RENO RELAXING December 18-20, 2000

Still yet unable to find a reliable partner for this season's winter peak climbing or ski touring, I chose to take advantage of the fine weather and a generous e-mail offer from a major Reno, NV, hotel for two nights lodging at bargain rates.

With a scenic drive up Interstate 80, then stopping for a short bit in Truckee, CA, I came to the Woodland Drive river parking lot. I hiked west along the paved bike trail and took the foot bridge over the Truckee River. The Tom Cooke Trail switchbacks up at a good grade a few hundred feet to a side trail left. This leads to the top of a small bump. A fair view of downtown Reno in the distance, as well as a view of Peavine Peak and the foothills of the Mt. Rose massif makes this short, roughly 10-15 minute, hike worthwhile.

I had heard of a new ice rink along Virginia Street in the downtown area. It offers pleasant, safer exercise at reasonable rates. Rental skates are available on site, and there is no time limit for skating as long as the facility is open. I enjoyed ice skating for many years while I was more actively cross-country skiing. The muscles required are similar, with the feeling of sliding along about the same as in track skiing. Balance and technique are very important. I slowly re-learned how to move, and gladly didn't fall once. A video crew was recording this evening, too, with interviews with some of the skaters. I didn't take any pictures but for the usual hotel window view.

Tuesday, I drove in the early afternoon to visit Pyramid Lake, about 40 miles north of Sparks by Pyramid Way to NV 445. Incandescent Rocks and Dogskin Mountain are seen on the drive. Taking telephoto pictures from the first pullout upon mounting a grade to suddenly see the lake, I enjoyed the sight of sparse snow on the desert peaks here, and the vivid blue waters. This is Reservation land, with a day use permit fee required.

Motoring southward to the small town of Nixon, I then headed north toward Gerlach to come in a few miles to a road crest. A dirt road leads to the top of a small hill benchmarked as 65HJH. The summit area has sand piled up against the bushes. A small dune system is located just to the west of the highway about here. This point has fine views of desolate country all about. I noted Black Warrior Peak and Tohakum Peak, with the Selenite Range far to the north, seen over dry Winnemucca Lake. The immense, now preserved, Black Rock Desert lies about 60 miles further northward.

NV 447 leads back south along the Truckee River to Interstate 80, with then about 25 miles back to Reno.

I enjoyed another couple hours of ice skating after another sumptuous buffet dinner.

Wednesday, my last morning, I walked about the downtown area for dawn pictures in a sort of magic hour. The lights and neon were flashing brightly, and the sun had not yet spoiled the soft glow in the sky. I had heard of this term, "Magic Hour," while reading a cinematography magazine in the late 1970's. It refers to the time when the glow of light remains still in the sky, with the electrical, night lighting of civilization coming on. Nikon cameras are especially suited for these pictures, with their sensitive and highly accurate light meters. Now, with digital technology, you can see, on a good camera LCD, immediately how the photos will look, rather than having to wait for the film to be developed.

A famous outdoor photographer used the term "Magic Hour" again in his book in the 1980's. I consider properly recording such scenes a hallmark of photographic mastery. Many camera buffs will attempt to photograph a sunset or dusk light, with the inexperienced wasting the effort.

Instead of even more time on the ice, I hiked the hill by the Tom Cooke Trail again, for the distant views with soft light caused by high clouds about the general area. After checking the relatively low snow levels still in the Sierra backcountry, I continued on home.