Thu, Jul 9, 2009
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It was the third day of our roadtrip to the Reno area, and as promised I gave Ryan the day off. It was our compromise between too much hiking to suit Ryan, and not enough to suit Dad. My plan was to leave the hotel early, around 5a, and return by 11a so we could spend the afternoon together. I picked out Dogskin as a prominence peak not too far from Reno that I could do in half a day. It was quite fun. Much of the encompassing terrain is open to OHVs, often motorcycles, so there are small trails that can be useful to hikers that do not show up on the topo maps. In addition, the area is home to wild horses which are very intelligent creatures. They manage to create use trails in a very logical manner almost where you'd expect them to be if you were going to be wandering back and forth around these hills. I never saw a single horse, but their trails were quite helpful to me.
Getting to the Dogskin Mtns is fairly easy, accessible by any vehicle. Take SR445 (Pyramid Hwy) north to Winnemucca Rd, turn left, drive about 6mi to a left turn for the Hungry Valley Recreation Area access road. This long dirt road travels around the southwest side of the range. The topo maps show two dirt side road emmanating from the same point heading northeast towards to highpoints of the range. I had planned to take the southeasterly of the two, but managed to find my way to the other one, driving it as far as the van would allow, within about three miles of the summit.
It should be pointed out that there are two main summit areas in the range. The named summit with the benchmark to the northwest is the lower of the two. The southeast point, several miles away, is several feet higher judging by the spot elevations given on the 7.5' topo. In addition, the northeast summit has a small cluster of local highpoints. The benchmark is on the northernmost one, but the higher point is in the middle, and where a register is located.
I started by following the dirt road I had driven in on. The range is covered in a light coat of chaparral that obviously sees little precipitation. Cross-country travel is not hard but a little circuitous, so the use of roads and trails is much more convenient. It was easy going up the road in the cool shade of the early morning and lulled me into complacency as I headed in the wrong direction for the prominence point. It was only after I had gone a mile and a half to reach Settlemeyer Spring that I realized I had driven and hiked the wrong road. Taking stock of the situation, I decided I might use this mistake to advantage. I had originally just planned to tag the highpoint and head back down, but now it might give me the opportunity to tag both highpoints of the range in a nice loop.
Not far above the spring I found a dirt bike track that headed off in a traversing direction to the southeast towards the prominence point. I took this nice track and followed it for more than a mile over several modest saddles to where it intersected my originally intended dirt road. I followed this to the crest of the range less than half a mile north of the highpoint. From there it was a straightforward hike to the summit over easy terrain. A glass mayo jar held a register placed in 2001 by Pete Yamagata. There were only a handful of pages filled in, a total of eight parties in eight years. MacLeod and Lilley were the second party to visit, three years after Pete.
After taking in the views and a short break, I started back down to the ridgeline, then started the several mile traverse to the northwest summit. Here I found a set of horse trails that were useful for covering more than half the distance, mostly on the west side of the crest. Occasionally I would come across a huge pile of horse poop, usually at a saddle or other prominent point. I'd heard from others that wild horse have a behavioral trait whereby the alpha male takes a dump and then the other horses all follow suit at the same spot. Why? Who knows...
Portions of the ridgeline are jagged and broken so it was necessary to move to one side or the other in places, but most of it was fairly tame. The views from the crest were engaging and it was a very enjoyable traverse - highly recommended. I was very glad I hadn't just tagged the highpoint and headed down. It took only an hour to cover the two miles between the summits. I found a second register at the highest point in the northwest cluster. John Vitz had placed the register in 2005 before then heading over to the southeast register. Other names were also duplicates. However, I noted Mike Larkin's and Bill Peter's names in this register but not in the other. Knowing they were primarily interested in prominence points, I suspected they had made an error in climbing the wrong point on Dogskin. I later contacted Mike by email, but they had already discovered their mistake shortly after returning.
From the highpoint I continued north a short distance (all of four minutes) to the benchmark placed in 1956. From there I headed west down a long boulder field that allowed me to avoid some thick brush on this slope. There is a dirt road visible down in the little valley less than half a mile away, so I made my way down and over to it. This was the same road I had started up in the morning. About a mile later I closed the loop at Settlemeyer Spring, then continued down the remaining distance to the van. Finishing before 9:30a, the whole loop was just over 3 hours. This allowed me to get back to Reno before the 11a expected time.
After I grabbed a shower, Ryan and I walked through downtown Reno to the National Automobile Museum. He and I are both fans of old cars, so we spent hours checking out all the hundreds of cars they had on display there from the invention of the auto up to the 1970s. In the afternoon we put on swim trunks and headed to the Truckee River Park at the center of town and played in the river for a few more hours. It is a very popular spot with free (donation requested) concerts, tons of people, mostly far younger than myself, most of the folks enjoying the river and the little rapids along the way. No inner tube needed, just jump in and float down a few blocks. Get out, repeat. Great entertainment!
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Dogskin Mountain
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