Friday, October 28, 2011

Curls and spirals: curl-leaf mountain mahogany in the Mt. Rose Wilderness

These curls and spirals belong to a curl-leaf mountain mahogany shrub in the Mt. Rose Wilderness, southeast of Reno, Nevada. Near the intersection at the dry rocky ridge where the side-trip trail to Church Pond intersects with the Jone-Whites-Loop-Trail, an assembly of small trees of this ever-green can be found. Curl-leaf mountain mahogany is native to areas between the Pacific Coast to the Rocky Mountains in North America, typically at elevations between 4,000 to 9,000 feet [1-4]. A few plants can be found in the Wilbur D. May Arboretum in Reno. There, the species identification sign tells us that the dense mahogany wood will not float in water.

Heavy wood, fluffy fruits: the long, white, hairy tails that curl up in all kinds of shapes are the fruits, which can be admired during fall season. These twisted hairy tails come off easily and as you look around the shrub you can find surrounding soil and rocks covered with them.

Curl-leaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) is a species of the rose family (Rosaceae). The leaves are lanceolate and their edges sometimes curl under. A shrub of curls, indeed!

References and further reading
[1] Cercocarpus ledifolius Nutt. - curl-leaf mountain mahogany:

[2] Curlleaf- Mountain-mahogany:
[3]Cercocarpus ledifolius:
[4] Peter Alden and Fred Heath: Field Guide to California. National Audubon Society, Chanticleer Press, 1998; page 127.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Nevada Stateline-to-Stateline Bikeway Project

The future Nevada Stateline-to-Stateline Bikeway will encompass about 30 miles between the Nevada State Line in Crystal Bay of northern Lake Tahoe and the Lam-Watah-Trail to the east of the casino quarter in Stateline at the southeast corner of the Lake. The Nevada Stateline-To-Stateline Bikeway Project website is reaching out to the public for participation in the planning and design process. The public is invited to provide comments. Support and funding of the bikeway is encouraged by involving local (Washoe County), state and federal agencies, advocacy and interest groups and the community, including the Washoe tribal community. Today's article with the title Tahoe bikeway gaining momentum by Suan Voyles in the Reno Gazette-Journal is supplemented by a bikeway map, showing the first segments to be build next year: the South demonstration project north of Stateline and the North demonstration project south of Incline Village.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A loop around Porcupine Hill

Porcupine Hill is located east of the Martis Creek Wildlife Area. The loop is part of the Northstar Resort trail system between Truckee and the Tahoe Rim Trail at Brockway Summit. From the Martis Valley Parking Area (see trailhead direction for Martis Creek Trail), a 0.8 mile walk takes you along Middle Martis Creek, across Frank's Fish Bridge, to Gumba's Crossings. Instead of continuing the loop around the meadow, you'll walk the Tompkins Memorial Trail (TMT) between a golf course and Highway 267. Passing the huge  “Northstar at Tahoe” sign, continue along the golf course boundary, turn right onto a dirt road and continue until you reach the intersection (see picture), which is the beginning and end of the 2.8 miles loop around porcupine hill. The loop trail sections are going parallel to and above of Route 267 for about 1.2 miles, parallel to Northstar Drive for 0.4 miles and on Lower Sawmill Road (no motorized traffic) for another 1.2 miles.

Map of the Martis Creek Wildlife Area and Northstar Community:

Martis Creek Trail

Martis Creek Trail is a short trail along Martis Creek, linking the Martis Valley Parking Area with other trails of the Martis Creek Wildlife Area southeast of Truckee in California. Martis Creek Trail crosses boggy habitat and, depending on season, you may get your feet wet, although small bridges are part of the trail. Some of them even have a name, for example, Blide Bros Bridge near the trailhead.  A panel informs that the period between May 1st and July 15th is prime bird nesting season, during which dog walking should be done on different trails. The Martis Creek Wildlife Area provides excellent habitat for breeding birds. 

Various other hiking options are available through the meadows and surrounding areas of sagebrush and light forest, including short connector trails of the Northstar Community and the Tompkins Memorial Trail.

Getting there
Martis Valley Parking Area is next to route 267 between Truckee and Kings Beach. Coming from Interstate 80 or Truckee and driving south on route 267, turn right at the  “Martic Creek Wildlife Area” sign (sharp turn) onto a dirt road. The gravel parking area with information panels is only a very short distance away from the turn-off.  

Map of the Martis Creek Wildlife Area and Northstar Community:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Red Hill Recreation, Reno, Washoe County, Nevada

 The Red Hill area north of Reno's Dandini Boulevard is a rocky desert featuring various desert plants and scenic places to overlook the Truckee Meadows and see mountain ranges beyond. If you have been to the Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) campus or the Desert Research Institute (DRI), you have been just south of the Red Hill. Panther Valley is bordering the Red Hill area to the west and Sun Valley to the east.

The National Park Service (NPS) is currently trying to shape a shared vision and conceptual plan for the Red Hill area through community engagement [1]. Washoe County residents are asked to provide their input and ideas on the future use of the Red Hill open space area [2]: This survey allows you to rank the importance—in your mind and life—of hiking and biking trails, equestrian use, restoration and nature projects (bird and wildlife watching), outdoor class room, viewing areas (Reno watching) and picnic tables. Don't miss this chance to leave your electronic footprint.

The Red Hill area should become a recreational hot spot, connecting Sparks and Reno communities with the future Sun Valley Rim Trail and the larger trail network system above and around Truckee Meadows.

References and details
[1] Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program - Pacific West Region. 4. Red Hill Recreation:
[2] Staff report in the Reno Gazette-Journal Sunday, October 9, 2011, page 3D: Weigh in on Red Hill's future.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

An urban adventure destination in Reno, Nevada: a 164-foot-high climbing wall

The biggest little city of the world has a new hot spot: a 164-foot upwall climbing “arena” at the CommRow, which officially opened on October 1st, 2011 [1]. The east-facing climbing wall decorates the remodeled facade of the former Fitzgeralds Casino & Hotel on North Virginia Street between Second Street and Commercial Row in Downtown Reno [2,3]. And it is not just ornamental, it's a challenge. In addition to the outdoor facilities, rock & wall sports enthusiasts will find climbing complexes indoors. If weather conditions in the Sierra Nevada are not right for your climbing plans, they might be at the CommRow skyscraper. What about a training session to get ready for your next or first abseiling adventure?

Further resources
[1] Grand Opening October 1st, 2011 - Reno's First Urban Adventure Destination: (with map).
[2] CommRow:
[3] See the wall at the Fitzgeralds Casino & Hotel before it became a climbing site:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tahoe Meadows Loop Trail System

Tahoe Meadows is rich in loop trails. The Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Loop Trail is a nature trail in the northern section of Tahoe Meadows. In the south, next to the upper trailhead of Ophir Creek Trail, there are three more loops, completing the Tahoe Meadows Loop Trail System. They are named Lower, Middle and Upper Loop. Their lengths are 0.8 mi, 2.3 mi and 3.0 mi, and their typical grades are given as 3.5%, 5.2% and 5.7%, respectively. These loop trails are mutually sharing trail sections with each other and also with the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) and Ophir Creek Trail, which descends to Davis Creek County Park. The loop trails take you in and out of the shade of the pine forest along Tahoe Meadow's southern fringes. Some parts are limited to hiking and dog walking. Others are open to mountain bikers and equestrians. Through the meadowland, signs remind you to stay on the trail, since the creek and meadow area is closed to protect natural and cultural resources. And having so many trail choices, there really is no need to trample one's own trail.

Getting there
Follow the directions to the Tahoe Meadows Trailhead. From there, instead of going east to the interpretive loop, hike the TRT in opposite direction. For a short distance, TRT almost merges with State Route 431, but then veers off to the left. Very soon you'll reach a bridge over Ophir Creek, where the Lower, Middle and Upper Loop Trails intersect and you are going to start your looping experiences.

Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Loop Trail

The Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Loop Trail is located near Mt. Rose Summit southwest of Slide Mountain between Reno and Incline Village in Nevada. It is referred to as Tahoe Meadows Nature Trail in Mike White's hiking guide Afoot & Afield (Trip 15, pages 260/1). This well maintained trail (wheelchair accessible) is a 1.2 mile loop, part of it on the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT). The trail wanders through pine forests and on bridges and boardwalks over sensitive, marshy meadowland. 

The Tahoe Meadows and nearby areas are good sites to watch birds such as the red-tailed hawk, mountain bluebird and Clark's nutcracker. The local wildlife is explained on interpretive panels along the loop trail. Beautiful wildflowers such as meadow penstamon, monkeyflower, elephant head and shooting star can be discovered on this alpine meadow. And there is more to discover, which you need to interpret yourself.

In winter and early spring, Tahoe Meadows is a popular place for snow shoeing, cross-country skiing and paraskiing

Getting there
You'll find the Tahoe Meadows Trailhead about half a mile southwest from the Mt. Rose Summit parking area along State Route 431 (Mt. Rose Highway). Trailhead and loop trail are south of the highway. The TRT passes right through the parking lot, parallel to the highway. The loop starts about 0.1 mile east of this trailhead. Alternately, you can access the loop by parking at the Summit trailhead, cross the highway there and walk south on the TRT.

References and related websites
[1] Trail Information - Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Loop Trail:
[2] Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Trail (Tahoe Rim Trail):
[3] Weekend Hike - Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Trail:
[4] EveryTrail - Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Loop:
[5] Lahontan Audubon Society - Tahoe Meadows and Upper Ophir Creek: