Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Aurora & Vicinity Mountain Bike

Seeking adventure and some good times with my buddy Jim T, I decided to explore the area around the ghost town of Aurora which is east of Bodie and northeast of Mono Lake. We drove out Highway 167/Pole Line Road just over the California/Nevada border then drove four miles or so along the high voltage power lines. We parked at the junction of the road returning from Alkali Lake.

We were greeted to crisp, blue skies and moderate northwest winds as we headed up the power line road. As we rose out of Alkali Valley we enjoyed these views back to the Sierra (apologies for the poor pic quality, I only had my cell phone along). 

The road was in good shape.  A bit sandy and a little rocky with a few short, steep pitches. Near the top of the climb we entered the burn area from last year's fire which made for a stark landscape. The winds were strong enough there to initiate small dust and ash clouds. Without vegetation, sand transport had created small dunes in the road and some the smaller, ancillary roads were completely buried in sand!

The historical town site of Aurora sits almost adjacent to the modern Esmeralda Mine. This is the view from near Aurora Peak towards the mine with the snow capped Sweetwater Mountains in the distant right.

From the same location this is the view north. The road here alternated between loose basalt rock and deep sand.

The fire had burned into part of the mining operation where we found melted plastic pipe, burnt timbers, and grim piles of scorched mining junk.

A short climb over tailings piles and through a maze of old mining roads finally brought us to the town site of Aurora. Click to enlarge.

Not much remains of the town except some foundations and walls.

The stamp mill still stands proud.

The nearby cemetery was perhaps the highlight of our visit to Aurora.

A Nevada State Senator.

Elaborate brick work.

A husband and wife who came all the way from Ireland.

The graveyard and it's setting put us in a reflective and grateful mood.

We backtracked to the power line road, took a wrong turn, but pretty quickly straightened ourselves out and found the correct road. Initially the road quality was decent, but after a mile or two it deteriorated to a barely discernible track that alternated between loose rock and deep sand.

This was one of the better sections!

The only recent track was from an ATV and it appeared the rider had set pink flags along the route. The road was so faint and rough we had serious concerns we were on the right one, but we found the pink flagging mentally reassuring.

We came across a strange camp along this road with a poorly constructed, but fairly large building, tools, rotting building supplies, and plenty of trash. I didn't stop for pictures as we both were a little concerned about possible occupants! According to the maps there are private parcels in this area, so the camp was not likely on Federal land.

To our relief, this road joined a larger, better maintained road and headed up and over a shallow pass.

The sky grew darker as we entered serene Aurora Valley with Alkali Lake in the distance.

We were thankful the increasing winds were at our backs as we headed through the valley and then out towards the truck. A light snow began to fall as we negotiated the last stretch of sandy road.

By the time we were done the storm was really rolling in! I took this pic from inside the truck just a few minutes after we finished.

Despite some seriously miserable riding this was one great adventure ride with a really good dude! Thanks Jim.

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