Some last-minute suggestions forfun on the Fourth of July

With the biggest outdoor holiday weekend of the year just around the corner, most people have already long-finalized their plans to have fun in the Great Outdoors to celebrate the Fourth of July.

However, if you're one of those poor souls who procrastinates until the last possible moment, and you would like to also have fun outdoors, you're rapidly running out of options.

And, here's several reasons why:

1. Many, if not all, of the campsites in our nearby campgrounds have been reserved for quite a while. You'll be lucky to find an empty site.

2. The same is true for any motels, cabins, lodges, resorts, RV parks, etc. at your favorite fishing lake. They, too, have undoubtedly been sold out for a long time.

3. Don't plan to spend time, camping with your friends or neighbors. They would have asked you to accompany them, a long time ago, if they had wanted you to be with them.

So, what should you do?

Well, there's still some hope.

There are some last minute suggestions on having fun on the Fourth of July, if you are willing to accept two basic conditions:

A. You don't mind traveling some distance to reach your destination.

B. You are willing to be around other people, but not real big crowds.

How is that possible on the Fourth of July holiday weekend?

Heck, it's easy.

Surprisingly, this part of the West has a large number of out-of-the-way areas that are perfectly suited for sneaking away for a quiet weekend in the Great Outdoors -- even on the Fourth of July.

Most specifically, there are many state parks, lakes, reservoirs, creeks, rivers, etc., that are perfectly suited for that special camping or fishing weekend -- if you know where to go.

So, if you're interested, get out your highway maps and check out these four, last minute, very special, far-flung, Don Q "out-of-the-way" suggestions:

-- Berlin-Ichthyosaur Nevada State Park, which is way off the beaten path and a long drive but certainly worth the time, effort and expense. It can be reached by taking U.S. 95 to just south of Hawthorne. Then, by taking a combination of S.R. 361 (the Gabbs Highway) to just beyond Gabbs and then S.R. 844 (partly dirt) to this unique state park.

Berlin is a turn-of-the century mining town that has been preserved in a state of "arrested decay."

As a matter of interest, the Ichthyosaur, Nevada's official State Fossil, was an ancient marine reptile that swam in a huge ancient ocean that covered all of Central Nevada about 225 million years ago.

The campground has a total of 13 sites with plenty of overflow space for tent or trailer campers.

It has water and outhouse facilities.

The cost is $11 per day which includes a $3 day-use fee.

There are guided tours of the park's fossils each day at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. The cost is $2 per person.

There are guided tours of the mine on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and noon. The cost is $2 per person.

For information, call Ranger Karsen Case at the state park at (775) 964-2440.

-- Desert Creek, which is in a remote portion of Douglas County. Take U.S. 395 south from Carson City for about 35 miles to Holbrook Junction, just north of Topaz Lake. At Holbrook Junction, take Nevada S.R. 208 east to Wellington. At Wellington, take Nevada S.R. 338 south toward Bridgeport, Calif. Then, after a few miles, look for the sign on your right that marks the Desert Creek Road. Follow the road to the creek. The total drive is about one hour.

Be prepared to drive on a dusty, dirt road. You do not need four-wheel drive but it would be highly advisable to have a vehicle that can ford the stream at several different locations.

No services of any kind are available at this location.

There are no improved camping facilities (AKA primitive camping), but it has nice, high desert scenery, the water in the small creek is ice-cold and the fishing can be good for a mixed bag of German brown and Eastern brook trout.

Be prepared for quite a few other folks also camping in this area. There are some picnic tables scattered around the area, but they will be long gone by the time you get there.

Most importantly, be sure to put all of your food away at night, so as to not tempt any of the black bears that frequent that area.

-- Obsidian Campground, which is about a 1.5 hour drive): Drive south from Carson City for 66 miles on U.S. 395 to the junction of California S.R. 108 (the Sonora Pass Highway). Continue south on U.S. 395 for one-half mile. Take the dirt road on the right and drive about four miles on a dirt road to the U.S. Forest Service campground.

As a word of advice, plan to get your vehicle very dusty on this road.

The campground offers many different hiking opportunities into the nearby Hoover Wilderness Area.

It also features fishing for small Eastern brook and rainbow trout in the nearby Little Walker River (at Willow Flat) and smaller streams.

No services of any kind are available at this location.

This is another camping location where a black bear could visit your campsite during the night.

For information, call the U.S. Forest Service office in Bridgeport, Calif., at (760) 932-7070 during regular hours.

-- Walker Lake, located on U.S. 95, about 10 miles north of Hawthorne. This is a drive of about 100 miles from Carson City to Sportsmen's Beach at Walker Lake, via a combination of U.S. 50, Alt. U.S. 95 and U.S. 95. It is about 12-15 miles north of Hawthorne.

This big desert lake offers great, uncrowded swimming, canoeing, water skiing, jet skiing, sail boating, speed boating, para-sailing, etc.

For the fisherman in the family, it has Lahontan cutthroat trout fishing either from shore or from a boat.

However, be prepared to fish very early in the morning. It just gets too darn hot to be fishing after about 11 a.m.

Walker Lake does not have any shade (trees, bushes, willows, etc.) so be prepared to bring your own. You'll need it!

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campground is a fee area.

There is no charge for the use of the boat launching facility.

For information, call the Carson City Office of BLM at 885-6000 during regular business hours.

-- There you have it: Four, out-of-the-way choices on where to spend the Fourth of July Holiday.

If none of those choices suite your fancy, you can always have a nice, quiet outdoor barbecue in your backyard. If you do stay home, then later in the evening on the Fourth, kick back and enjoy the spectacular fireworks, right here in Carson City.

Finally, no matter where you go or what you do, have a very happy and safe Fourth of July. Most importantly, don't drink and drive.

-- Bet Your Favorite Pigeon

Bet your favorite pigeon that he can't tell you where Don and Elaine will be spending their Fourth of July. If he grins and says, "They will probably be hosting a small group of friends and relatives at a barbecue in their backyard," he could be one of the invitees.


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