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Travel: A Place Called Pyramid

This desert lake near Reno, Nevada, is tantalizing for 4x4s and boats alike

John Stein
Jun 14, 2004
Put a fence around a man, and what do you get? A sheep. All too often, this is what society makes us, with too many signs and regulations stifling our fun. Take heart, for Pyramid Lake is the perfect antidote for fences. Located about a half-hour north of Reno, Nevada, this big high-desert lake, which lies within a Paiute reservation, offers miles of uncrowded dirt tracks, precious little pavement, and a dearth of signs or directives. It's perfect HUMMER H2 country.

For boating freaks, the 183 square miles of alkaline water is as attractive as the barren landforms are to off-roaders. It feels as silky as a spa, and, at nearly 80 degrees in summer, it begs for serious watersport, while also demanding top equipment. Enter the 2004 Malibu Wakesetter LSV, a luxury wakeboarding boat powered by GM's lusty 340-horse Monsoon 5.7-liter marine engine. The Wakesetter is the perfect complement to the Hummer, coddling up to 14 passengers while generating spectacular wakes.
Photo 2/8   |   2004 Hummer H2 Suv Top front View Tow
Our H2 and Wakesetter joined forces at Malibu's Merced, California, plant. From brushguard to swim platform, the pair stretched 40 feet, weighed 10,300 pounds, generated 656 horsepower, held 85 gallons of fuel, and cost a whopping $114,500 (Xtreme custom trailer not included). It also broadcasts serious attitude. Want to get noticed? Tug this rig into town and see what happens. The pair is a guaranteed conversation-starter.
Photo 3/8   |   2004 Hummer H2 Suv top Front View Tow
Some H2 buyers rightly have complained about poor fuel mileage. Heading north from Southern California to Sacramento, and over the Sierra Nevadas to Lake Tahoe to pick up wakeboarding buddy Dan Kruger, the Hummer loafed along at 1800 rpm at 60 mph, returning just 8 mpg with boat in tow. That made $2-per-gallon fuel fills a grisly affair, with fill-ups often approaching $60.
But the H2 makes sense when you tug a heavy boat up steep terrain like Highway 50's 7382-foot Echo Summit. In this capacity, the Vortec 6.0-liter V-8 acquits itself well. It doesn't have the muscle of GM's Duramax turbodiesel, but the H2 hauled the Malibu with the flow of traffic or faster. The H2 got the boat over the mountain with ease, and we headed toward Pyramid.
As recreational lakes go (Great Lakes excepted), Pyramid is huge. It's also spectacular. After driving along lonesome two-lane Highway 445, where wild mustangs are corralled in roadside pens and the terrain is windblown and barren, we popped over a rise. Pyramid lay far below, a vast expanse of light-blue water topped by rugged brown mountains and crowned with a sweeping desert sky. There wasn't a tree, a vacation home, or a fast-food outlet to be seen. The road doesn't even encircle the lake, and what pavement there is peters out after just a few miles, becoming a washboard dirt track. In short, it's Hummer country.

The question on our minds wasn't where the H2 could go, but where the H2 could go with an expensive motorboat in tow. We also wondered how the boat would perform in Pyramid's silky waters. There are a couple of official launch ramps here, but boaters are free to launch virtually anywhere at their own risk. This means backing into unknown conditions and the potential for becoming mired.
Photo 4/8   |   163 0404 Boats05 Z
After registering in the local ranger office in tiny Sutcliff ($23 buys two days' worth of camping and boating privileges), we headed north seeking solitude and a workable launch site. We chose Warrior Point, far up the western shore, for its remote location and seemingly useable bank. After walking to the water to test the soil firmness, we backed the H2 down in increments, periodically testing for traction. Entering the water brought a surprise: It was really shallow. This meant the Wakesetter had to be backed far into the lake to float free. Envisioning a long walk for help, tow trucks, and large cash withdrawals, we gulped and went for it. Soon the H2 exhaust burbled underwater, an engine pulley slapped the surface, and the lake rose to the doors. The boat floated free.
Photo 5/8   |   163 0404 Boats06 Z
Turning the key on the big Malibu brought an exciting reward. With the fuel-injected V-8 running quietly beneath its padded cover, we engaged Reverse and backed the big V-hull clear. Once everyone onboard settled in, we hit the throttle and headed to deep water for some wakeboarding and tubing. With its ready torque, rope tower, thumping Sony stereo, and Malibu Launch System (which pumps 1250 pounds of water into onboard tanks for bigger wakes), the Wakesetter was huge fun.
Photo 6/8   |   2004 Hummer H2 Suv top Rear View Tow
After an afternoon of wakeboarding, it was sunset--the moment of truth for the Hummer. But we needn't have worried, for it easily yanked the big Malibu up the muddy bank. We spent the rest of the trip exploring miles of inviting dirt tracks, making camp under a lonely grove of cottonwoods, watching the light fade, and then building a terrific campfire. Finally, nestled into the Malibu's cushy interior, we fell asleep under a blanket of stars to the sound of coyotes and night birds, and in the morning, awakened to do it all again--with nary a fence, nor a sheep, in sight.
Good Advice Yields Great Results

Want to get better at off-roading, launching a boat, or wakeboarding? Invite people with superior skills on your adventures. While searching for a launch site at Pyramid Lake, we met Bob Cain, a Reno contractor enjoying an afternoon of Jet-Skiing. With intimate knowledge of the area, he encouraged us to try a deep-water launch, demonstrating the surprisingly solid lake bottom by sloshing out to waist level in his swimsuit. Cain even suggested a diagonal path over a sandbar to deep water--and success! At nightfall, after discovering that we had forgotten matches, wakeboarding buddy Dan Kruger improvised fire-starting with the Hummer's cigarette lighter. Dry grass sheltered inside a paper-towel cone and some judicious blowing on twigs inside a rock fireplace netted a dandy fire. Once again, the experts had saved the day.
 {{{Hummer H2}}}{{{Malibu}}} Wakesetter LSV
Engine OHV 16-valve V-8Indmar Monsoon OHV 16-valve V-8
Displacement, ci/L 364/6.0 350/5.7
Bore x stroke, in 4.00 x 3.{{{62}}} 4.00 x 3.48
Compression ratio9.4:1 9.4:1
Horsepower @ rpm316 @ 5200 340 @ {{{5000}}}
Torque @ rpm360 @ {{{4000}}} 392 @ 3600
InductionSequential EFI Multiport EFI
Source: Malibu Boats
Photo 7/8   |   163 0404 09z 2004 Hummer H2 Suv Hood Sunset
Photo 8/8   |   163 0404 Boats10 Z



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