Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Orange lichen and juniper berries along the Bailey Canyon Creek Trail, Virginia Range, Nevada

The hills and mountain ranges surrounding Truckee Meadows (Reno/Sparks) appear monotonously yellow-gray at this time of the year, especially without any lasting snow cover. Yet, displays of color can be found by hiking into nearby valleys and creeks. A variety of colorful lichen, mosses and pale-blue juniper berries dot the base and slopes of Bailey Canyon. This canyon is located in the Virginia Range southeast of Reno between Steamboat Creek/Pleasant Valley and Virginia City. The limited floor of the canyon, which exhibits a V-shaped cross-section, is a dry wash (weather-related exceptions apply). Currently, a few frozen water puddles are present and provide a hint that occasionally water is flowing through. The narrow trail frequently crisscrosses the stream bed. The orange lichen was seen at the bottom of a rock amid the stream bed. The canyon slopes feature outcroppings of rock composites and pinyon-juniper forest. The juniper brushes show an abundance of berries, reflecting in the sunshine. The juniper berries have the size of blueberries, but taste bitter and are not true berries: they are the seed cones of these coniferous plants. Bailey Canyon, a Nevadan Nature Trail!

Getting there 
From South Virginia Street at the Summit Sierra Shopping Mall take Virginia City HWY (Route 341) and, after half a mile, turn right on Toll Road. Follow this road until the pavement ends and find parking (see TopoZone and Bailey_Canyon - Washoe,Nevada maps). Unfortunately, there is no trailhead. Walk south on the dirt road until you arrive at some horse stables. Try to find a path to the right, cross the creek and find yourself on the trail. Although the beginning no-trailhead and no-signpost experience may feel discouraging, the trail now becomes clearly visible and closely follows the canyon bed. No beginning, no end? Based on some local maps, I am assuming that the trail will eventually connect with the Washoe and Virginia Road and Ophir (Jumbo) Grade, taking you either (if turning west) to the eastern shore of Washoe Lake or (if turning east and climbing uphill) to Virginia City and Gold Hill. I still have to give it a try.

No comments: