Monday, June 21, 2010

Jones Whites Loop Trail

The Jones Whites Loop Trail (JWLT) is a 9.2 miles loop trail accessing the Mount Rose Wilderness, the Upper Whites Creek and the Galena Forest area southwest of Reno, Nevada. If you are going to hike the loop clockwise, you'll start with a steep climb that takes about an hour until you reach scenic vista points and the junction to Church's Pond (see Fluctuating water level at Church's Pond). From here, the loop hike continues on in downhill mode, mostly through pine forest—with patches of aspen stands. The trail goes along steep slopes or through creeks and a few times you need to make it across downhill-rushing water. About a quarter of the loop trail follows the Upper Whites Creek. After passing the junction to Dry Pond (see Dry Pond is still wet), it is less than a mile to get to the junction at which you want to turn right to get back to from where you started. This final stretch, again, offers nice views and is always worth to be hiked back and forth by itself when you are not prepared for the whole loop or snowpacks at higher elevation are preventing you from doing the loop.

Hiking JWLT in late spring or early summer gives a good chance of seeing wildflowers such as squaw carpets, pussypaws, and snowplants.

Getting there from the picnic facilities in Galena Creek Regional Park
From the trailhead parking area at the northwestern part of the picnic area follow the trail signs, pass by the Bitterbrush Trail and the service road junctions until you reach the first “running water” point, across which you'll enter the loop.

Getting there from the Upper Whites Creek Trailhead
From the Upper Whites Creek Trailhead, which is located about one mile west of Timberlane Road, follow the trail along the creek, leisurely walking uphill until you reach the junction, from where you may want to turn left to do the clockwise tour or walk ahead to loop anti-clockwise.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva) around Mount Davidson

This bitterroot plant was found on Ophir Hill near where the trail from Virginia City, Nevada, passes through on its way to the top of Mount Davidson. Some nearby bitterroots could be seen with masses of overlapping flowers, whereas this plant has a single flower, but is surrounded by various other flowers. A bitterroot flower has up to 18 white or pinkish-white petals. The flower stem itself is short and leafless. Here, the background of the white leaves of the flower makes it easy to spot the pink anthers.

The bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva) belongs to the Purslane Family (Portulacaceae). The scientific name honors Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809), an explorer of the American West and an organizer and participant of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Bitterroot typically occurs on sandy ground or rocky flats and slopes. Its distribution ranges from southern British Columbia, Canada, east to Montana and south to southern California and Arizona [1]. In Nevada, east and northeast of Lake Tahoe, small bitterroot assemblies are commonly found at mid elevations of Mount Peavine and in the Virginia Range, for example east of Hidden Valley, at Older Geiger Grade and Mount Davidson, but also at higher elevation in dry areas of the Mount Rose Wilderness.

References and more
[1] Species: Lewisia rediviva.
[2] Bitterroot illustration.
[3] Laird R. Blackwell: Tahoe WildflowersA Month-by-Month Guide to Wildflowers in the Tahoe Basin and Surrounding Areas. A Falcon Guide, Morris Book Publishing, LLC, 2007 ; page 57.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Above Virginia City: climbing Mount Davidson, the highest peak in Storey County

Mount Davidson is the the highest peak in Storey county, Nevada. Atop Mt. Davidson (over 7,600 feet high) you'll find yourself overlooking Virginia City. On a clear-sky day you can enjoy great views of other peaks of the Virginia Range (northeast), the Pine Nut Mountains and Desert Mountains (south-southeast, across the Carson Plains) and the Carson Range and Sierra Nevada (west).

The hike to the top is a two-phase experience. The first phase includes a strenuous climb: a slip-rock walk uphill the dirt road until you reach the Microwave Relay Station at Ophir Peak. Beyond Ophir Hill, you'll enter the second, pleasant phase offering a scenic, rim-trail-like hike to the destination. Both parts of the hike get you near rocks, spotted with yellow and orange lichen surrounded by similarly colored paintbrushes. In spring, other wild flowers are abundant, including lupines, phlox, dwarf onions, and bitterroot. Expect a nice—sometimes strong—breeze along the rim section.

Getting there
From C Street in “downtown” Virginia City (which is part of Highway 341 going through town) turn into Taylor Street and walk uphill. Pass by Howard Street and turn right into Stewart Street and then left into the Spanish Ravine. There is no trailhead sign. You'll soon leave the paved road and walk on a dirt road. If you see the V and the water tower in front of you to the left, you are on the right track. The V in the pictures points downhill to the center of Virginia City. The Spanish Ravine, if taking a cross section, is also V-shaped. Instead of following the trail (which ends somewhere) at the bottom of the ravine, you want to take the right-turning dirt road, going north for a while, before it turns left and goes west and uphill to the relay tower.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Between Mount Tallac and Fallen Leaf Lake

There are different starting points to hike and climb Mount Tallac in the Sierra Nevada, California. To get a nice view of surrounding lakes and beaches, one does not need to climb all the way to the top. On the trail from the “official” Mt. Tallac trailhead south of the Tallac Historic Site one reaches a vista point after about one mile. First, the trail follows a forested trough and then continues on a local ridge. Halfway between the trailhead and Floating Island Lake is an area through which a fire was burning some years ago. Charcoal-colored tree trunks can still be seen, but manzanitas are as green as you expect them to be. These places along the trail offer nice views of the deep steel-blue surface of Fallen Leaf Lake and beyond to Lake Tahoe and the Carson Range. Turn around, and the steep mountain side of Mt. Tallac is right in front of you. Most parts of the mountain are still covered with snow in early June—not uncommon this high up in the Sierra.

Getting to the Mt. Tallac Trailhead
From the intersection of Highway 89 and 50 in South Lake Tahoe, drive north on 89. Pass by Camp Richardson, Fallen Leaf Road and Cathedral Road. Then turn left at the Mt. Talloc Trailhead sign and follow the direction as posted by further signs. Trailhead parking is limited. Notice that the BlueGO Nifty 50 Trolley drives and stops nearby and can connect you with many other Lake Tahoe sites and parking spots.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Upper Truckee Marsh of South Lake Tahoe

The Upper Truckee Marsh of South Lake Tahoe, California, is a small wetland area, located where Trout Creek and the Upper Truckee River flow into Lake Tahoe. The Truckee River continues from the northwest shore of the lake in Tahoe City via the Californian town of Truckee to Reno/Sparks and finally flows into Pyramid Lake, Nevada.

There are no designated trails, but narrow trails can be found in parts of the wetland and the surrounding forest belt.

The Upper Truckee Marsh ecosystem is managed by the California Tahoe Conservancy. Unique populations of plant and animal life in this fragile environment deserve to be protected by and for local residents and visitors.

Walking there, biking there
The Upper Truckee Marsh is located north of Lake-Tahoe Boulevard between Al Tahoe and Tahoe Keys. It is surrounded by patches of pine forest, a harbor and residential areas from where it can be accessed at different points such as the corner at which Macinaw Road, Springwood Drive and Rubicon Trail intersect. The South Lake Tahoe Bike Trail is passing by here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lam Watah Trail

The Lam Watah Trail is a short trail between Highway 50 in Stateline, Nevada, to the southeastern shores of Lake Tahoe. Starting at the trailhead on Kahle Drive, the trail crosses wetlands, continues along patches of pine forest, which contain interesting assemblies of boulders, and ends at the Nevada Beach Campground.

Next to the beach is a small enclosed area with the purpose of providing habitat for the bald eagle. Wintering eagles are feeding along the shoreline. Further, an endemic plant that only grows in the sand of Lake Tahoe's shoreline is protected here: the Tahoe yellow cress (Rorippa subumbellata), a plant of the mustard family (Brassicaceae). The CalPhotos Database has a nice collection of Rorippa subumbellata photos.

Getting there
The trailhead is located next to the intersection of Highway 50 and Kahle Drive, near the intersection of Highway 50 and the Kingsbury Grade Road 207. The trailhead is only a short walk away (towards the east) from the casino area in Stateline.