Mount Jefferson, Toquima Peak, Monitor Range

May 1997

By: Wynne Benti


Cold winds whipped across the lonely intersection of highways 376 and 6 just north of Tonopah, the meeting place for this Memorial Day hike. Larry and Barbee Tidball, Rich Gnagy, Terry and Ed Sutor, John Perry and one canine - K.D. Zdon, were not deterred by the steely-colored thunderstorms which swept across the state from Lake Tahoe, south to the Mojave desert. From the meeting point, we drove north to Monitor Valley through Belmont, continuing on a dirt road until its vague end on the main ridge up Jefferson. We walked along the open ridge to the summit surrounded by billowy clouds and widespread vistas. All reached the summit around noon and enjoyed delightful treats. It was cold and windy on Jefferson, with the temperature around 38 degrees.

We quickly descended for warmer climates. By the time we reached the cars, the wind had picked up dramatically. We drove north to the first planned scenic stop, Diana's Punchbowl, a hot spring deposit housed within an impressive, large crater. From there we drove on to the hot spring at Pott's Ranch, careful to park several hundred feet away from the spring. Shortly after we arrived, a pickup full of local ranchers careened onto the scene. One of them informed us that the land had just been leased to a new ranching outfit and they didn't take kindly to strangers spending the night on their property. We were told that the Pott's Ranch hot spring was the only hot bath tub serving all of the ranches in the valley and was the only place a rancher could scrub up after a hard day's work.

Soon, the Levi-clad, cowboy hat wearin' foreman showed up in his ranch-worn Ford pickup with his Australian Shepherd in the bed. He was directed by Ed Sutor to Andy as, "the guy in charge of this group of people." Andy was quick to ingratiate himself by dropping the name of his former employer, Round Mountain Gold, on the west side of the range. The foreman was quick to respond that they had problems with the high school kids from Round Mountain, and that he had spent the day kicking people out of the hot spring. Well, he added, since we had already set up camp, he would let us stay the night. Whew! The Tidball's had already started their gourmet quesadillas which they were planning to serve to the group. Finally, the cowboys bathed, hopped into their pickups and went on their cleansed and merry way leaving the hot tub to our group.

Sunday, the Tidballs went west to climb Patterson; the Sutors and their friend John went north to Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park. Andy, Rich, K.D. and! drove to the trailhead for Monitor. It was sunny, warm and beautiful when we arrived at rushing Mosquito Creek. After the hike, we planned to spend a pleasant evening camped among the pinyons where we could make a campfire and listen to the creek. When we started our walk to Monitor, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Two hours into the hike, clouds had enveloped the peak and were quietly sneaking across the valley floor from the north. The temperature dropped, the skies darkened, the wind began to blow and it started to snow. We decided to turn around and go to Dirty Dick's Saloon in Belmont. There, we enjoyed a couple of beers in the only watering hole open to the public in Monitor Valley, then drove west across Chamock Pass in the Toquima Range to the Big Smoky Valley and up to Park Canyon, a ghost town which boomed off and on for about twenty years. It was rumored to have been built by a Hawaiian Prince in the late 1800's. We poked around for a bit, then decided to get an early start home. Thanks to everyone for a good trip

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