Crown Jewel of The Rubies

"Sometimes I think it's a shame, when I get feeling better when I'm feeling no pain"Sundown-Gordon Lightfoot 4/74

Ruby Mountains NevadaSoldier Creek day hikeLamoille Lake, Box Canyon, Echo Lake cross-country backpack22,000 vertical feet of elevation gain and lossRating-10+It was not supposed to be that way. Our original plans were to do a short pack into a remote lake, and spend a couple of days fishing and relaxing. It didn't happen.On the road againAfter a thirteen hour drive primarily through the Great Basin of the Sagebrush State, we arrived at the Pine Lodge in Lamoille, 20 miles from Elko Nevada.Lamoille sits at the mouth of a canyon, with a cottonwood-shaded park, a white steepled church and groomed dirt lanes. The rugged Ruby Mountains, raw and pure, frame this hamlet. Unlike most Nevada Mountain ranges, the Rubies are lush and alpine, resembling the Sierras or Rockies. This 100-mile-long range has10 glaciered peaks topping 10,000 feet. The Rubies are honeycombed with broad canyons and hanging valleys. Cascading streams and alpine lakes are found throughout this lush terrain. I'll be watching youA sign at the Pine Lodge bar advertised "Hangovers installed and serviced". A cowgirl sitting at the bar was wearing a T-shirt that made the statement: "The liver is an evil organ. Punish it! Die trying."Ted Nugent and Richard Gere were guests last year at this 1940s hunter's lodge where bears, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, badgers, and deer watched the celebs from their places on the walls.Steaks and seafood are served in the restaurant.Not wanting to be stared at by the dead animals, we opted to dine at the "Stray Dog" in downtown Elko.The unknown soldierThe following day as we drove through isolated but lush cowboy country, we were stopped by a herd of cattle crossing the road. After consulting with the rancher we determined that we had missed our back road turnoff to Soldier Creek and we backtracked. Soldier Creek was a nice ten mile day hike. Along the swift tumbling Soldier Creek, we passed corn lilies, bluebells, wallflowers and swamp onion, and were accompanied by the strong scent of mint and sage. A very large Diamondback Rattlesnake crossed our path. Afternoon thundershowers and lightning quickened our pace back to the trailhead.We enjoyed a seven course Basque dinner at the famous Star restaurant and Lorenzo was introduced to picon punches, a potent concoction. Mountain's HighThe next day, carrying heavy packs we set out on the Ruby Crest National Trail for two miles to Lamoille Lake and then headed cross country over a high saddle into box canyon. Lamoille Lake (Pic by Zo)The steep climb went up 800 feet in about an eighth of a mile. We then climbed down into lush Box Canyon and followed a cascading creek down to where we thought would be our best route to climb into Echo Lake, the isolated crown jewel of the Rubies. A storm had blown in and we were stung by hail and then soaked with rain. (Pic by Zo)The 2000' mile long climb was painful, it taxed us both physically and mentally. The joy of arriving at the top quickly turned to frustration as we had overshot our lake and the climb down was dangerously steep. We had no choice but to retreat down the way we came, cursing and promising to never carry a heavy pack again. Colors everywhereHalfway down our misery was temporarily dispelled by a gorgeous rainbow that started and ended on the walls of the box canyon, perfectly framing it.Wet and exhausted, we set up camp in the dark next to a series of waterfalls, vowing to never hike again. I performed surgery on some serious heel blisters.(Pic by Zo)Morning has brokenThe next morning, my idea of the day was to sit around read and fish. Jake, with renewed energy and adrenaline, complained that plan would be boring and wanted to go for a hike. I foolishly suggested that we take another run at Echo. After much study of our topo, Lorenzo was confident that he had located a climb that would go. So we started uphill again but this time without 50 lb. packs. Even without packs we were sucking wind. Upon arrival we were blown away by the raw beauty of this bluer than blue, glaciered lake perched in a granite bowl. The elusive Echo Lake (Pic by Zo)Here we relaxed, and took in nature at it's best.Goin up the countryThe climb out the next day was laborious and particularly painful since Jake strode effortlessly while taking great pleasure in kicking our sorry asses. Slow down Jake!!! (Pic by Zo)This is the same guy who always complains about outings that are too challenging, not needing to test his body and soul, always taking the mentally healthy high ground.At Lamoille canyon we set up our camp chairs and nursed our wounds with antiseptic and cervezas. Back at the RanchWe camped at the Stockmen's Hotel in downtown Elko. Always interested in the local culture, we walked around the Casino. An old cowboy at the bar, missing a few teeth, provided some useful information.Cowboy: You and the boys lookin for some p&*%y? Lobo: Not tonight , but thank you for asking.Cowboy: Welllll, if you change your mind, the cat houses are justaround the corner.Lobo: Awww, your pullin my leg!.Cowboy: Nope, the one in Wells is better, though.Lobo: A friend of mine got beat up by a couple of guys with pool sticks a few years ago. I think that it happened at that establishment.Cowboy: That happens sometimes. Well, I reckon I better mosey on home. The Missuss has supper waitin.Lobo: AdiosCowboy: So LongThe boys spent an exciting evening (keeping Lobo up) watching the likes of Blind Date, Three's company, Cheers and other mindless television shows.Homeward BoundAfter a long day, driving through the desert and eating junk food, Lorenzo, the road warrior, guided us back into the Valley of the Sun. We found ourselves racing a very long freight train, trying to beat it to the 101 crossover. Not interested in prolonging the trip, Lorenzo morphed into Richard Petty and beat the train, just seconds before the gates went down. El Lobo was white knuckled and not interested in being in the vehicle with such an adrenaline junkie. A man behaving very badly.On Friday, I fly out with Zo (Richard Petty) to Nueva Vida to explore the Biosphere preserves and Mayan ruins of the Yucatan and continue south to the reefs of Belize. El autobus travel will be just fine for me.