Alone in the Desert and Thoughts on Trip Planning

10 May 2017

I’ll begin with one of my favorite statements lately- there just isn’t enough time in the day to do it all. As luck would have it, I did find time to get out over spring break, and of course I have planned to write something about it. So here we go, to summarise: I managed 12 days of hiking and saw some amazing sights, as always. Weather was great, excepting the usual spring winds that always come up. There were birds- lots of raptors this trip, including many bald eagles. Reptiles were out- lizards of many types and one very cold rattlesnake that didn’t move throughout an entire day.  And the rock art- there were so many amazing panels and elements and discoveries within panels that it constitutes a blog in itself. But beyond all that, this trip was unique as it was my first spring break alone in about 10 years. My usual sidekick, my son, had too many prior engagements to come along. I made the most of my time alone, enjoying the Utah sunrises, sunsets, evening fires, and every minute in between.

Square spiral petroglyphs in southern Utah. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

A unique set of four square spiral petroglyphs. Do they represent the seasons? I would be curious to revisit this site during the seasonal changes to see if there are any types of solar alignments.

One thing that struck me this trip beyond all else was the amount of time we spend planning, and where that planning can sometimes get us. Don’t get me wrong- planning can be everything, it can mean the difference between a fun, memorable trip and a disaster. But there are times that planning can get in the way of our adventures. Planning can hold us back, it can hold back the explorer in us and stifle the sense of accomplishment, the sense of discovery that we seek out there in the bush.

We live in an overstimulated world with just too much information flowing around us, in our heads and readily at hand. One of the reasons I go into the desert is to escape all that. And I don’t want to bring along a bunch of data- on anything. I want to walk and see and hear things, feel the sand under my boots or under my bare feet, wonder about what is around the next corner.  I don’t want to look for the next thing I am supposed to find at a certain distance from a certain point. Where is the fun in that? For me, that is too much like everything else in life these days- click a link and it’s all there. That is decidedly not what wilderness is about for me.

white hand pictographs in San Juan county, Utah. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

White hands- one of my favorite pictographs, and one of the first I “discovered” in southeast Utah about 20 years ago. I visited them again on this trip.

I have never been one to plan an entire trip, hour by hour, water point to water point, camp site to camp site. I know that people do this. There are guide books that do it for you. This is one of the very reasons I don’t use guide books, other than for very general information. My favorite writer of guides, as I have expressed over the years, is Michael Kelsey. He gives clear, concise, to-the-point information, and not much more. That is all I want- mileage to the trailhead for example, if I don’t choose my own, or maybe data on the best way to climb out of a canyon that everyone says cannot be climbed out of. Kelsey’s books are the place for something like that. After that, it is all up to me.

Moving on from my philosophy of wilderness travel back to civilisation, I always end my trips in Moab. I like to mention my favorite local businesses, in support of the community there. Moab Gear Trader has recently moved into the space above their original store. They have so much used and new gear now that it’s easy to find something you can use. I have an account there, and usually drop gear to sell on every trip. You don’t have to live locally to do this- give them a call to see if they may want your used gear. And if you can’t find what you need there, just down the street is Gearheads, where you will find whatever it is you forgot to bring along. There was a time when I would worry about that piece of gear that I inadvertently left behind, but not any more. Between Moab Gear Trader and Gearheads, I know I will find what I need.

Axe head found in wash in southeast Utah. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

Found in a wash bottom- one large axe head. They artifact had signs that it had been in the wash for some time, and also plenty of use wear. It was made from a perfectly shaped, very flat river cobble.

Gear is good, but we can’t leave out food and coffee to make us happy. Moonflower Coop, on 100 North right off of Main Street, recently completed a major renovation and it is not to be missed. They even  have a seating area now at their deli, where they offer fresh salads, sandwiches, soups, and much more. They are right across the street from Moab Coffee Roasters, one of our favorites. Need a backup bike tube with your coffee? Be sure to visit Moab Classic Bikes on Center Street for both- yes, there is a coffee shop in the bike store. Very convenient!

Our next trip is planned for the end of May- a couple of weeks in the Hanksville area. We are planning, if weather and water levels permit, to walk the Dirty Devil River. No dragging the boat this year! In the meantime, there is plenty more information on desert travels in southern Utah at

A Week in Central Nevada, Part 2

10 September 2010

This is a follow-up post to our recent “Trip Report- Back From a Week in Central Nevada“. In this post I will cover some new dining options in the town of Fallon, a quick visit to the town of Yerington, and what to expect at the Lahontan State Recreation Area.

Breakfast In Fallon
There are a couple of new and notable dining options in Fallon. Both serve breakfast and lunch, both are open from about 6:30 to 2:30 pm, and both are closed on Sunday. You will find the best breakfasts and baked goods in Fallon at either one of these cafes. Both restaurants are clean and new inside and out and are comfortable dining environments.

The Courtyard Cafe and Bakery is located on the northeast corner of Maine Street and Williams Avenue, where Highway 50 and Highway 95 cross. They have fresh-baked muffins, scones, croissants, and other goods daily, serve hearty breakfasts, and offer a full lunch menu. They only serve drip coffee, but do have a selection of loose-leaf teas. We stopped in for coffee and a scone, and found the cafe to be quite a popular place.

The Maine Street Cafe, south on Maine Street about 5 blocks at 810 South Maine, has much the same fare. They do have espresso drinks, and do a good job at making them. We had breakfast there- just eggs, potatoes, and toast- and were surprised at the quality of the meal. After so many greasy casino breakfasts the Maine Street Cafe is a welcome change in the town. I have to say that I am partial to this cafe as they have a very nice outdoor seating area.

I was pleased to find both of these restaurants in Fallon and recommend them both. Fallon really needs quality places like them. Please visit them if you are in the area.

The local coffee shop, formerly Mojo, now The Daily Grind, has changed ownership. Nothing else has changed. The coffee drinks are still tasty and the prices good. The Daily Grind is now the only true coffee shop in Fallon. They open early, around 6 am, and have a drive through window.

Yerington is another small, rural community. The town of about 4000 people is located on Highway 95A south of Silver Springs, towards the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest and Mono Lake in California. The town is located east of the highway and if you are just driving through you might miss it. Be sure to take one of the exits east towards the town. We made a random visit to Yerington one day after camping nearby. The small, neat town has many well-maintained parks that are great places for a lunch break. Stop at the visitor’s center for more information on what to do in the area. They might be able to tell you about local mines, and the mining history of the area. There are many dirt roads close by that will take you to ghost towns and old mining sites if you are interested in site seeing.

The town has a number of restaurants, but our chosen brunch location was Briana’s Taqueria located at the municipal airport. The food is tasty, served quickly, and is a great value. Be sure to ask about their daily specials. They are open 9-4 Monday through Friday and 9-3 on weekends. Outside the restaurant you can see a couple of decommissioned aircraft in front of the airport. We weren’t certain of the models, but both are twin engine, one definitely a civilian craft, and the other more interesting one looks like it may have been a military craft at one time.

There is a new drive through coffee shop in Yerington. If you are heading south and take the second exit into town, you will pass right by it on the corner of Bridge Street and Mountain View. Sundance Coffee serves your typical coffee drinks and does a good job with their espresso machine- my Americano was a strong one.

Lahontan State Recreation Area
Lahontan reservoir was created with the completion of Lahontan dam in 1905. The dam and reservoir became a state recreation area in 1971. The reservoir has two entrances, one on the Fallon side off Highway 50 and one on the Silver Springs side off Highway 95A. Either entrance will get you to potentially quiet, sandy beaches where you can sit next to cool water for the day. Be careful on holiday weekends as the beaches may be filled with campers and the water filled with boats and skiers. Depending on the time of year, the water’s edge may be a walk from where you park your car. Later in the summer the reservoir tends to get low as water is used up on local fields.

There are a number policy issues that the Division of State Parks still needs to get under control at the reservoir. One of these is dogs at the reservoir. Dogs are allowed, but only on leashes. I saw plenty of dogs, but not one leash. And in part because of this, the beaches were covered with dog waste- picking up after your dog is apparently not required at the reservoir.

Additionally, the beaches were covered with litter. This was not only the expected beer bottles and cans, but all kinds of trash left behind by campers. Finally, fires are allowed on the beaches, but there is not a requirement to use a fire pan, or even clean up your fire area. The beaches were covered with old fires, some right on the surface, some partially buried, and some with rock rings.  All were filled with trash, broken and melted bottles, half-burned aluminum cans, and other trash. The worst part were the older fires where broken bottles, screws, nails, and various pieces of hardware were strewn across the sand all along the beaches. In all my travels around the southwest I can honestly say that I have not found a dirtier recreation area.

These issues impact not only the beauty and usability of the recreation area, but public health and safety. The State of Nevada needs to address these issues sooner than later. New policies for the reservoir, including basic Leave No Trace policies, must be discussed and implemented. In the meantime, if you visit Lahontan be sure to keep your shoes on.

For more information on Lahontan State Recreation Area visit the State of Nevada website.

For more on visiting central Nevada, see the Desert Explorer Nevada pages.