Pine Nuts drive was adventurous

During the waning days of last summer, I had a chance to take a ride up Minnehaha Canyon on the southern edge of the Pine Nuts, accessed through Topaz Ranch Estates, just off Topaz Ranch Road and Canyon Drive. It was the first time I had seen the canyon so it was a great adventure for me. I thought I was going to be seeing the canyon on a quad ride, but as it turned out, I ended up in a newer 4X4 Ford truck with Robert Estrella, owner of the Holbrook Junction Mini-mart, at the wheel. As we started out on the dirt road, the whole appearance of the road was rather benign and I wondered why I had stressed so much over finding someone with four-wheel drive capabilities.

But, as the road wound it's way between steep canyon walls, highlighted with rugged rock and black skeletal remains of PiƱon pines burned in the August 1994 fire, it became increasingly apparent, four-wheel capabilities were going to be necessary.

The road became more like a trail, rock strewn and steep, as it followed along the edge of a seasonal creek, overgrown with deep grasses and bushes, almost consuming our path.

Wildlife seemed to be everywhere. Chukar, rabbit, quail and deer, even a coyote, all eyed us with suspicion, but didn't seem too concerned with our presence. Estrella stopped to see all of it, knowing their sounds and seeing critters before I even knew they were there. As I got out to see the wildlife he pointed out; I was also aware of the possibility of more threatening eyes that could be peering at us. Several mountain lions call this canyon home and come down from their lofty heights in search of water and food.

Prickly Poppy, as well as other multitudes of desert vegetation, dotted the landscape in every direction. It was crystal blue sky gorgeous that morning.

I was finding images in the rugged rock formations surrounding me. One, in particular held my attention. It looked like a frustrated mother throwing up her arms in despair at her unruly children. I called it "A Mother's Lament" and thought that some day it would make a wonderful drawing or painting.

Soon the steep trail leveled off to a wide plateau. Trails again turned into roads, which were going off now in every direction. There were multitudes of directions to explore. We were out of the canyon now and at the top of one of the lesser mountains.

We parked at a wide spot on the road. Just a short walk to the edge of the plateau revealed a panoramic view of the Antelope Valley and the Sweetwater Range beyond. The community of Topaz Ranch Estates, far below, appeared as tiny specks of lights, darks and sparkles as the sun reflected off metal buildings at the end of the Antelope Valley.

We continued up the trail. At one point we crested a high point and the road disappeared in front of us. I remember my death grip grasp on the "sissy handle."

"Oh, either I have to find a smaller vehicle or I am too short," said Estrella.

As he eased the truck over the edge, I was relieved to see there was still a road ahead, even if it was still straight down. With a nervous laugh I told him I was always like this on roller coasters, "don't mind me."

As we wandered around, I remembered what goes up must, sooner or later, come down, and we finally reached the top of Mt. Segel.

At the top of the mountain, we got out and walked around for a few minutes. The wind swirled around us from all directions. The panoramic view was beyond belief. In all directions was the beauty of Nevada - the Sweetwater range to the south, the Sierra to the west, the Smith and Mason valleys to the east, Carson Valley to the north and west. It was the top of the world for me that day.

To my surprise when we got back in the truck I heard the age-old line, "Oops, we're almost out of gas."

Was he kidding? Not even. As I leaned over to look at the gauge, it indeed read empty. The little gas tank symbol on the dash was glowing a brilliant amber and there I was at the top of the world.

We coasted downhill from the top of Mt. Segel that morning, trying to find the shortest route to home. If we didn't make it, it was going to be a very long walk back to Holbrook. We picked our way through the multitude of roads and paths, past mining sights and rock slides, things that would have peaked my curiosity had the situation been different, choosing the paths seemingly most traveled. We coasted to a road that took us to an access road at Leviathan and out to Highway 395. At least we were somewhere now where someone would take pity on us and give us a ride.

Moral of my story ... Explore the roads, paths and trails that criss-cross the Pine Nuts, the view at the top of Segel is breathtaking, few experiences can exceed it, but, always make sure your gas tank is full and a few necessary survival supplies are on board before you decide to go. It would be a long walk from the top.

Until next week... "Keep on keepin' on."

n Jonni Hill can be reached through The Record-Courier at or by calling 782-5121, ext. 213, or after hours at


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