Valley of the Virgins

By November 6, 2019 November 18th, 2019 Campsites, Excursions

A two hour spin west on lonely 140 (we saw no one on the road) brought us to the Sheldon Antelope Refuge, and its Virgin Valley Campground.  As it was just a waypoint on our trek to the desert, we weren’t expecting much, but were we ever surprised at what the land had to offer.

A CCC work camp in the ’30s, Virgin Valley was once home to 1000 young men who toiled to dig irrigation ponds for cattle.  That’s probably how the valley got its name!

In the center of the nearly-empty park is a nicely enclosed warm water spring, with a bath house next to it whose showers flow 24/7.  It was a good chance to knock off some desert dust!

We had arrived a little late for any organized activity, but as soon as the sun was up we struck out for a great crack called 1000 Creeks Gorge.  Some 2 miles from the camp, we were determined to do some canyoneering, without knowing the scale of what we were getting into…

The low sage-covered hills east of the canyon belied the cragginess of what was to come but beckoned still, with their strange mix of pink, green and white hues.

The mouth of the canyon.  Our plan was to skirt the slides and make our way through to what we figured was a short hike.  The frozen stream at the base was still in shadows, and the temp hovered around 25 as we set off into the slot.

Denver the Pathfinder and Rebecca skirt the canyon walls.

We might have been snagged aplenty on the spines of the flora in the canyon floor below, but My Lighthouse never quit smiling.  She’s one tough cookie.

This was the view at our turnaround point.  It showed more curvy canyon, and a spot of service indicated we were less than 1/5th the way through, after nearly 3 hours of rough bushwhacking.  Backtracking is not in our DNA, but occasionally, necessity prevails.

The melting ice on the creek below lent for some dicey footing in our many creek crossings on the way out.  With the day warming rapidly, we dare not venture out too far, as we had on our way in.  A cut in the wall just outside of frame led us to a 200 foot upclimb out of the wall, and onto some top-canyon adventures!

The fall colors were resplendent even in the faltering light of the canyon floor.  On the way out, we passed some chukar hunters who, by the way they shouldered their unloaded shotguns, were only in it for the opportunity to escape their wives.

Denver was the first out of the canyon, basking in a sunbeam, and waiting for us bipeds to scramble up the wall.

Rebecca took the trail back, and I decided to skirt through the multicolored hills, rockhounding as I went.

I found little channels of an orange chert in which there were small, green peridot-like rocks.  I filled my pockets and kept stepping.

These Nevadan hills had more colors than a pail of Walt Disney’s vomit.  We would have loved to spend more time chipping away at the dirt, but were were bound for the Black Rock, so when I returned to the trailer, it was time to roll!