NOS Mission

Nevada Outdoor School inspires exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat and dedication to community.
This is the spot for us to share stories, fun ideas or general musings. When you aren't in here, we hope to see you out there!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Keep On Cookin'!

 Any seasoned Dutch oven cook can tell you of the stories where the cooking just did not turn out as planned.  Raw, over-cooked, burnt, too salty, too bland, the possibilities of things going wrong are numerous.  But that does not stop cooks from cooking.  Sometimes the cause of such flops are cook-made, sometimes nature-made.  Regardless, scars on their fingers from the hot coals and scars on their hearts from flopped dishes does not diminish the spirit to adjust, learn, and cook again.

Nevada Outdoor School has the same spirit.  Like every other nonprofit, business, and family, the current pandemic has forced us into a time of adjustment, learning and then cooking again.  Our 12th Annual Buckaroo Dutch Oven Cook Off was held on September 12th utilizing a virtual platform.  While attendance was low online, the five teams that participated enjoyed the experience.  Teams joined the event from as far away as Washington and Virginia, with some local favorites from Winnemucca.   Team Mario Bros was powered by Kyler Enochson and Kayden Yowell from Winnemucca.  Team Dutch Oven Dandy’s is a father and son team made up by Russ and Chad Yowell, from Winnemucca.  Team Dutch Oven Deb and her Dude represented Washington state with Debra and Brett Basquez in virtual attendance.  The Western Cooks was the mother and daughter team of Sarah and Catherine Welsh of Winnemucca.  Rounding out the competition was the RockScars from Virginia consisting of Michael, Jessie and Scarlett Myers.  That is one of the perks of technology, no travel needed so showing up in Winnemucca was not a requirement this year.  

While the hosts on the other end of the camera did not get to eat the food, there were envious taste buds and mouths watering as the cooks fed their family and friends.  Main dishes included Lasagna, Shrimp Meatball Clam Chowder, Pork Loin Roast with Chipotle Cranberry Sauce, Lime-infused Chicken Enchiladas, and Herb and Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin.  Three teams also made desserts, Peach Pie, Pineapple Upside-down Cake, and Coconut Macaroon Cookie Bars.  Scorecards were completed by the host and hostess of the event, Mr. Eddie Booth from Vision West Realty and Mrs. Melanie Erquiaga, Executive Director of Nevada Outdoor School, as well as, technical troubleshooter and Outdoor Ethics Program Director, Miss Allana Havernick.   Each dish cooked by a team was judged individually.  Judging criteria were willingness to share the recipe, originality of dish, dish origin, visual presentation, taste, and interaction with spectators and host.  Dishes could also earn extra points for utilizing a unique ingredient.  

Preparation was done off-screen, but cooking was captured live during the Facebook Live event and teams regularly interacted with the hosts answering questions and providing updates on their food.  At a prescribed time, the cooks presented their food for visual inspection by the hosts and consumption by whomever they had invited to their backyard.  It was a close competition, but third place went to the RockScars of Virginia for their Pork Tenderloin.  Second place went to the Western Cooks of Winnemucca for their Pineapple Upside-down Cake, and first place went to Dutch Even Deb and her Dude from Washington for the Pork Roast. 

Time was passed during the event watching several videos about the impact that Nevada Outdoor School has on the state of Nevada.  Musical intercessions were provided by Elizabeth Cadigan who specializes in northern Nevada desert songs with her ukulele in hand.   Elizabeth delivers important messages about ecosystems and human behavior necessary to maintain a healthy desert environment through light and fun songs.  Learn more at   Her songs are also available on Amazon and CD Baby.

Nevada Outdoor School has great hopes that next year the event will be back at Vesco Park in Winnemucca and there will be hundreds of people fed delicious food.  In the meantime, in the near future, check out a video summary of the event and recipes at


 Happy Trails!


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Destination Recreation: The Ruby Crest Trail

 When a lot of people think of Nevada they either think of Las Vegas or a dry hot desert.  While these are both truths, they are not the whole story!  Nevada has some incredible diversity, and one place it can be found is in the Ruby Mountains, located just outside the town of Elko, Nevada.

Elko is geographically isolated, 4 hours west of Salt Lake City, Utah, 5 hours east of Reno, Nevada, 7 hours north of Las Vegas and 4 hours south of Boise, Idaho.  Elko isn’t necessarily a small town, there is a population of about 20,000 within the city limits and 50,000 in Elko County, and there are a lot of amenities here in town, however, if it isn’t in Elko, it’s a commitment!  With all that being said, one thing we do like to boast about is that the Ruby Mountains are in our backyard.

Find this map and a lot more information at Hiking the Ruby Mountains at

Known as Nevada's Swiss Alps, the Ruby Mountains are found in the Humboldt National Forest.  The Ruby Mountains run approximately 90 miles in length and are about 10 miles wide.  The range runs in a generally north-south direction.  The mountain range has a gentler slope on the west side, the side viewed from Elko, and a more steep slope on the east side, or the Ruby Valley side. The highest elevations are in the 10,000 to 11,000 foot range.  The Ruby Mountains houses 25 - 28 named lakes, depending who’s counting, as well as a number of small unnamed lakes or large ponds.  Altogether, there is an estimated 100-miles of hiking trails in the Ruby Mountains. 

The popular Lamoille Canyon can be the beginning or the end of the Ruby Crest Trail, depending if you decide to travel north or south.  The Ruby Crest Trail runs from Lamoille Canyon to Harrison Pass, covering about 40 miles.  Depending on what you read, the description varies from 35 - 43 miles.  There are several different entry points, which is probably why there is such variability in the explanation of the length of the trail.  We hiked Harrison Pass to Roads End at Lamoille Canyon and got to see a level of unexpected diversity in vegetation.  From aspen groves to barren of green plants, but lichen covered stretches of rock and gravel, it was hard to believe we were in the same mountain range the whole time.

                                Pippi (author) overlooking Overland Lake during the storm.

The Leave No Trace Principle that we really adhered to on this trip was Plan Ahead and Prepare.  Because no one in our party had done this hike before, we were very nervous about staying on the trail.  We ended up bringing two different maps because each had different details, and there were several times when at a cross-trail that we had both maps available to discern which trail to take.  This also helped us with water planning.  We hiked the Ruby Crest towards the end of July and it was important to be aware of potential water sources and have a plan.  Thankfully, there was more water than we expected with many springs still running strong.  We also checked the weather and were anticipating afternoon thunderstorms, and Mother Nature did not disappoint.  We heard some spectacular thunder and was pelted for just a bit with a hail-rain mix.  One of the great things about Nevada is that the rain rarely lasts very long, and because of the low humidity, within not too long you are dry again.  It was fun to have the opportunity to pull out our backpack covers and ponchos, because, seriously, we are in a desert after all and it just really does not rain that often.  Had we not been prepared however, it may not have been such a fun diversion from our typical blue skies.

Another Leave No Trace Principle that deserves highlighting is Dispose of Waste Properly.  No one likes to think, much less talk about, going to the bathroom in the backcountry.  But, it’s a reality that one must face at some point.  Our group likes to carry homemade “potty bags”.  Gallon zip lock bags covered in duct tape to help hide the contents, and ensure their integrity.  One of our members went all out this year making her potty bag!  She included a strap and pockets for wipes and hand sanitizer! 


                                    Becky’s (authors friends) super snazzy potty bag.

No one wants to see your toilet paper, so be sure to pack out your waste, and not just potty waste.  Be aware of your trash and be sure you take it all with you when you leave an area.  Having a dedicated trash bag for potty waste, and then a bag for general waste helps keep your pack organized and clean. 

This was a great adventure, but you do need to be in pretty good shape because there is quite a bit of climbing as you do traverse through and over several canyons and ridges.  We did not see any wildlife, beyond two rattlesnakes near Harrison Pass, but the wildflowers were on full display and were magnificent.  It would be fun to do this trail again, since it is in our backyard, going the opposite direction and at a different time of year just to see what it looks like.  It was a great get-away in a year where travel is limited.  How fortunate we are to have world-class backpacking just 45 minutes away.

Get outside and hike on, there is so much to see!


A.K.A., Brandolyn Thran, Elko Admin and Outreach Coordinator



Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Outdoor Cooking Gear

 Any good western movie has a scene where a cowboy is cooking on an open fire with their pot hanging over the flames.  While cooking over a flame is a viable way to prepare food, it is usually the coals that are more desirable and useful for cooking.  Dutch oven cooking is an easy way to cook delicious food and fill stomachs that are hungry from a day outdoors.

A trip through your local store’s cooking section may hold several different varieties of Dutch ovens.  Dutch ovens are thick-walled cooking pots that have a tight fitting lid.  They can be made of cast-iron, cast aluminum or be ceramic.  (Cast iron is the choice of the Nevada Outdoor School staff.)  Sometimes the pot is enameled.  Enameled is a coating, called “frit”, which is a form of glass that is baked onto the surface to make it non-stick.  Enameled cast iron cookware can only be used on a stove top or in the oven up to 400 F.   A seasoned cast-iron pot has had oil baked into the cast iron.  This also provides a non-stick surface, but over time with use and cleaning it can wear off, therefore periodic seasoning may be required.  With all this variety, how do you know what makes a Dutch oven “good” for outdoor cooking? 

A good outdoor Dutch oven is a cast-iron pot that is well seasoned and that has a lid with a lip and legs.  The lid is usually flat, well-fitting, and has a lip, because coals are placed on both the top and bottom of the pot to assist with a more consistent and even cooking temperature.  A lid with a slope makes it difficult to place coals.  Feet on the bottom is also good for an outdoor pot so coals can be placed underneath.  If the Dutch oven does not have feet, rocks can be used to prop-up the pot.

Because outdoor Dutch oven cooking utilizes hot coals, Nevada Outdoor School encourages people to practice Leave No Trace and refrain from cooking directly on the ground as it can scar and damage the earth.  Plus, having a cook table saves the back! A cook table needs to be inflammable and able to withstand heat.  The cook table needs to be large enough to allow for space around the Dutch oven and between each oven if cooking with more than one. The cook table needs to be at a height that you can lift your ovens onto the surface and be able to remove and replace lids easily.  Having a table that can accommodate a windscreen is also helpful, especially in the afternoon winds of Nevada.  Nice-to-haves are shelves and hooks for keeping tongs, gloves and other equipment.  

The heat associated with outdoor Dutch over cooking lends itself to some additional safety considerations.  Having good heat-proof gloves or mitts nearby is essential.  Do not attempt to maneuver hot Dutch ovens without good gloves!  Lid lifters are also a good investment.  Coal shovels and tongs will help with coal management and prevent burns and a charcoal chimney will help get those coals hot more efficiently.

Finally, the clean-up of a cast-iron Dutch oven is important so it is ready-for-action the next time your stomach grumbles for some amazing food.  Though there are differing opinions on whether or not to use dish soap, this is how Nevada Outdoor School cares for our Dutch ovens – as recommended by our dear friend Terry Bell, The Dutch Diva.  Wipe down the Dutch oven, removing as much food as possible.  Next, add a small amount of water and a few drops of dish soap and scrub off any remaining food particles with a plastic scrub brush. Rinse and dry thoroughly.  If you do not have the chance to clean your Dutch ovens immediately after use and you are left with dry, baked on food, you can fill it with water and bring to a boil, being sure to cover places that have residue that may be left.  After water boils, allow it to cool and then scrub the interior using a dish scrubber or plastic spatula. After a good scrub, rinse well and dry.  Heating up the pot to thoroughly dry is not a bad idea to remove all moisture.   Finally, after your cast-iron pot is clean and dry, rub in a small amount of cooking oil or Camp Chef Cast Iron Conditioner using a paper towel.  Store with a paper towel hanging over the edge of the pot and under the lid to wick out any environmental moisture that the ovens may be exposed to. 

Sometimes after storing for a long time, your Dutch Ovens may have a sticky residue from the evaporated oil.  Just put those in your indoor oven or outdoor grill at 400 F for 30 - 40 minutes and the oil will re-absorb into the cast iron and leave you a nice smooth surface.

Cooking outside can be a lot of fun and super yummy!  To learn more about Dutch oven cooking, check out Nevada Outdoor School at and watch our videos.  Please join us for our Virtual Buckaroo Dutch Oven Cook Off fundraiser to either watch or participate on September 12, 2020.  Get outside and cook; fresh air, tasty food and sunshine is good for all of us!



Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Destination Recreation: Valley of Fire State Park


View on Map!

Breathtaking views, scenic drives and hikes, cool wildlife, and a stunning array of colors, Valley of Fire State Park in southern Nevada is well worth the trip!

Located about 1 hour northeast of Las Vegas, near the town of Overton, Valley of Fire State Park is a great place for a day trip or an overnight adventure.  Many of the park’s stunning features are easily viewed from the car but don’t be fooled, there’s much more to discover on the trails.

Valley of Fire gets its name from red sandstone formations, formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs, 150 million years ago.  Red isn’t the only color you see though, whites, pinks and yellows blend together to create a beautiful rainbow landscape. 

When visiting Valley of Fire State Park, I would recommend making the visitor center, located near the center of the park and open from 8:30am-4:30pm daily your first stop.  At the visitor center you can pick up a helpful map and visitor guide, learn about the park’s history, plants and animals, see some of the cool wildlife up close, look around their small gift shop and talk to someone at the help desk if needed.  Don’t forget to fill up your water bottles and also take the small hike out back up to an impressive sight!

Valley of Fire State Park can be done pretty easily as a day trip – a lot of the notable features including Elephant rock, the arch and Fire Canyon can be viewed from the road and most of the main trails are only about 1 mile long, making it possible to hike multiple trails in 1 day.  However, you could spend many days in the park and still not get bored, there is so much to see! It’s super important to practice Leave No Trace and plan ahead and prepare for your visit.  Fall, winter and early spring are good times to go if you plan to get out and hike as temperatures in the summer months usually exceed 100 degrees, making it dangerous to be outside for too long.  Proper footwear is also important as desert plants can be quite poky and many of the trails are located in desert washes making them extremely sandy (not fun if you are wearing tennis shoes). 

The Fire Wave is another notable feature in the park which can be accessed on the Fire Wave trail which is only 1.5 miles, but don’t be fooled though - lack of shade and extreme temperatures in the summer can make this trail extremely dangerous.

My favorite trail in the park is White Domes, located at the end of the road going north out of the visitor’s center.  This trail is about 1.25 miles long and takes you through an old movie sight and super cool slot canyon.  Another one of my favorite places in the park is the Rainbow Vista trail.  The trail itself is cool but the overlook view at the end which gives the trail its name is amazing!  Ancient Indian art work can be found all around the park, but taking a quick hike down the Mouse Tank trail is definitely one of the best ways to see a lot all together.  It’s fun trying to “read” the petroglyphs left by the ancient people.  Other cool features in the park include massive petrified wood logs, crypobiotic soil, and tons of desert wildlife including lizards, tarantulas, and big horn sheep.

Camping at Valley of Fire is a unique experience that I definitely recommend.  If you are going with a big group and are up for planning your trip WAY in advance, you can call and try to reserve one of the three big group use sights which are AMAZING!  They book up pretty fast though and are hard to get especially on the weekends.  Don’t stress though, the park has 2 other first-come camp sites with 72 units and additional RV spots that are also really cool to stay at. 

So, whether you are just going for the day or staying for a while, Valley of Fire State Park is definitely worth the trip!


Happy Trails!