By Jeff Moser, BikeCarson.com
Lured by the recent snow and cold temperatures, I got out for some exploration in Washoe Valley over the Thanksgiving holiday. While snow and cold might not sound ideal for riding a bicycle, it was my hope that the sand and mud would be firm for easy riding. Here’s a look at what I found.
I rode over to the Washoe Lake area from the northeast side, crossing over the sand dunes. The last time I was here, the sand was soft and took a lot of energy to pedal through. I anticipated firm sand this time, and that’s what I found, although it wasn’t smooth like I expected. Before the sand got wet and hardened up, the wind created all sorts of ripples and bumps across the dunes. This made for a bumpy but fun ride.
I headed down to the lake bed, hoping to find the beginnings of a new lake. The snow crunched under my fat tires, and shielded me from the sticky mud underneath. With no particular destination in mind, I wandered the mostly featureless landscape, heading for distant objects that caught my eye. At one point I thought I saw the blue water of a lake forming, only to discover that it was just a mirage of light as I got closer.
Further south the mud became more cracked with wide spaces between the plates. It looked especially neat with different shades of brown and a topping of snow, almost looking more like “dessert” than desert. My four inch wide tires were able to get me across this area without getting hung up in the cracks. It was also easier to ride than stand, as the sticky mud was adhering to my boots. I was getting taller with each step while I walked around to get photos.
The wildlife sightings on this outing were also fairly unique. First there was the mallard, an old unretrieved duck decoy. Nearer the shore was the line of carp that have been there since the lake disappeared early in the year. It appears that not even the hungriest of the scavengers will touch these poor fish. They seem to be just laying patiently, hopeful for the return of deeper waters.
I left the muddy flats and headed to the rolling dunes of the eastern shore. The firm wet sand was easy to climb and fun to descend with the big wheels of my fat bike. I followed the snowy trails through the sagebrush, heading back to where I started. Under the snow were hidden puddles. Sometimes the ice would crackle and barely support my weight. Other times I’d crash through into the puddles below. Nothing like conjuring up some childlike winter memories to keep you entertained.
It was a short ride, but a lot of fun. This is important during a time of year when outdoor activities can be limited and cabin fever sets in. I’m looking forward to going back out there soon, especially (if and) when the snow gets deeper. The big valley provides lots of solitude, and the snow makes for an interesting and scenic place for winter recreation. Let’s just hope that the snow collecting in the mountains above will fill the lake bed come Spring!