Arc Dome, Mount Jefferson
By: Gary Craig
There's always a slowdown in DPS, activities during the hot summer months, so my co-leader Sue Holloway and I thought we'd stir things up a bit with a trip to climb Arc Dome and Mt. Jefferson, two listed peaks in the wilderness of central Nevada.
Our group of eight convened at Columbine campground, the trailhead for Arc Dome, on Saturday the 24th. The driving directions in the Peaks Guide to this point are accurate, despite their complexity. The road was in pretty good condition and the stream crossings were low. We hikers were on the move by 7:20am or so, and in addition to the leaders, consisted of Neal Scott, John Gibba, Pete Matulavich, Diann Fried, and Bruno Geiger. Bruno's wife Inge relaxed in camp while the rest of us hiked the 'A' route to the summit. The trail is in excellent condition and is easy to follow, fading only briefly during the dreaded 600' dropoff from the ridge to the final summit mass. It was a beautiful day! Absolutely clear, and near-perfect temperatures, with occasional moderate breezes. After leaving the campground, we didn't see a soul (other than a solitary deer near Stewart Creek Valley) on the way up, and arrived on the summit in time for lunch. Views were good but a bit hazy due to some brushfires near Reno, we later learned. Our return to the campground was uneventful, although we did see a few backpackers and dayhikers. We strolled into camp after a round trip of just a hair over 8 hours.
After returning to the "main road" in the Reese River valley, we drove north on an outstanding dirt road (nary a trace of washboard!) for about 40 miles before reaching the pavement near Austin. In town, we filled up the cars (gas almost $2/gallon) and proceeded east on US-50 about 12 miles to the junction with SR 376, where the AAA map shows a dirt road heading south-east and eventually leading to the Meadow Canyon road which leads to Jefferson Summit. Well, this dirt road is not nearly as fine as the one we'd just driven, and after less than a mile, we stopped and reconsidered our route. An alternative that appeared to be just a bit longer, but nearly all paved rather than dirt, was to proceed south on SR 376 to its junction with 377, then turn east through Manhattan and then approach Jefferson from the south. As it was nearly 6pm, I was also a bit concerned about finding a suitable potluck/camp site at a reasonable hour. With a bit of discussion, our group of now seven (John had headed home earlier in the day) headed south on 376 ' past the gigantic mining operation at Round Mountain, to Manhattan.
The "ghost town" of Manhattan, like the others we passed through over the weekend (lone and Belmont) isn't really a ghost town, as there are a few permanent residents in modem buildings scattered between the decaying relics of past mining days. We did notice that each town seemed to have an operating saloon...
The paved road turns to excellent dirt just outside town, and another mile or so east on this road brings you to the crest, exactly where a small spur road turns right, uphill, for a hundred yards or so to a small but fine campsite. Our five vehicles fit nicely in a wide turnout, where there is a fire ring, and parking for a couple more cars just downhill. Being situated directly on the crest in a sparse pinyon forest, the site has views to both the east and west. With sundown approaching the appetizers and main courses quickly appeared: Sue had potato salad, Neal had veggies and dips, Bruno and Inge provided taquitos, Pete and Diann saut6ed pasta with zucchini, and I provided brownies for dessert. What with the fine meal and the day's activities, we didn't feel the need for a fire and most of the group hit the sack by 9.
Sunday morning dawned as fine as Saturday, and we were on the road toward the Jefferson trailhead just before 7am. It's about 8 miles east, down the hill, to the junction with the road that leads north to Belmont. At this junction we hit pavement, and the road remained paved all the way to Belmont itself, which is a larger town than Manhattan, and is marked by a colossal smokestack NE of town. The directions to the 2wd trailhead at Jefferson Summit were otherwise accurate, and we drove the 4wd road about 1.2 miles north of that point before stopping at a high spot. The drive from our camp took about 1:20.
The hike itself was very pleasant, and felt leisurely as a 4:45 round trip. As the day before, we occasionally hiked through dense, fragrant patches of lupine amongst the sagebrush. As we neared the summit, a strong breeze came up, but we had a nice break on the large sununit plateau for an early lunch. The summit caim is close to the small cluster of communications equipment mentioned in the Peaks Guide. Thanks go to Neal for providing a new register pad which we placed in the nesting cans, which need replacing too. Both Neal and Sue are now within ten peaks of finishing the list!
We all had a speedy downhill walk to the cars, where we rejoined Inge and soon caravanned back toward Belmont.
One last bit of excitement was meeting some Forest Service equipment, completely blocking the road, in the narrow lower reaches of Meadow Canyon. We waited briefly while they worked (on a Sunday!) to remove some of the willows which are encroaching on the road in this area. Once clear, we stopped once more at the fork at the bottom of Meadow Canyon, where we said our good-byes and parted ways for the long drive home. Thanks to everyone who participated in this great trip, and thanks to Sue for assisting.
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