Monday, September 27, 2010

Boca Cemetery Loop Trail

The Boca Cemetry Trail is a short interpretive trail, located south of the Boca Reservoir at the mouth of the Truckee River and the Little Truckee River in the Sierra Nevada in California. The name Boca (Spanish for mouth) is derived from this junction feature. Here, the town of Boca was established during the Comstock mining days.

Photographs on the display boards along the trail show the Boca Hotel, Boca Brewery and a residential area of the former town. Very few remains are left. The trail loops around some head stones of Boca's graveyard. Odd relics are hiding between rabbit brushes. On my last visit, one rusty and compressed bucket gave off strange noises, indicating that something was active inside. Maybe a lizard? I didn't want to find out.

Whereas other ghost town cemeteries of the west, such as the Rose Hill Cemetery between the Nortonville and Somersville townsites north of Mount Diablo, are accessible and visible all year round, the old Boca cemetery is covered by snow for a variable number of month each winter and spring. There is always a good chance that the first snow storm of the winter season will arrive on an October day before Halloween.

Getting there, getting around
Between Truckee and Reno on Highway I-80, take the Hirschdale/Boca-Stampede exit. Drive north in Boca Reservoir direction. Cross the Truckee river and continue between river and railroad tracks. After crossing the railroad tracks, you'll see the trailhead sign and parking area to your right. The trail is paved and wheel chair accessible. There are two benches and various interpretive boards along the trail.

Reference and more on Boca's history
Boca Cemetery Resoration Project, May 29, 2004.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chipmunks and golden-mantled ground squirrels on and around Mount Tallac

Chipmunks are a common sight along trails in the Lake Tahoe and Mt. Tallac area, including the trail from Cathedral Lake to the top of Mt. Tallac. Since nearby D. L. Bliss State Park on the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe is considered “the chipmunk capital of the world ”[1]—a moniker which only chipmunks understand—, it should come as no surprise that one encounters so many representatives of the squirrel family in these places during a summer hike. Chipmunks and squirrels are very similar. Especially the golden-mantled ground squirrel (Spermophilus lateralis) resembles an oversize chipmunk [2] and is often mistaken for one. All the squirrel species like to eat seeds, nuts, berries and insects as well as trail mix or cookie crumbles that hikers drop or leave behind. The golden-mantled ground squirrel differs from a chipmunk in not having facial stripes. It has one white stripe on each body side, which is bordered by an upper and lower black stripe. The curious little mammal in the picture, one of so many recently seen jumping the rocks and cracks of the Mt. Tallac peakscape, should be a golden-mantled ground squirrel, based on stripe counting. Whether chipmunk or squirrel, they were all cute and attracted the attention of hikers, who foremost climbed to this spot for the vistas of the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe.

References and further reading
[1] Tom Stienstra:
California WildlifeA Practical Guide. Avalon Travel Publishing, Inc., Eneryville, California, USA, 2000.
[2] Peter Alden and Fred Heath:
Field Guide to California. Chanticleer Press, Inc., New York, 1998.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

View of Desolation Valley and Crystal Range from Mount Tallac

Mt. Tallac, with an elevation of above 9,700 feet, is a dominant Sierra Nevada mountain peak and part of the magnificent scenery that surrounds Lake Tahoe. It is located on the Californian side of the lake, south of Emerald Bay. From the Mt. Tallac Trailhead the mountaintop is about 5 hiking miles away. After some initial climbing, the trail first follows the crest of a morainal ridge with views of Fallen Leaf Lake and continues on to Floating Island Lake and Cathedral Lake. From there, it takes another 2.5 miles of hiking and climbing to the top. The trail goes through open forest, shrub-covered terrain and over rocky slopes. Watch your steps over the rough rocks near the top before you start taking in the 360° panorama view including Lake Tahoe and the peaks of the Carson Range. The view to the west (see picture) crosses Desolation Valley with its many lakes towards the Crystal Range.

Reference and further reading
Mt. Tallac” on pages 166 and 167 in Mike White's hiking guide Afoot & Afield • Reno-Tahoe • A comprehensive hiking guide. Wilderness Press, Berkeley, California, 2nd printing November 2008.

Gateway to Mt. Tallac: Cathedral Lake

Cathedral Lake is a small lake between Fallen Leaf Lake and Mt. Tallac in the Desolation Wilderness of the Sierra Nevada in California. Cathedral Lake is located about half a mile south of Floating Island Lake. If your hiking route to the top of Mt. Tallac starts near Fallen Leaf Lake, either at the Mt. Tallac Trailhead parking lot (see Between Mount Tallac and Fallen Leaf Lake) or at the Fallen Leaf Tract of summer homes, Cathedral Lake is on your way and will make a nice resting place before you leave the dense forest and begin the ascend over shrub-covered and rocky slopes.

Reference and further reading
Floating Island & Cathedral Lakes” on pages 165 and 166 in Mike White's hiking guide Afoot & Afield • Reno-Tahoe • A comprehensive hiking guide. Wilderness Press, Berkeley, California, 2nd printing November 2008.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Floating Island Lake west of Fallen Leaf Lake

Floating Island Lake is a small lake between Mount Tallac and Fallen Leaf Lake. Mt. Tallac can be seen towering in the lake background as well as a reflection on the surface of the lake, which is surrounded by fir forest. Floating Island Lake is about 1.25 miles south from the Mt. Tallac Trailhead northwest of the Fallen Leaf Lake.
The Floating Island Lake Trail goes along the east-side shoreline of the lake. It connects the Mt. Tallac Trailhead with the intersection at which another trail arrives from the southern end of Fallen Leaf Lake. From this intersection, Cathedral Lake is only a few hiking minutes away.