to visit Black Rock Desert for awhile now but as we descended to Gerlach, NT it is wasn't pretty. Dark grey with pools of standing water wasn't promising any fun venturing onto it's surface.
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Crossing Oregon. From mt peak to desert to lakes.
Steens Mountain, Alvord Desert pretty much anyone who is into four wheeling/overlanding in Pacific Northwest knows those names. Situated in South east corner of Oregon they are not inaccessible yet pretty remote. Steens Mountain is a large fault-block mountain that stretches some 50 miles north to south. At the base of eastern slope is large open playa, 12-by-7-mile (19 by 11 km) dry (in Summer) lake bed - Alvord Desert. Steens is highest point in Oregon you can drive up to at 9733 ft. Dry Alvord desert playa is flat enough to set land speed records. I caught a glimpse of those on the way to 2009 Nevada Trophy.

Finally made it here this 4th of July weekend 2013. We took of much later than anticipated. Were greeted with fireworks in small town of Burns. Finally just before midnight we arrived at primitive camp among small aspen trees near Fish lake. At 7500 feet night was a bit colder than we anticipated, clear moonless night pleased us with spectacular Milky Way display.

Breakfast bacon and eggs then onto sightseeing.

Kigler Gorge u-shaped troth carved out by glassier millenniums ago.

9500 ft East Rim view on Alvord Desert 5000 ft below. Steens summit was only part requiring mild 4WD. Short narrow shale rd with one steep climb. Rest of roads so far was perfectly suitable for passenger cars, well graded gravel. It was actually relatively crowed on that day.
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In search of sun for spring break. Discovering sunny California.
..and Nevada ...and even setting a foot into Arizona(just for few minutes. That still counts. Doesn't it?).
I've been itching to get out of the house all winter. Dreaded remodeling keeps me very occupied while not at actual work not much time left to do anything. This past 2013 Spring break I saw as opportunity to give my boys a chance to see new places after being mostly under house arrest all winter. Their father notwithstanding. Initially I harbored plans to do major overlanding/camping trip to hit some well known four-wheeling/off-roading places in CA. That didn't pan out for one or another reason. Power Wagon will stay rested this time. Break out road warrior king of family trips - Nissan Quest minivan. Well I still managed to test it's albeit very limited overlanding abilities but more on that later.

Quick re-gear produces something similar to this actual route we traveled.

10 days 2800 miles, 3 boys (4, 6, 10), 2 adults. Fact that my wife only had couples days of available vacation complicated it just a little. I don't give up easy. My wife gets one way ticket home, my dad flyes in. We keep going.

Hence we set off Thursday night for CA. La Quinta Inn & Suites Grants Pass was nice and clean, and more importantly has indoor pool open 24 hours. Boys enjoyed it immensely after few hours in car seats.

Made it to Mountain View, CA next day Friday afternoon. I've passed number of times by Castle Crags State park and this time decided to visit. Easy reachable view point gives nice perspective to insignificance of human time scales. Look to the left this old green mountains of 350 million years vintage, ahead of you granite Castle Crags at just 50 million, and on extreme right young pup of snow capped Mt Shasta at meager 500 thousand.

Stop by next time. Dress for occasion. It was sunny but windy and chilly this time of year.
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Power Wagon maiden voyage, Mancataion, unofficial Nevada Trophy 2012 redux.
After participating twice before in Nevada Trophy, 2009 and 2011 I was quite disappointed to say the least when it was canceled this year. What is Nevada Trophy? As organizers put it: "NVTR was born in 1995, and after a season of work, the first event was run in December of 1996 in Fernley, Nevada. That year seven teams, of two cars each, participated in this special event, an event that combines GPS Navigation, the searching for Waypoints and off-road driving. NVTR is a combination of Camel Trophy, the Warn Challenge, and Geocaching, which we pre-date by some years. Everyone is welcome!"

Unfortunately somehow sometime even great things don't get enough traction in the four-wheeling community. Some people feel they should be paying for playing. Some find excuses. Some simply can't make it. Regardless when you don't get enough attendees rally is not going to happen.

Not to be dismayed we've set out to organize small private even following tracks of Nevada Trophy circa 2009, 2011 with group of friends. We would attempt to find those waypoints we missed in events. Big thanks to Nevada Trophy orgs who supplied us with old log books to keep us on target.

Number of invites went out. 3 vehicles and 6 people showed up. So it happened drivers had prior NVTR experience all us being part of same team in 2011 , navigators were all anew to this type of entertainment. Well suited vehicles presented including my 2008 Dodge Power Wagon, 2008 Toyota Tundra, and 1996 Lexus LX450 (Land Cruiser).

Coincidentally or not we all sported same tires Goodyear Duratrac. Maybe we should have gotten some sponsorship. Why Duratracs? Land Cruiser sported them last year. Everyone like their performance then. They didn't disappoint now. I put a set of fresh 35 inch meats a day before setting off. We all wanna be prepared don't we. Although hwy ride gotten a little mushy compared to previous set of stock size Toyo ATs. Rough and gravel road ride was far more comfortable. Off-road they tackled everything with aplomb and ease.

We set out to meet Nov 1 in hotel in Fernley, NV. Day long drive across beautiful central-southern OR was as uneventful as beautiful. Stunning sunburned grassy mountains and plateaus under deep blue sky parched with low clouds kept us staring out the window in awe. We crossed into CA/NV in nearly darkness catching glimpses of Surprise Valley from crest of Fandango pass. Got to come back for some exploring some day.

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Закружило завертело.
Детки в клетки, маленький перманентный смерчик.

Это не примус это примитивный калориметр. Детки science project для сравнительной оценки теплотворной способности угля супротив простых дров. Уголь победил.

Искали яйца.
Скушали сосику.

Обучаем дитё уму разуму. Дождик не весна, надо помогать.

Что делать при переохлаждении