In this edition:
Baker, Carson Valley, Ely, Las Vegas (3), South Lake Tahoe, Railfanning
Climbing Wheeler Peak
A popular activity for those who visit Baker is to climb Wheeler Peak, the second highest peak in the state of Nevada, at 13,063 feet. Most who climb it do so in summer and fall, when it’s possible to drive to the 10,000-foot high trailhead. From there, it’s an 8.2-mile round trip that typically takes five to seven hours. (Or for a bunch of moms and seven and eight-year olds last summer on a very windy day, it took nine hours. You can read the account here.)
Those who climb the peak in early summer enjoy big patches of snow. By early July, flowers abound, including the tall and colorful Parry’s primrose, which is a surprise up here because it usually grows near riparian areas. In the fall, a trip to the top allows for a chance to see the yellows, oranges and reds of fall foliage.
Not many people climb the peak in winter and spring, but it is possible. The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is closed, so the starting point changes to the Upper Lehman Creek Campground. From there, it’s a short walk/ski/snowshoe to the trailhead, and then 3.4 miles up to the Wheeler Peak Campground, with a 2,400 foot change in elevation.
I made the winter ascent recently, after many summer and fall ascents. It was a strenuous, two-day venture, but the scenery was outstanding. On the first day, five of us hiked up to the Wheeler Peak Campground and made our camp. With our snowshoes, we stomped down flat spots for our tents, clearing them further with shovels. We lucked out with water, finding a patch of visible creek. We dug out the picnic table so we would have something to sit on.
On the second day, we started snowshoeing about 4:30 a.m. With our headlamps, we followed the tracks we had made the previous day to Stella Lake. Instead of following the summer trail, which was under two to three feet of snow, we went up a gully by Stella Lake, which was more of a straight-line ascent. The snow was hard packed, so even though it was steep, our snowshoes worked well. At the top of the gully, the peak didn’t look that far away. The wind had blown snow off many of the rocks, enough so that three of us took off our snowshoes to continue in our mountaineering boots, and one switched to crampons.
The cold wind blew hard, but it wasn’t enough to stop us from reaching the top. The views were amazing — for a couple minutes. Then the clouds came in, making for some dramatic scenery. We hurriedly posed for a group photo and signed into the register, located in a mailbox in one of the old heliograph stations, marked by a chest-high small room of piled rocks.
The heliograph station was used to help map the West along the 39th parallel. In 1881, H. J. Davis of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey stayed in a round rock building topped with a canvas roof from August to December, as part of a reconnaissance mission. He decided the peak would work well, and the following year William Eimbeck came with a huge crew to lug the 200-pound transit, along with 10,000 pounds of other gear, up the mountain. While he and his crew were on the summit flashing signals to men on other mountaintops, a storm arrived, leaving them with 10 to 12 foot deep drifts and temperatures dipping to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the harsh conditions, they eventually accomplished their mission, making much more accurate maps of the area.
Before we started down the mountain, two of us put on crampons, which greatly aided in stability on the windy slopes. We cruised down the snow, and it was actually an easier descent than in summer, as the snow cushioned our steps. In a couple hours we had made it back to our campsite, where we packed everything up and then proceeded the last few miles back to the vehicles. We spent almost twelve hours hiking that day, but we had made it.
If you’d like to summit Wheeler Peak in winter, necessary gear includes snowshoes, crampons, ice axe, winter camping and climbing skills, and avalanche training. If that sounds a little too intense, you can still experience some of Great Basin National Park’s wonderful winter scenery on the lower slopes. Snowshoes are available for check out at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center, which allow you to go out on the snow-covered roads and trails in the Baker, Lehman, or other watersheds. The solitude and silence are spectacular, no matter where you go.
— Gretchen Baker
(Find more of Gretchen’s writings and photos at her great outdoor adventure blog, Desert Survivor)
Great Basin College Geology Field Trips
For the adventurous person interested in the Great Basin, two geology field trips are being offered by the Great Basin College during the Spring Semester.
The Death Valley field trip on March 17th-20th will examine unique geologic features, formations and mineral resources of Death Valley. Discussions will focus on the geologic history and processes that formed the landscape. Classroom meeting Thursday in Tonopah at the Tonopah Station, D-2, from 6-9pm. Friday and Saturday nights will be spent in Beatty.
The Ancient Lake Lahontan field trip on May 5th-8th will examine the geologic lake features, hydrology and history of Lake Lahontan. Classroom meeting Thursday in Winnemucca at the Great Basin College, Room 122, from 6-9pm. Friday and Saturday nights will be spent in Fallon.
Participants must be registered and complete required Team Travel and Class Waiver forms one week prior to class. Each class is two credits and costs $207.00. Travel is at student’s expense. Make motel reservations early to insure a room.
For more information or field trip details call Veronica Nelson, Ely Center Director at 775 289-3589 or course instructor John Breitrick at 775 238-0508.
— Lorraine Clark
March is Sports month in Las Vegas!
Let March Madness begin! March is the true beginning of the nicest weather in Las Vegas. During the month you can usually attend sports activities with moderate weather and slight chances of rain. The highs are normally right at 70 with lows in the upper 40’s.
For car racing enthusiasts, Nascar Weekend at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starts off the month with a major event from Friday, March 4 through Sunday, March 6. Tickets can be bought for single events or as a weekend package. The Stratosphere Pole Day tickets on Friday start at $30. This is qualifying day for the Sunday race and practice day for the Saturday race, and it runs from 10 a.m. until approx. 5 p.m. The Boyd Gaming 300 Nascar Xfinity Series is at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday and tickets start at $35. The ticket gates open at 8 a.m. The main event on Sunday is the Kobalt 400 at 11:30 a.m. with the gates opening at 7 a.m. and tickets starting at $60. If you are really, really into racing you can purchase the Clubhouse Weekend Package for $899 per ticket (same price regardless of age), which covers racing plus the Neon Garage and Pit Road access for all 3 days. It includes a VIP parking pass, beer, wine, soda, and water and food and snacks.
March Madness is always a huge event in Las Vegas, running from March 15th through March 20th. The NCAA men’s college basketball tourney begins with the first four on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the first weekend elimination games Thursday through Saturday. All of the sportsbooks on the strip and the local off-strip casinos will have all the games shown. And the seating in the sportsbooks will start filling up at 5 a.m.! So, make sure you get enough sleep the night before or you will lose out on a seat. (You can always sleep in your chair in the sportsbook!)
The most hectic time during the tournament is the Thursday and Friday (3/17 and 3/18), so be prepared for high prices at all the hotels during this week and weekend. And to make March Madness even more interesting, Thursday, March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day. You will have to wear the Luck of the Irish and green to win some of those bets and take home the gold!
For all the Chicago and New York baseball fans out there the Cubs and the Mets will be at Cashman Field, Las Vegas Home of the 51s , for the Big League Weekend on Friday, 3/31 at 5:05 p.m. and Saturday, 4/1 at 1:05 p.m. Tickets are still available for both games and go from $40 to $50 each. It’s nice to be able to be up close and personal with the teams, since you feel like you are right on the field compared to the actual stadiums in both their towns. Just remember the sun block and hats if you go for the Saturday game afternoon game.
— Pauline Cimoch
LAVO Casino Club, 3535 Infusion Bar & the Julius Tower at Caesar’s
Diamond Jack has found a new second home, as sophistication and elegance of old Las Vegas (that’s me) has returned with the new LAVO Casino Club. This modern gaming experience fuses Blackjack table games (Roulette, Baccarat and Craps to be added) with VIP bottle service and award-winning Italian cuisine.
“LAVO Casino Club provides an avant-garde take on the glamorous history of gambling that’s never been done before on the Strip,” said George Markantonis, president and chief operating officer of The Venetian, The Palazzo and Sands Expo. “Guests can enjoy a DJ and dancing, along with amenities not offered in typical nightclubs or on the casino floor. Among them are classic premium cocktails served from a butler’s cart direct to the gaming table. Also, groups can reserve a gaming table to sit together and play.”
LAVO Casino Club inside the Palazzo is open Fri., 8 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sun., 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
And since Las Vegas is all about experimentation, welcome to The Linq Hotel and 3535, the city’s only infusion bar. There are 35 custom-made infusions used to make some very unique cocktails such as Chocolate Chai Peanut Butter Martini, Mint Oreo Martini rimmed with crushed Oreo cookies, Espresso Bourbon, and Pig Newton with fig-infused Jack Daniels Honey rimmed with a bacon salt mix. The experimentation continues with a colorful vortex LED fixture that spans the bar from floor to ceiling and mimics the larger version on the exterior of the building. The bar includes USB and electrical outlets and six VIP booths, each with two televisions. 3535 at the Linq Hotel is open daily 10 a.m.-4 a.m. 702-794-3366
Not new is Caesars Palace. It is 50 years old this year and a celebration is underway with the reimagining of the hotel’s original Roman Tower which opened Aug. 5, 1966. It is now the 587-room Julius Tower. The $7-million renovation includes guest rooms with 55″ TVs, luxurious Beautyrest Bouvet Island mattresses, and Gilchrist & Soames in-room toiletries and amenities. The focal point of each room is a custom-upholstered headboard incorporating bronzed framed mirror panels adding sparkle and reflection to the space. Diamond Jack is looking forward to several nights in the new tower to compare with memories of many evenings in the old tower. Hail Caesar!
— Diamond Jack Bulavsky
Bellagio Gallery to Feature Yousuf Karsh Photo Exhibit
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art (BGFA) will feature a photography exhibit when it unveils “Yousuf Karsh: Icons of the 20th Century” on March 18. Recognized as one of thegreatest portrait photographers of the 20th century, Karsh’s work showcases some of the most notable men and women in Hollywood, the arts, sports and politics. The exhibit will run through Sept. 5 and highlight 60 portraits ranging from Winston Churchill and Pablo Picasso to Muhammad Ali and Grace Kelly. The audio tour included with admission will guide guests.Throughout his lifetime, Karsh produced more than 50,000 original prints, some of which were portraits of distinguished historic figures.
Ron’s Steakhouse is a Hidden Gem in Local Neighborhood
Ron’s Steakhouse at Arizona Charlie’s on Decatur is five years old now and located just off the casino floor. You may not be familiar with this restaurant but it’s worth jotting it down for a grand evening out any night except Monday or Tuesday when it’s closed. It’s actually fine dining at reasonable prices and a 10 percent discount is offered with ace | PLAY™ card because Arizona Charlie’s caters to its players. Also, players can use points and/or comp dollars to pay for their meal.
The whole meal is served tableside in a contemporary understated tranquil atmosphere with muted colors and lighting. Our experienced waiter had fine dining experience from working in Europe and on the Strip. The meal started with an overflowing bread basket that included divine walnut-raisin bread as one option accompanied by a trio of butters – regular, timid herb and addictive cinnamon. Meals include soup or salad and good size entrée portions.
If only visitors on the Strip knew about this restaurant, they’d be paying a visit. Ron’s Steakhouse justifiably is the winner of six Open Table Diners’ Choice Awards including: Best Overall; Best Food; and Neighborhood Gem.
Jewel Nightclub at Aria will Open May 19
Jewell Nightclub at ARIA is set to open Thursday, May 19. The 24,000-square-foot, dual-level nightlife destination will house nearly 2,000 guests within two intimate spaces, the main club and a mezzanine level with five exclusive VIP skyboxes. Evoking a sense of glamour, guests will be greeted through a series of tall, mirrored doors intricately shaped to form a sleek reflective wall when closed.
A commanding staircase bathed in LED screens will lead guests to the mezzanine level, with a view of the dance floor, a stunning bar, dance floor and five “themed” VIP skybox suites: The Blind Tiger, The Studio, The G.O.A.T., The Prestige, and The Gallery. VIP patrons will enter through a tunnel of arched bronze portals.
— Jackie Brett
South Lake Tahoe
Winter at the South Shore of Lake Tahoe has taken a hiatus. Apart from one nice snow dump on February 17, it was a dry month and March may be more of the same unless El Nino shows up and gives us what locals call a “Miracle March.” The lack of snowstorms aside, the amount of activities at Tahoe haven’t been hampered at all.
Some of those activities to be had can be located right off Kingsbury Grade or Nevada State Route 207. First off, the skiing is still pretty primo: the storms in November, December and January made the base of snow at the upper elevations the best since the big winter of 2011. Go to the top of Kingsbury, take a right turn at the summit of Daggett Pass and head to Heavenly Nevada and Stagecoach Lodge. Stagecoach is a great jumping off point to enjoy the enormous resort of Heavenly. The Stagecoach Express, a high-speed quad chairlift whisks you to the top of the hill even higher than the 7,480 ft in elevation from which you started. From there you’re free to roam all of what the mountain has to offer. Heavenly is great for all types of skiers, and starting on the Nevada side is recommended. If you can get up in March on a weekday there may be no lines at all.
Dry spells in the middle of winter also mean the snow melts just enough at the lake level to allow some of the hiking trails to thaw, and you can go enjoy a nice stroll. One place to go is the recently made Lam Wa Tah Trail at
Rabe Meadow at the bottom of Kingsbury Grade, off Highway 50 onto Kahle Drive adjacent to Lakeside In across from the Douglas County Sheriffs Station. The trail starts in the meadow, then goes into the woods before coming out to the lake at Nevada Beach. Along the way you go from paved paths to dirt paths and boardwalks that go over marshes and creeks. You pass Willow trees and Aspens, then enter a forest of Jeffrey Pines and Evergreens into the forest service campground, and then it ends with the big blue lake and all its wonder.
During the walk, the sound of heavy machinery can be heard at the Tahoe Shore Mobile Home Park at the end of Kahle Drive. The neighborhood that runs parallel to the meadow is in a state of upheaval as the mobile home park is being demolished to make way for The Tahoe Beach Club
— new residence right on the lake that is another redevelopment at South Lake Tahoe and is sure to be impressive when completed. (More information at thetahoebeachclub.com)
With all the walking and skiing going on, one can build up an appetite for food and spirit, and there’s plenty of good places to choose from around the Kingsbury Grade area. I decided to go with the new place in town, Audible’s Sports Bar and Gaming, which is located in the former Goal Post Bar and Grill, just opened up in February. The name suggests gambling an
Nevada Northern Railway Winter Steam Photo Spectacular Gallery
Back in January, we told you about the Winter Steam Photo Spectacular, hosted in Ely, Nevada, by the Nevada Northern Railway. We invited you to attend and we told you we would be there. We also said that we would be sharing our photographs from the event in our March dispatch.
March is here, and so are the pictures. We hope you will enjoy these photos and the glimpse they provide of Nevada’s railway heritage. The Nevada Northern claims that they offer time travel, an opportunity to go back in time about 100 years. After viewing these pictures, you might be inclined to agree with them, we certainly do.
This year’s Winter Steam Photo Spectacular was blessed with a very nice blanket of snow. Around 30 inches of snow fell on Ely about 10 days before the event, and most of it was still there when the event kicked off on Feb. 12. It was the most snow on hand for the event in recent years; thank you, El Nino.
When we first told you about the Winter Steam Photo Spectacular, we described it as the premier annual railfan event in Nevada. After participating in this year’s edition of the event, we think we were right on target with that claim. It was two and a half days of smoke, steam, snow, and vintage locomotives pulling equally venerable rolling stock over rail lines that were laid 110 years ago. The event was well planned and it was choreographed with an eye toward producing the best photos and video possible. With that thought in mind, let’s move on to the pictures.
— John Gaffney