Monday, June 30, 2008

Yerba mansa at Peterson Reservoir in Ash Meadows

The Peterson Reservoir in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is a wildlife viewing area. The sand dunes are a good place for viewing birds. Interesting plants can be found in that area along the trail, in the sand and near the water, such as the medicinal plant Yerba mansa of the Saururaceae family. The picture, taken on June 21, shows a maturing plant developing yellowish orange stains at some of their white, petal-like bracts. Yerba mansa plants are useful in many ways [1]:
Tea made of the leaves was used for purifying blood; a poultice for cuts and bruises; and bruised leaves reduced swellings, dysentery, asthma. The tea was also used for colds and to help movement of urine in kidney ailments. An infusion of the rootstocks was used for various skin troubles. The leaves boiled in a quantity of water were used as a bath for muscular pains and for sore feet. Dried roots, roasted and browned, were made into a decoction used for colds and for stomach ache.
[1] Muriel Sweet: “Common Edible and useful Plants of the West.” Naturegraph, Happy Camp, California, 2005 printing; page 61.

Still more about Yerba mansa:
Yerba mansa is also known as Anemopsis californica and under the common name lizard tail. The Spanish name,
Yerba mansa, means “domesticated herb.” Indigenous people of the Southwest and Mexico used the plant as medicine.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tonopah Historic Mining Park

The Tonopah Historic Mining Park in Tonopah is not a nature park. Here, everything looks like it has been turned around many times. The park tells the history of what happened to this place in Nye County in Nevada after silver was discovered in 1900. Trails are connecting the rich collection of artifacts and sites including various mines, hoists, holes and shafts, a dynamite house and a warehouse. The visitor center provides detailed information and has an excellent mineral collection. A Bell Signal Code in the Mitzpah Mine & Hoist House is still in place: 7 bells means accident. To avoid any accidents, stay on the trails. Look for the ball mill and the stamp mill. Find the wrench you are seeing in the picture or some artifact that fits the octagonal star of the wrench.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Unveiling of Pah Rah Trail informational panels

What looks like a Burning Man happening, is a trail opening ceremony performed as part of the PAH RAH INTERPRETIVE CENTER PROJECT. On June 19, the informational panels for the future Pah Rah Interpretive Trail of the Golden Eagle Regional Park in Spanish Springs in Nevada were unveiled. This wheelchair-accessible 3/4-mile trail loops through sagebrush in the Spanish Springs Canyon providing views of the Pah Rah mountain range. Restrooms, a drinking fountain, bike rack and an outdoor class room will be built.
Spanish Springs Canyon is part of a high desert ecosystem in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada. The panels inform visitors about the geology, ecology, and history including the tradition of Paiute and Washoe people living in Washoe county. Various Spanish Springs Canyon wildflowers were explained during a ranger-guided hike after the unveiling ceremony. Go and explore by yourself: there are other trails leading into the canyon and on to the mountain ranges.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No trails, no maps, but some breakfast, please!

It has happened to many of us that we found ourselves off the trail we had planned to go. Lost! Then we have a story to tell how we eventually made it home. Explorers in the past were often adventuring into new territory with no trails and no trail map. And they typically enjoyed to tell their story—often with a good portion of sensationalism. Clarence King, for example, who was surveying parts of the Great Basin and the Sierra Nevada in the 1860s, included such stories in his book Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada (1872). Aaron Sachs says about King's description of his ascent of Mount Tyndall in the Southern Sierra Nevada [1]:
The danger [which King illuminates] was probably real for the survey climbers of 1863 and 1864, who had no maps or trails, who had not read anyone else's descriptions of the area, who could never tell when the next abyss would cleave the earth.

John Muir, arriving in California a few years later, joked about King's description and said that he himself run up and down Mount Tyndall before breakfast. Anyway, I enjoy climbing up and down mountain peaks, but I like to have my breakfast first.

[1] Aaron Sachs The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism, Penguin Books, London (England), 2006; page 200 and page 307.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Fluctuating water level at Church's Pond

While hiking from Galena Creek Park into the Mt. Rose Wilderness up to Church's Pond, it is always interesting to guess what the water level will be this time. I have seen it about three feet higher (up to the center of the snow patch) two years ago. I was surprised to find it relatively low this year after all the snowing last winter. Church's Pond is a nice place to reflect on microclimates. How much does a microclimate depend on the macroclimate and global climate change?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Trail closed in Galena Creek Park on weekdays

Since the end of May, some areas of the Galena Creek Park southwest of Reno are closed on weekdays since fuels reduction activities are underway. This sign announces weekdays closure of the part of the Jones-White Creek Loop Trail that connects Galena Creek Park with the Whites Creek Trailhead. The Jones Creek Trail into the Mt. Rose Wilderness and to Church's Pond remains open for all days.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Apricot Mallow in Hidden Valley Park

A few Apricot Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua, Malvaceae) plants can be found on the western slopes of Hidden Valley Park east of Reno. Their orange- or apricot-colored flowers beautifully contrast their gray-green leaves and the dry brown-gray soil.

Oxbow Nature Study Area trails remain closed

A human-caused brush fire in April 2008 made its impact to the Oxbow Nature Study Area, located along the Truckee River west of downtown Reno. Although parts of the park, including the overlooks to the Beaver Pond, are now again open to the public, most of the system of short trails through the cottonwood and brush forest remains closed for restoration. The scorched trees can be seen from within the park and from the bike trail on the other side of the Truckee River.