A crystal clear reason to take this short hike
June 11, 2009
It’s not always the length of the hike that matters. Sometimes, it’s what is at the end of a trek that’s interesting. The Crystal Mine near Verdi is one of those special hikes. At the end of it are a couple of mountains of quartz, there for the taking (and carrying out, more on that later).
Verdi is about 35 miles from Carson City off Interstate 80 west of Reno. Exit at the first Verdi off ramp. If you have good maps of the area, use them; if not you can go the Nevada Department of Transportation office off Stevens, second floor, map room. The helpful attendant there will show you how to generate a map of the Verdi region. The cost is $8 for a waterproof USGS map.
On the map, you’ll see the road to Crystal Peak Park. This is a fine park with an easy walk down to the Truckee River, tables and public facilities. Drive past the park and watch for Bridge Road, past the cemetery to Dog Creek Road.
Follow the “Getting There” directions on this page. It’s a lengthy drive on mostly rocky, rutted dirt roads to Lookout Campground, a nice place to stay for a night or two ($6 fees), then to the trail head to Crystal Mine.
Well, it isn’t really a mine. After a walk from the trail head, guarded by a massive quartz bolder, you’ll reach the mine – a couple of 70-foot-high mounds of quartz and other minerals. You usually won’t be alone; Monday this week there were several cars parked around and a couple of groups digging quartz up near the top of the hills.
It’s easy to fine quartz; but the trophy pieces are usually still in the ground, so you may have to dig. There’s plenty of 5-pound chunks around; just pick ’em up. But remember, you’ve got to carry them back to your car. I used a medium sized backpack to lug the stones back and 50 pounds was about all I could tote.
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If you’re a serious rock hound you’ll want to bring digging equipment: A pry bar, shovel, hammer, trowel and whatever else you might want to use. If you want a lot of quartz you might want to bring a wheelbarrow, although I’ve never seen one there. You’ll definitely want to wear hiking boots if you’re going to the top of the hills. Gloves also come in handy.
Don’t forget to look around as you hike up the trail so you can find the way back; it can be tricky as one tends to look ahead and miss the switchback that you took coming up.
You can skip driving back the same rocky way you came by simply continuing in the same direction. It’s perhaps 10 miles downhill, but the road is much better, ending up just before Bordertown with an entry to Highway 395 south. The views along this route are spectacular, with Long Valley stretching for miles. I took a dirt road off to the north for a half-mile to catch the wide, panoramic views.
This was a one-day trip, complicated by having to study the map and making several wrong turns. Next time I’ll camp at Lookout and take some hikes. Lots of terrain to explore in the area.
• Contact Sam Bauman at 841-7818 or at email@example.com.