Frustrated and lost on my recent attempt to hike to Star Lake in search of some quartz samples, I joined Carson Ranger Dave Harrison for a trek to Lookout Camp Ground in Dog Valley last weekend. You might want to try it. Remember to take a digging tool - crow bar, geologist's pick, whatever. You'll need it for the quest of "the crystal."
Easy route, just I-80 from Reno to Verdi first exit, pick up Bridge Street to Dog Valley Road. Pass the gate where the paving ends and follow a very dusty 002 for about 7 miles to the campground. Don't stray from 002 as there are many side roads leading off to who knows where.
No signs marking the camp ground but keep an eye out to the left. Facilities, picnic tables and the trailhead await. The hike up to the old quartz mining site is short, perhaps 30 minutes of moderate steepness. The trail begins to the left of a stack of rocks on the edge of the campground.
Along the trail you'll see quartz rock of all sizes on all sides, scattered about by an overpowerful blast by careless miners several years ago. At the base of the crystal mine site you face a tower of plain rock, dirt and, yes, quartz, the once Margrave mine.
Caleb Greenwood was one of the first to explore the area in 1845. Coal and petroleum were found in the area but neither was worth production. Wood was the main commodity here as in the area around the Comstock and all the land was clear cut back in the 1860s. Trees now are almost all second growth. All that's left of the nearby town of Crystal is a foundation or two.
You can go up the quartz pile at almost any point but be careful, there are some very steep drops with all kinds of sharp rocks. Ranger Harrison told of a 5-year-old girl who tumbled down one of the steeper sides of the mound and was injured. Her father saw what happened fainted. Plenty of excitement for Ranger Harrison.
At the top you'll find ground pockmarked with shallow holes. These are the result of rock hounds digging for "the crystal." By "the crystal" I mean not the ordinary jagged pieces of quartz but the six-sided, pointed, clear quartz that is about finger length. You won't find any of these around on the surface; rock hunters have long ago picked the area clean of those. You've got to dig to find any crystals.
Not that it's difficult to plow away, it's just that you need a tool. And patience. But there is an endless supply of pure white quartz about. The only limitation is a a legal maximum of a five-gallon container of quartz per day.
There are some superb views from the top of the quartz mound. Off to the northwest is Cold Springs Valley and the dry lake. Closer is Bordertown. And as usual, towering peaks loom everywhere.
Actually, you can drive to the base of the mound. Just continue a few hundred yards past the camp ground and take road on the left. However, that takes some of the sport out of it. And if you want to take a different route out, just continue on 002 and you'll come out at Bordertown.
A HIKE TRILOGY
If you're ready to face a real challenge you will want to join the Sporting Rage people on a group hike to Job Peak, Job's Sister ad Freel's Peak Saturday. This is a strenuous trek as I well know from getting lost there a few weeks ago. This is a good way to test your conditioning and see if you need to step up those workouts (although I'm convinced the only way to get in condition for hiking is by hiking).
Meet at 8 a.m. at the Sporting Rage on South 395 for signing in and car pool plans. This is a free event, just call 885-7773 to make a reservation.
As always, bring plenty of water, a lunch and camera. Professional guides will lead the way.
HEAVENLY GONDOLA RIDES
The new gondola between the new hotels abuilding in South Lake Tahoe has been a success for Heavenly attracting many more riders than was the case with the old Tram at the California base. Not many resorts enjoy the kind of cash flow the gondola presents to the ski area.
Hours through this weekend are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. After the holiday hours are 10 to 7 daily. Rides are $20 for adults, $18for seniors (65 plus) and $12 for children 6-12. Five and under ride free.
There's hiking at the top, easy, moderate and strenuous.
And if you need mountain gear, drop in at the Crescent V shopping center in South Lake Tahoe Saturday through Sunday from 9 a.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. Sunday and Monday. Lots of new skis, snowboards and clothing.
MT. ROSE DEAL
The Rose is jumping in with a $199 season pass with only Christmas, Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and Presidents Weekend. Passes will be sold at the Reno Hilton Sept. 13-23. You can renew last year's from Sept. 4-30 at the Web site skirose. com.
Labor Day weekend will be busy at Kirkwood as the resort celebrates its recent elevation to destination resort. Little of everything from star gazing (bring warm clothing) to rock wall climbing to mountian bike riding via chair lifts to the top of Caples lift. See ou there.