Rubaiyat* Crestival!
Hiking the middle section of the Ruby Mountains Crest
August 18-21, 1998
by Rob Jones

*The title is an adaptation from Omar Khayyam's, Rubaiyat.
Ruby Crest
The route alonge the Ruby Crest
(Click the image for a full-size view (19k); Photo by Rob)

(Text and Photos © copyright by Rob Jones)
(Click on the THUMBNAILS to see larger images)

Background: See the 1995 Ruby Mountains trip report for background info. You can now call the Wells FS office (Ruby Mountains Ranger District) on a toll-free number. It is: 800-764-3359. Road summary: It's 207 miles from Smog Lake, UT to Wells, NV. Then, you travel south for 29 miles on Hwy. 93, turning toward the Rubys onto Hwy. 229 and traveling about 13 miles to an intersection, then the last leg, south again, on Hwy. 767 for 15 miles. The last part of this section is on gravel. Watch carefully, because the trailhead is poorly marked, although there is a frail BLM sign noting, "Overland Lake, 8 miles." Note that, outside snowbanks (if they have not melted), there is no water between Furlong Lake on the North and the cirque below Kings Peak - a 14-mile or so trudge.

For detailed info contact:
Ruby Mountains Ranger District
428 South Humbolt
P.O. Box 246
Wells, Nevada 89825
800-764-3359, or

"...with Nevada these high, discrete, austere new ranges begin to come in waves, range after range after north-south range: basin, range, basin, range; a mile of height between basin and range." (McPhee, 1980, pg. 18). If you want to read what may be the greatest non-textbook, popular portrayal, about Western geology, I refer you to:

McPhee, John (1980), Basin And Range, New York: Farrar Stauss Giroux.

A Ruba'iyat about the Crestival
by Rob
Arriving in the rubiginous sunshine,
I relished in the rubric of the Rubys without mankind.
Rolling the wondrous, rubescent Crestival, I enjoyed a wilderness festival;
You might someday revere these wilds, then write your own Crestival Ruba'yat, if you are so inclined!

The ruba'i, plural rubaiyat, is a two-lined stanza of Persian poetry. Ruba'i is an Arabic word meaning "four-some." It was a very popular form of poetry in the 11th and 12th century in Persia. The first, second and last of the four hemistiches must rhyme, while the third does not need to rhyme with the other three. I have inserted rubaiyat from Omar Khayyam's, Rubaiyat as they relate, ever so obtusely, to the content of the trip report. Rhyming is not complete, because the rubaiyat have been translated from Persian. The numbers indicate the rubaiyat as numbered by translators. Enjoy.

153. Before you and I did, night and day existed,
The revolving heavens were busy;
Where you set your foot on the face of the ground
Was the pupil of the eye of a sweetheart.

And, so begins my third brief trek into the Ruby Mountains, one of the many Nevada cordillera.... Alas, it was a solo trip, and about this sort of thing Omar says:

219. To be content like a vulture with a bone
Is better than being the uninvited guest at nobody's feast;
To be with your own barley bread is certainly better
Than to be polluted by the confections of nonentities.

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The map below was constructed from waypoints obtained during the 1999 Ruby Crest backpack. They are strung together to make a route (not a track). This map is posted here to provide visual information about hiking The Ruby Crest. Enjoy.

Map - NV: Ruby Crest: Harrison Pass to Lamoille Canyon; route (not track); 44 miles estimate
Map - NV: Ruby Crest: Harrison Pass to Lamoille Canyon; route (not track); 44 miles estimate
(Click the image to see the map)

If you want to view a full-resolution map, click here. Caution - do not use this map or gps track for navigating the route.

Day 1: Rubescent Rubys: I made it to the Rubys as the sun glowed rubescent. The granite and quartzite teeth projecting from the west face of the mountains turned a rubiginous (rust-colored) red as the sun's rays filtered low-angle across the expansive Ruby Marsh, now in the distant dusty bowl below. Twilight twinkled off mica and feldspar flakes imbedded in the craggy teeth. Over a thousand feet below, I could see widely-scattered farm lights twinkling, these lights popping out like the stars above in the crystal air. Somewhere down there was Geology Jones from the University of Wyoming, who had given me a ride to the upper trailhead (TH). He is re-mapping the geology in this part of the Rubys, and striving to finish his college degree.

I got a late start, and arrived at the TH in late afternoon. As I was getting ready to begin the hike, Jones (no relation, outside our wilderness-wandering proclivities) arrived and gave me a ride. Mineral guides, sample bags, coffee cups and various implements like rock hammers slid around my feet and across the seat as Jones prodded his pickup up the steep grade. We talked some about plutons and batholiths, and then I headed up the trail, hiking less than two miles before full dark caved in just as I reached the Mountain Mahogany vegetation zone and the wilderness boundary. I threw up my tiny Marmot bivi sac as the third billion stars arrived. After gulping some items from my lunch bag, I went to sleep. A phantom wind woke me, and I was awake long enough to enjoy the brilliant black night stars.

15. A bull is next to the Pleides in the sky,
Another bull is hidden below the earth;
If you're not blind, open your eyes to the truth,
Below and above the two bulls is the drove of donkeys!

Day 2: Cirquedom: (8 miles, 2000'+) It's spring along the unnamed tiny creek in the cirque below Peak 10,841 and the sheer ramparts of King's Peak (11,031'), about a mile onto the Ruby Crest Trail from the Overland Lake junction. Monkshood, Elephanthead, Yarrow, Penstemon, Cow Parsnip, Paintbrush, Columbine, Lupine, Shooting Stars and lots of others for which I didn't know the names grace the narrow riparian ecosystem bordering the cirque's stream.

63. All the plants that grow beside the stream
Have surely grown from angel's lips;
Tread roughly on no plant,
For it has sprung out of the dust of the tulip-cheeked.

It's late afternoon and I'm a bit cold, despite pants and a pile jacket. I may regret traveling as a minimalist this trip. The big fluffy clouds have not paused to rain on me (yet) and this is a good thing, because I brought the Marmot Burro (a one-layer bivi-sac) rather than a true tent. I'm camped in a wind-shearing island of Limber Pines (5 needles to a group, flexible branches, cones up to about 4" long). It's an excellent camp and not very obvious from the trail 60 or more vertical feet below. Four deer paraded by at dusk. I did not see any people today. But, I did find lots of mica, imbedded in quartzite outcrops, so much that the hillside glittered like Liberache's rhinestone cape when struck by the sun's rays. It's a great place for contemplation, bounded by the sheer ramparts of Kings Peak and the cirque, the expansive Ruby Marsh 3000' below and miles distant - if it weren't so cold. I felt a bit better after I ate some dinner, replete with fish steaks, ahh, lots of yummy fat. What a lovely cirque!

43. It is a bowl the Creative Reason casts,
Pressing in tenderness a hundred kisses on its brim;
This cosmic potter makes such a rare bowl,
Then throws it back again to the ground.

Day 3: Rubaiyat Crestival: (22 miles, 11 hours, 4 peaks) Today, I hiked the Ruby Crest Trail, North to Wines Peak and back, traversing 3 other peaks along the way, twice.

I'm sitting, nearly comatose, on a polished Limber Pine log as the last remnants of the sunset imitate alpenglow on the West face of Kings Peak. I have managed to start the stove and a tiny Limber Pine wood fire and hobble down to the stream to get water for the first course of tonight's dinner, soup and whatever else I can find. Now, I'm wondering if I can muster enough energy to become less of a bump on a log and take a handkerchief bath in the stream before serious dark sets in. At one with the log, I can hear what must be climbers on Kings Peak. "Hey Clarence, do you smell the fire?" the voice floats down, muffled by the drone of the maidenhair cascades as the streamlet of snow melt stair-steps over the verdant ledges and into the lower cirque. Another, much closer female voice seems to say "What's cooking, what's for dinner?" I crane my neck to see where the voices originate, shocked by how close they now sound, then, Yikes, I catch movement in the periphery of my vision, right at the edge of the forb-forest and grass carpeting the edge of camp. The brief adrenaline rush subsides as I see that it's a troop of Spruce Grouse talking their grouse-talk to each other as they strut a circle around my camp. I'm a bit relieved that I'm not any crazier than I previously suspected. My next thought is "I wonder if I can eat two or three or four of these fat, tasty, self-baster, pre-seasoned, delicious grouse?"

150. Oh heart since time's passing grieves you
And your pure spirit so unseasonably leaves the body,
Sit on the green, spend a few days in happiness
Before the green grass springs from your dust.

I began marching fairly early, leaving camp in place. Piercing winds prompted me to have my jacket on and off all day, with a canvas shirt and shorts as a minimum.

203. Get up lad, it is dawn,
Fill the crystal goblet with the ruby wine;
In this hole and corner of transience you will seek this borrowed moment
Long and never find it.

Over Peak 10,207 first, where I paused on top, hiding from the wind in a rock shelter and sipping filtered snow water. The trail then drops down several hundred feet before climbing, again, to Peak 10,756, rolling on to and over Peak 10,777, and finally to Wines Peak at 10,893'. Straight-line it appears to be about 7 miles. With switchbacks I guessed it was close to 11 miles, one-way. Then, there is the elevation gain and lost, the energy-required measurement over these bumps. Whew, I paused for gorp several times. I encountered a couple from Reno who had hiked from Furlong to Overland Lake yesterday, and were on the trudge return today. The woman said it was "too much", probably 14 miles each day. They, like me, had wanted to hike the whole Crest Trail, but had not overcome the logistic problems (questions about water availability, and, mostly, how to get a vehicle shuttled to Harrison Pass from Lamoille Canyon). I also encountered a hey-girl being from California as I began the switchbacks to Wines Pk. She reported that she had forgotten the "spigot in the fuel bottle to my stove" (the pump, I eventually determined), but that "I have a print-out of all the water sources in the mountains." And, she had only the barely-useful forest district map for guidance, except for the "print-out" of course. I marveled at how the thunderbolts of Darwin's theory seem to miss such obvious targets. The hey-girl wandered off along the Crest, and I continued to Wines Pk.

Rolling, trudging the Crest, afforded views of Long Canyon, the jagged peninsula holding Ruby Dome, the tundra-like carpet dotted with yellow blots of Cinquefoil and Buttercups, blue dashes of Lupine, and the green islands of wind-weathered Limber Pine. Looking back, South, there are views of toothy Kings Peak, the lone incisor of Tipton, and the distant looming mound of Green Mountain.

I walked out on the broad peak East of the Crest Trail to find the USGS monument celebrating the summit of Wines Peak (10,893'). With a touch of the monument, I had officially hiked about two-thirds of the Crest Trail, in segments, from Lamoille to the pass above Overland. Only the stretch from Overland to Harrison Pass remains unhiked.

22. If only there were occasion for repose,
If only this long road had an end,
And in the track of a hundred thousand years, out of the heart of dust
Hope sprang again, like greenness.

Day 4: Overland, Out: Initially, I was planning to explore south from Overland Lake toward Green Mountain. But, today I quickly visited Overland Lake, then I dropped back to the vehicle via the Overland Lake Trail, picking up several foot-flattening schists and quartzites with mica inholdings along the way.

41. There was a water-drop, it joined the sea,
A speck of dust, it was fused with earth;
What of your entering and leaving this world?
A fly appeared, and disappeared.

As the engine revolutions eclipsed 3200, relating to 90 mph on the hills, my trusty Subaru whined away the surveyor-straightness of I-80 across Nevada and into the land where polygamists roam free, rampantly breeding in a seeming race toward overpopulation of our only planet, a land where those with "overly-liberal" ideas are prosecuted, I had the displeasure to witness the "harmless steam" emitting from the MagCorp stack. Mag-Corp is the nation's largest-volume air polluter, and good neighbor to Utah republicans. MagCorp, like all good large-money, large-pollution, lobbyists, insist that they are good for the economy and your health.

Magnesium Corp. of America is the No. 1 emitter of toxic chemicals in the nation. The Environmental Protection Agency's ``Toxics Release Inventory'' (TRI) ranked Utah 11th in the nation for on- and off-site releases of toxic chemicals, with 82.3 million pounds. Magnesium Corp., or MagCorp, releases chlorine into the air as it extracts magnesium chloride salts from the Great Salt Lake. It long has been the largest chlorine emitter in the nation and one of the largest sources of toxic air pollutants. It released 65.3 million pounds of chlorine in 1996 -- the most recent year for which data are available. Its emissions not only distinguish MagCorp as the top emitter, but places it fourth in the nation for production-related waste with 297 million pounds (partial quote from the Salt Lake Tribune, 6/19/98, byline by Heather May). 13. Those, boy, who went before
Have been lain in the dust of self-delusion;
Go, drink wine and hear the truth from me,
It was all hot air that they spoke.

152. These few odd days of life have passed
Like water down the brook, wind across the desert;
There are two days I have never been plagued with regret for,
Yesterday that has gone, tomorrow that will come..........

(Please read the Caveat, visit the Wild Activist Links, and do something Wild today. Thanks.)

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