One last trip in the desert before the heat sinks in

A cairn marks a high point in the wilderness area off 6 Mile Canyon Road in Storey County. Virginia City can be seen in the background.

A cairn marks a high point in the wilderness area off 6 Mile Canyon Road in Storey County. Virginia City can be seen in the background.

The area between Virginia City and Dayton is popular for off-roading and target shooting. However, it’s probably not on the radar of many hikers. The desert always offers some thrill and exploration during the cooler months of the year.

It was probably one of my last desert excursions due to the rising temperatures. Especially in stressful times like these, it’s nice to find a secluded, peaceful mountain peak.

The last series of storms seemed to make everything very green and lively in the desert — a scene that won’t last long. There’s plenty of vegetation growing and blooming plants. There were large yellow flowers with big petals and smaller flowers that grew closer to the ground and varied in color from white to purple.

Hiking in this area can be rough. Many of the roads are old and commonly used for vehicles or horseback. You’re constantly stepping on rocks. Trying to get to the top of some peaks can be difficult too because the trails don’t lead all the way up, leaving you to make your own path.

I took a recent trip to a wide-open spot on Six Mile Canyon Road. The area is commonly used for target shooting and has a sign warning of the dangers of wildfires. It’s obvious the area has succumbed to fire damage recently. Every tree leading up one side of a mountain is charred black with many cut down for wildfire management. Most of the smaller grass has grown back, but you can tell from its color and length that it’s new.

The roads in this area lead in different directions and no trail is marked very well. One way sends you into Virginia City and another toward Flowery Peak. You’re pretty much exploring wherever your feet take you. On this recent trip, I tried making my way to Flowery Peak, but instead found myself on just another high point in the area by mistake. It’s definitely crucial to do research and plan if you’re seeking a specific spot.

Venturing outside and smelling the fresh nature air was a welcome distraction from mundane quarantine life. Being a place I’ve explored a few times, I wanted to try to make it to the top of a peak. The high point I reached had great views in every direction. Virginia City can be seen to the west and the beauty of the desert is in every other direction. Numerous trees lined the mountainsides where the sun didn’t hit directly. You could see for miles in the valley between Dayton and Silver Springs. And beyond the immediate mountains toward the south, you could see the snow capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada near Genoa and Gardnerville.

While the hike was difficult, it was great to get out in the desert for what may be the last trip of the spring. I was a little nervous with each step off the trails. While concentrating on each step closely, and not looking very far, I kept thinking I’d find a rattlesnake soaking up the sun. Perhaps 70 degrees was just a little too cold for them that day. There were plenty of lizards out and about, as they usually are. And a pack of deer watched as I took baby steps climbing down the rough rocks on my descent. They fled once I got too close.

There’s always beauty to be found in the desert. Sometimes you just have to work a little harder to see it. An off-road vehicle helps, but at least there are places to explore on foot.


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