Why it is Death Valley and the Smoke Creek? I don't know, but that is how Michele and I refer to them. The Smoke Creek is a huge playa about two hours north of Reno and we will be visiting friends. From there we will probably wander east to a ghost town named Vernon in a small mountain range called The Seven Troughs. My favorite desert is around Death Valley but Michele considers that area too extreme and much prefers northern Nevada. It does have its allures.
For reference, the picture above (double click to enlarge) is from our friends place, and in the Google Earth capture (also double click to enlarge) below at the green patch in the lower left hand corner. Reno is in the circle at the upper right hand corner of the capture and the the big lake is Pyramid Lake.