Took time to look around the Black Rock Desert during the Burning Man event last week, and it looks like a good place for hiking and backpacking.
It's a National Conservation District run by the Bureau of Land Management and includes High Rock Canyon and many emigrant trails looping around the playa.
But it's no place for the family sedan or for a lot of those SUVs never meant to go off anything unpaved. There are no paved roads in the Desert. Rough roads can flatten anything less than eight-ply tires. Gasoline is available at the company town of Empire, just before Gerlach, and in Gerlach. Beware of Gerlach prices, although Bruno's Country Club dishes up pretty decent grub at reasonable prices. There's motel there as well.
The road goes out of Fernley through the Paiute Reservation Highway 447. It's about a 140-mile trip from Carson City out Highway 50.
Getting on the playa can be tricky, but if it's dry it's like a giant billiard table. Wet it's impassable. You can camp anyplace on the playa, but the winds can be fierce and the blowing sand hard on cars and glasses.
No water outside of Gerlach and it can be pretty hot there. The hot springs that dot the playa can be dangerous; keep kids and tots away as they can scald in a jiffy. The Calico Mountains reportedly offer good camping (no facilities) and the High Rock Wilderness is about 3,000 feet above Gerlach.
On the northwest side of Gelach is a BLM trailer with maps and information. Advice from the old timers in Gerlach: Don't even think about the playa in winter, when it is wet and slick as synthetic oil.
SAVE THE CABIN
There's a festival a bit off the beaten path this weekend which sounds like great fun. It's in a good cause, to save the Clair Tappaan Lodge, which was built in 1934 by Sierra Club volunteers.
It's rustic character and reasonable rates have made it a hot stop for cross-country skiers, hikers and mountain bikers for decades. Now, in need of renovation, the lodge is in danger of being closed.
The festival hours are Saturday, 9 a.m.- 9 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. To get there, from Reno, go east on I-80, past Truckee, to the Norden/Soda Springs exit. Turn left at exit onto Highway 40. Go 2 1/4 miles; there is a sign on the left side of road that says Claire Tappan Lodge. Turn up the driveway, there's ample parking.
This special event will offer performances by hot new artists as well as favorite veteran players. Music (all bluegrass) includes the Donner Mountain Bluegrass Band, the F150s, Dark Hollow, Moonlight Hoodoo Revue, Marty Varner band. Jamming, a songwriting contest and a band scramble will fill the weekend. Visitors can stay in the lodge and enjoy the hearty meals cooked in the lodge's rustic kitchen or just come up for a day. All proceeds will go to help save the lodge.
Two-day festival pass with two nights lodging and six meals is $100 for adults, $50 for children 13 and younger. Two-day festival pass and camping or RV parking pass is $45 for adults, $10 children. Two-day festival pass is $40 for adults, $5 children. Saturday festival pass $25/adult, $5 children. Call (800) 679-6775 for tickets.
SEASON PASS SALES
This is the time of the year when ski resorts start offering season passes. If you get up on the mountains more than five or six times a season, the early-season passes are good buys. With a season pass you can hop on a chairlift and get in an hour or so of skiing or boarding on a long lunch hour. Prices for seniors are particularly good.
Lake Tahoe's dual season pass to Sierra-at-Tahoe and Northstar-at-Tahoe is back for 2005/06 and with prices beginning as low as $299; after five visits passholders will be skiing and riding free for the rest of the season. The Double Whammy is good for some of Tahoe's finest terrain spread over 4,480 acres, 115 runs, 28 lifts (including 10 high-speed quads), nine award-winning freestyle terrain parks, four halfpipes, snowshoeing.
To buy the Double Whammy Pass log onto www.DoubleWhammyPass.com or call (530) 659-7453, extension 208 or (800) GO-NORTH.