|Ruby Mountains as viewed from the summit of Ruby Dome|
From here, the road takes a starkly different tone as the pyramid of Pilot Mountain looms to the north. Wave after Wave of 10,000 and 11,000 foot mountain ranges speckle a harsh but glorious high desert. Few have ever inhabited such an arid but cold landscape. To the adventurer, however, this is one of the largest uninterrupted playgrounds of wilderness south of the artic circle.
Like its neighbors Utah and Idaho, Nevada is essentially known to the public only by its largest city. Not surprisingly, the federal government owns somewhere between 80-85% of the state (far exceeding 2nd place: Alaska). Other than the infamous Nellis Air Force Range and the Nevada Test Site (think, Area 51), most of the northern and central parts of Nevada are either under the Bureau of Land Management or the US National Forest Service. Naturally, much of those facts cause endless questions regarding conservationism and public v. private land ownership. But for budget adventurers with a hankering for unspoiled wilderness, its a perfectly legitimate reason to travel 250 miles west on Route 80.
|The Ruby Mountains in morning glory|
Here's a map of the route, which can be zoomed for more specific details. Note that it is a route and alternatives may exist-
In the fall, Quaking Aspens put off brilliant hues of yellow which vary in elevation. This magnificent display of color matches those of New England but with western subtly. There generally arent the vibrant purples, reds and oranges such as those in the high mountains of New Hampshire. Nonetheless, every imaginable shade of yellow could be observed on this hike. The complexion ranged from a olive tint at the lower elevation to a delicate goldenrod color at the 9,000 foot level. Not even the most realist of painters would have been able to capture such intricacy.
The route weaves in and out of the creek and the hiker can appreciate the scarcity of water in the high desert. Near the creek, the foliage is almost impenetrable and there's a deafening sound of insects and birds. Just a few hundred yards up the valley walls, vegetation is stunted and scarce, permeated only by proudly gnarled junipers-
|Stark contrasts of flora as one travels further from the creek|
|Autumn Aspen Tunnel|
|The effects of autumn vary by elevation|
|Subtle changes in color|
I encountered a hidden gorge just below Griswold Lake and unintentionally captured this photo-
|Dry Gorge below Griswold Lake|
|Glacially carved cirque and Griswold Lake|
|Quickly gaining elevation to the plateau|
|Looking back on the 10,000 foot plateu and small subsidiary summits|
|Gully to the summit|
Ruby Dome is just 300 vertical feet above the terminus of the ravine. Air was now noticeably thin, slowing my pace to a minimum. However this was hardly noticeable with a grand view of the Great Basin and Range.
From the summit, most of the 130-mile ruby range is visible. The dome itself is actually quite a bit removed from the main spine of the mountains which adds to is phenomenal view. There's very little room to celebrate on this knife's edge pinnacle.
|A lonely cairn with no marker serves as the high point|
|Looking North towards the rest of the range|
|The knife's edge ridgeline towards the narrow col separating Ruby Dome and the nearly identical East Peak|
|Ruby Dome's headwall|
Back on the 10,000 foot plateu, the sun was already very low in the sky and I enjoyed the brilliant appenglow on the various peaks. Its a sight I've rarely seen outside of the Sierras and Rockies. Already the lights of distant Elko were beginning to twinkle but they did not interfere with the brightness of the northern Nevada night sky. As I crept back towards the trailhead, I preferred keeping my flashlight off as to not take away from the silver arc that was the Milky Way.
|Descending in twilight|
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