June in NW Nevada

5:17 a.m. on March 30, 2013 (EDT)
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If I'm not mistaken, we have at least one northern Nevadan around, and I'd appreciate some input. A couple friends and I have hatched a plan to go on a couple nights' backpacking trip in one of the wilderness areas of NW Nevada during the second week of June, with the hopes of watching the Mustangs in as untouched of a state as there is (I think all of the herds are managed to some degree by the BLM), as well as enjoying the birds, other wildlife, and amazing scenery of the high desert. We will probably travel at a leisurely pace, 5-10 miles/day, for a couple days. We will be coming from the south (Reno/Carson).

The catch is that none of us has a high-clearance vehicle; my Subaru Legacy has AWD and does a fine job in all kinds of gravel, mud, and such, but deeply rutted or rocky roads may make her bottom out. Does anyone have a recommendation for a particular wilderness area or route where we could drive said flatlander car and hike to a relatively wet area to find wildlife? Are we absolutely nuts? ;) While I am a relative newcomer to the backcountry, one of my friends is fairly experienced and has led multiple week long backpacking trips. I am obsessively planning, and we will do a practice run in a more forgiving environment to make sure we are prepared.

10:50 a.m. on March 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Birdnerd,

The obvious place to go is the Sheldon Antelope Refuge, and High Rock Canyon.  The roads are terrible.  I would not recommend a Subaru for any of that country.  The State Highways are dirt up there.

The wild horses are not managed at all.  Every 5-10 years some of them are gathered and taken off the range for auction.  That is the extent of the "management."  The northern Washoe herds are handsome looking horses.  The stockmen used to turn their good stud horses out in the winter to breed with the wild ones.  There are a lot of Palamino horses out there.

Early June and late May are the peak time for wildflowers.  Lots of raptors, petrified wood, the Applegate-Lassen Trail, etc.

Find or rent a full-sized truck, or at least get a winch or come-along and two vehicles.  That is the only questionable part of your planning.

 

 

4:12 p.m. on March 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks, ppine! I will see if I can find a full-sized truck to borrow, and rent one if not. Renting has to be cheaper and less stressful than getting stuck out there with a broken axle.

Sorry I wasn't clear - the round-ups and trips to BLM feedlots are what I meant by "management", i.e., population management.

7:29 p.m. on March 30, 2013 (EDT)
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the roads out there are horrid. get a truck.

7:08 p.m. on March 31, 2013 (EDT)
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If you aren't taking two trucks, take something like a trail motorcycle, or even a mountain bike, as a second vehicle, in case your primary transportation breaks down.  Simple mechanical break downs can prove fatal in the remote west.  Have a backup to get you back to safety.

Ed

11:51 p.m. on March 31, 2013 (EDT)
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Against public opinion, the BLM has been rounding up quite a few horses.  It might help to call them about herds you might see.  Or, they might want you to tell them about any wild horse encounters. Kinda like Yosemite wanting to be notified about bear sightings.

Duane

11:03 a.m. on April 1, 2013 (EDT)
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Duane,

Public opinion varies widely.  After working for the BLM, and working around wild herds, it becomes obvious that horses have the ability to reproduce quickly.   They grow at the rate of 30-40 percent a year.  It is inevitable that they will overwhelm the grazing resources competing with wildlife and domestic animals.  Since 1973, they have been rounded up and sold at auction.

In Nevada most people like wild horses okay, but understand the need for gathers.  Some urban people tend to think of them as wildlife, when in fact of course they are feral livestock.

7:13 p.m. on April 1, 2013 (EDT)
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ppine,

I agree somewhat with you.  I went to HS in Eureka Co., we always chased horses away from our farm with our pickup.  I think people see feral horses as you call them and think of those poor things, when they have just been desensitized by being close to man.  The BLM has done a poor job with PR, but I can only go by what the Reno TV says.  There is one lady at work who is a horse person, she says there is no over grazing,  I'd have to see that, but it has been over 40 years since I was on the farm.   What you say makes sense as there are no predators so to speak to keep the horses in check. People have grown to distrust our government so it is a battle with the media.

Duane

1:40 a.m. on April 2, 2013 (EDT)
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Maybe we'll do truck + bike + Subaru and leave the Subaru somewhere along the way?

Tangent:

Sadly, since there are far more mustangs coming off the range than people ready to take on a feral horse, many of the Mustangs end up in "holding facilities" in places like Palomino Valley.  Public opinion is against sending them to slaughter, so they have nowhere to go.  If/when they need to be taken off the range (in part because of competition from domestic cattle) in such number, I and some of the horsepeople I know would rather these noble creatures be given a quick end (which is currently not possible via slaughter because it involves a trailer ride to central Mexico) than languish in what are essentially feedlots.  While it's true that all horses in the Americas were reintroduced at some point, personally I would unofficially classify them as somewhere between wildlife and domestic livestock, somewhere between rodeo-bred bucking stock and zebras.  It's possible to get a nice riding horse out of a retrained Mustang, unlike a zebra, but the Mustangs at the BLM holding facilities require a level of care and attention to detail to prevent human or animal injuries that is beyond that required for the bucking stock, even though the latter live out on the prairies and don't get socialized or gentled, either.  Maybe the Mustangs are just smarter, jumpier, and wilier from having more cougars around...

1:43 p.m. on April 2, 2013 (EDT)
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I think they should be slaughtered instead of keeping them in feed lots. more merciful. nothing worse than confining a wild horse.

7:50 p.m. on April 2, 2013 (EDT)
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Birdnerd,

I was thinking of you yesterday.   I wish I was going with you.  Be aware of the remoteness of the area you are thinking about visiting.  Cellphones don't work.  No facilities.  Bring lots of water and tools.  Keep you gas tank as full as possible. Two spare tires are really a good idea.  Lots of basalt to cut up tires.  Be ready to travel slowly.  The trip out there is part of the adventure.  Don't hurry.  Walk on soft spots before you try to drive on them.

Bring a shovel, jack, tow strap, deadman, come-along, etc. That kind of thing to get unstuck.

There are large antelope and mule deer herds along with the horses. You are going to have fun.  Make sure you bring companions that understand remoteness.  Nevada gets to a lot of people.  Some really get it and some do not last long without complaining.

 

 

12:54 a.m. on April 5, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks, ppine. I have a feeling I like it out there - I am also going out of my way to get back out to ND this summer. The trip this summer scares me a little but I think maybe it should - a little fear makes you prepare for the possibilities. Sounds like I have a little reading to do about getting a stuck vehicle free. If you're around Washoe or Fallon in June, I'd love to buy you a beer and hear some of your stories.

Planning for this summer is static for the moment as we study epidemiology and prepare for this weekend: one friend and I are going to be the idiots driving several hours to camp in the cold rain (with a large, wet, muddy dog in the tent) in Mendo Natl Forest. Probably the only ones not there to fish or grow pot. You have to be somewhat smart to get into vet school, but that doesn't mean you have to have common sense. I did call the ranger station and say we wanted to do some hiking and camping below the snowline, and they recommended Deafy Glade; did some more reading, though, and the trail there crosses a creek pretty early on that will likely be several feet deep with snowmelt this time of year. I've watched the videos people have posted on here about crossing water safely, but I'm still not confident about a couple inexperienced hikers going and trying to get hypothermic or knocked off our feet on our first trip out in a while/first trip together. Maybe that can wait for the second trip. ;)

11:11 a.m. on April 7, 2013 (EDT)
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Bird,

I would be glad to meet with you anytime with some notice.  I am south of Carson City.  I have two friends that are really good birders here.

Some fear is what you want.  The trick is to be cautious in the backcountry and overcome the fear.  I ran into a quote by a famous Arctic canoeist and explorer recently.  When asked about the subject of fear- " I have been running rivers in the Barren Lands and the North for several decades, and I have been scared the whole time."

July 29, 2014
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