Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Are there skiing petroglyphs in western North America?

How did skiing evolve? Humans have always been on the move. And through snow, they often moved by skiing—maybe. In various parts of Eurasia, including northern Europe, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia and China's Xingjiang Prefecture, wooden artifacts have been unearthed that are providing evidence of early ski design and use. Long before skiing became a winter sport, it probably was part of hunting adventures in the snowscape.

Shan Zhaojian, a Chinese ski historian, is convinced that China is the birthplace of skiing [1]. In the Chinese Altay Mountains skiing is an ancient culture. Mark Jenkins and Jonas Bendiksen have recently presented a ski chronology of archaeological discoveries, illustrating variations in ski crafting and adaption of design for terrain and snow conditions [2]. Early wooden skis typically had bottoms covered with fur. Besides the evidence derived by studying old skies preserved in bogs, researchers have recently found ski petroglyphs in Norway and China. Those petroglyphs clearly show skiers on their gliding boards [2]:

Within the Altay, a handful of petroglyphs have been discovered depicting archaic skiing scenes, including one of a human figure on skis chasing an ibex. Since petroglyphs are notoriously hard to date, it remains a controversial clue in the debate over where skiing was born. Chinese archaeologists contend it was carved 5,000 years ago. Others say it is probably only 3,000 years old. The oldest written record that alludes to skiing, a Chinese text, also points to the Altay but dates to the Western Han dynasty, which began in 206 B.C.

Since North America is rich in rock art and petroglyphs—take, as examples, the Lagomarsino and Thomas Creek sites next to mountain regions with winter snow—one may wonder if not-yet-discovered petroglyphs with skiing scenes exist that record ancient American ski-using cultures. Until new evidence is found, American ski history will be taught to have originated from gold-rush miners traveling and racing on skis in the Sierra Nevada. In the 1860s skiers were competing around Eureka Peak in Plumas County, California, on longboards—12-foot Norwegian-style skis. They reached speeds of more than 80 mph on straight courses and used long ski poles carried between the legs as a brake [3].

Modern skiers chase for fun as well as gold, silver and bronze medailles. How many of them are aware that their sport has such deep roots in human history?

Keywords: history, anthropology, archaeology, hunting, winter activities, snowscape.

References and more to explore
[1]  Dale Atkins: China - Birthplace of SkiingRecco Professionals blog, February 28, 2011 [].
[2] Mark Jenkins and photographer Jonas Bendiksen: On the Trail with the First Skiers. National Geographic, December 2013, 224 (6), pp. 84-101 [].
[3] Plumas-Eureka State Park brochure:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Archeological discoveries around the Thomas Creek Trailhead southwest of Reno, Nevada

Archeological sites and artifacts, including petroglyphs, are an important legacy of the cultural heritage of the Washoe People and other Native Americans in what is now northern Nevada. An example is a petroglyph boulder that was discovered and removed by archeologists during the construction of the Thomas Creek Trailhead, also a trailhead of the Rim to Reno Trail (Rim2Reno), which—considered as Reno to Rim Trail (Reno2Rim) from this point—leads through the Thomas Creek Canyon uphill toward the Mt. Rose and Bronco Creek wilderness.

A picture of that unique, partially lichen-covered petroglyph boulder can be seen on the interpretive panel displayed within the picnic area of the trailhead. It shows a series of shallow parallel grooves on the left side and geometric images on the right side. The artistic carvings and creations at petroglyph localities are generally thought to have served or guided humans within a ceremonial context. But nothing is known for sure and the great diversity of shapes and symbols—like those at the Lagomarsino Petroglyph Site east of Reno/Sparks (north of Lockwood)—inspire all kinds of speculations.

The Thomas Creek panel has this to contribute to the Mysteries In Stone discussion:

What were the Washoe communicating on these ancient petroglyphs? Archeologists may never know. The carvings may be stylized representations of plants and animals, or perhaphs the images commemorate an important event or religious ceremony. Whatever the message, these petroglyphs show the Washoe's intimate understanding, close relationship, and respect for their natural environment.

Further, the panel summarizes the Washoe-Tahoe history under the title Signs Along The Way

For thousand of years, the Thomas Creek Canyon provided abundant plants and animals for the Washoe people as they traveled along a seasonal travel route to Da ow a ga, or Lake Tahoe, the center of their homeland. Traditionally, they spent summers fishing at the lake, then moved to lower elevation valleys during the colder months. The area surrounding Thomas Creek Trailhead was a well used food gathering and processing place.

Have a pleasant trip, respect the signs along the Thomas Creek way and enjoy your passages through quaking aspen groves.

Keywords: history, culture, anthropology, archeology, archaeology, interpretations.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thomas Creek Trail leading through a golden tunnel of quaking aspens

Quaking aspen trees often grow in communal groves near creeks or streams. Thomas Creek southwest of Reno, Nevada, is such an environment. Easily accessible, nature lovers and recreationists flock to the lower section of the Thomas Creek Trail to enjoy the yellow-golden stands of aspens during the early fall season. As part of the recently established Rim to Reno Trail (Rim2Reno, Reno2Rim, RtR), this single-track way follows the scenic creek upstream through a canyon and across hillsides toward RtR's upper portion to invite exploration of the Mount Rose Wilderness. As you hike and ascend, the shimmering aspen leaves might propel you on and make you forget the many miles you will face to reach the rim.

From various vista points you will see patches of brownish-yellow aspen groves within the forested creeks and valleys of the Carson Range. But walking right through an aspen grove, shedding its golden leaves in fall, is special: you won't see the light at the end of the tunnel—instead, you will see the light in the midst of the tunnel.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The first steps on the Rim to Reno Trail: from the Thomas Creek trailhead to the Dry Pond Trail

The Rim to Reno Trail is a long hiking trail traversing the Mount Rose Summit and Bronco Creek area in the Carson Range, from where it winds down toward Reno's suburbs. The upper portion of the Rim to Reno (Rim2Reno or simply RtR) trail shares its path with the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) to the Tamarack Waterfall and with the Mount Rose Trail—and then continues its scenic miles through the Mount Rose Wilderness west of Church Peak and Alpine Walk Peak before reaching the Thomas Creek canyon. If your goal is to hike up there—planning a Reno to Rim (Reno2Rim) adventure—the 1.5-mile-long section between the Thomas Creek Trailhead and the Reno2Rim/Dry Pond Trail junction are your boastful beginnings.

This section is a popular single-track trail alongside and across Thomas Creek, frequented by dog walkers, hikers, mountain bikers and equestrian users. Along this riparian trail through a forest of Jeffrey pines, white firs and quaking aspens you will hear the flowing waters of the creek competing with the sounds of fellow travelers and occasional motorized traffic using Thomas Creek Road alongside the opposite creek bank.

The trail post at the Reno2Rim/Dry Pond Trail junction (right-side picture) shows you the distance back to your starting point and the distance of three miles to the Whites Creek Trailhead, which can be reached from this junction by taking the route uphill and past the seasonally wet Dry Pond via Dry Pond Trail. The post doesn't tell you the hiking distance to the rim. It is at least seventeen miles, depending on whether you are going to take the North Loop or the South Loop Route. The map of the Rim to Reno Regional Trail System may help you to trace out your route and to prepare smartly, especially during the cold and snowy season.    

Getting to the Thomas Creek Trailhead
From U.S. Highway 395 south of Reno, exit onto the Mount Rose State Scenic Byway (State Route 431). Follow this four-lane highway westbound for four miles and turn right onto Timberline Drive, just before Highway 431 changes into a two-lane road. Proceed all the way to the end of the paved Timberline Drive to from where it continues as a dirt road. Take the bridge over Thomas Creek. There is a parking area to your left next to the river. Or continue straight forward for another 0.1 mile to get to the main parking area with restrooms, equestrian parking, picnic tables and a trailhead kiosk. See the map for trail details.

Keywords: Rim-to-Reno, Reno-to-Rim, Rim2Reno, Reno2Rim, trail network, access to Mt. Rose Wilderness area, Nevada.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The upper portion of the Rim to Reno Trail

The Rim to Reno Regional Trail System includes trails open for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding; while some sections are closed or not recommended for biking and equestrian use. The first four miles of the upper Rim to Reno (RtR) Trail are shared with other popular trails in the Carson Range between Slide Mountain, Tamarack Peak and Mount Rose: the 2.5-mile long RtR section to the Tamarack Waterfall shares its path with the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) and the Mount Rose Trail. At the waterfall, the TRT leaves the RtR to connect with the Brockway Summit via Relay Ridge and Peak and the Slab Cliffs.

Continuing on the RtR you will wander past willows and through low shrubs at Galena Creek Meadows' west side and enter the Mount Rose Wilderness after climbing the path through an open-forest canyon uphill to a ridge, which joins Mt. Rose with the Relay Peak Range. From the trail junction amid whitebark pines on the ridge saddle, the Mount Rose Trail further ascends to your right, whereas the RtR single-track trail winds downhill on the other side of the ridge into the valley of Bronco Creek between Mount Houghton and Church Peak. The trail post informs you, that the RtR continues on to the Thomas Creek Trailhead for another seventeen miles.

The RtR downhill path leads along switchbacks through coniferous forest, almost void of any understory. After about one mile you will pass various conglomerate boulders at the bottom of rugged rock walls on the left side of a meadow. Further downhill, the trail crosses Bronco Creek, next to a fork made by the confluence of two roaring branches. Then, the RtR approaches picturesque rock formations at the bottom of Church Peak (see left-side photo above). Here is where the Bronco Creek trail description in Mike White's hiking guide Afoot & Afield ends, by comparing this remote spot with the hustle and bustle of the Mt. Rose trail [1]:

Hundreds of weekenders may be struggling toward the summit of Mt. Rose along the much more popular Mt. Rose Trail. However, along Bronco Creek, your party should have the fun of the basin, where the rock faces of Church Peak and Mt. Rose provide a dramatic backdrop to the verdant grasses of the green meadow, despite the extremely poor condition of trails in this part of the Mt. Rose Wilderness.

Concerning the RtR route, the trail conditions in this part of the Mt. Rose Wilderness are excellent today. And if your condition is too, you may want to scale the “rock levee” that comes in sight after following the trail along the rock wall and talus slope.

Now, your descend to Reno is coming to an end for a while. You will begin your ascend along switchbacks through pine forest. Once you are leaving the switchbacks behind, the trail traverses open, west-facing slopes providing grand views of nearby Church Peak (top picture), the meadows downhill in the Bronco Creek valley (picture just above), and—across the creek—the slightly curved and ascending Relay Ridge. The Pacific Crest is shaping the western horizon. 

Miles and miles of the upper RtR portion are still ahead of you. The RtR trail leads over chaparral-like hillsides of mountain mahagony. The trail then bends westward, leading—again through forest—to a chain of rock outcrops, which are marked in the map by the 9730 ft pointer.  The well-graded trail passes by rock heaps and will finally get you to another vista point from which you can scan the landscape to the northwest, viewing over the Truckee river canyon and Verdi Range to the Boca and Stampede Reservoirs.

The RtR trail continues north for about two miles until it reaches the junction, at which you are free to select the shorter South Loop Route or the longer North Loop Route, both taking you downhill into the Thomas Creek canyon.   

The total RtR trail is not a typical day-hike trail. It is a great trail for backpackers in search of remote places. For outdoor enthusiasts enjoying alternate up- and downhill hiking with varying scenery, the upper portion of the RtR trail allows for exciting, individually designed out-and-back trips—leaving the crowd of Mt. Rose summit pilgrims behind. 

Getting there
Get to the Mount Rose Summit Trailhead at the Mount Rose State Scenic Byway (Highway 431) between Reno and Incline Village. My post Tamarack Peak Waterfall at Galena Creek's upper end summarizes the first 2.5 miles of the RtR trail as well as hiking options past the trail junction at the waterfall. Notice that certain distance values for trail sections given at signposts differ slightly from those given in the map.

Keywords: Rim-to-Reno, Reno-to-Rim, Rim2Reno, Reno2Rim, trail network, Bronco Creek, Mt. Rose Wilderness area, Nevada, solitude, attitude, altitude.

[1] Mike White: Afoot & Afield. Wilderness Press, Berkeley, California, 2nd printing 2008; pp. 250-251.

Monday, October 21, 2013

River Fork Ranch's West Fork Trail, Douglas County, Nevada

West Fork Carson River between Genoa and Muller Lane

Carson Valley's River Fork Ranch east of Genoa features two trails: the 0.7-mile-long East Brockliss Loop and the two-mile long (one way) West Fork Trail, both part of the Genoa Trail System. The West Fork Trail—open to foot and bicycle travel—follows the West Fork Carson River from the Nature Conservancy's Whit Hall Interpretive Center at Genoa Lane to Muller Lane further south.

The level trail leads through streamside habitat and ranch land. The river and patchwork of wetlands sustain residential and visiting birds such as marsh wrens, egrets, herons, hawks and eagles, just to name a few. The western pond turtle and the northern leopard frog also are calling the Carson River floodplains their home; as illustrated on a Nature Conservancy panel.

Along the trail you will find benches such as the one with the inscription In Loving Memory of William T. Downey “Signed and sealed to nature. Be it so.” A nice place to relax and to scan the mountain range with Freel, Jobs, Silver and Highland Peak. While you are bird watching, you may be watched b cows—happy cows of Nevada privileged to live on a preserve.

Getting to the West Fork Trail access points
A map of the Genoa Trail System, showing both access points, can be viewed or downloaded via the Maps menu of the Explore Reno-Tahoe Portal. Or see the section Getting to the River Fork Ranch in my previous East Brockliss Loop post, describing how to get to the north access point next to the interpretive center.
Getting to the south access point: from Genoa's Mormon Station State Park, drive south on Foothill Road for about three miles, turn left onto Muller Lane and find the trailhead gate after one mile on the left side of the road.

Friday, October 18, 2013

East Brockliss Loop trail at the River Fork Ranch east of Genoa

Leaf of common yarrow, planted at the River Fork Ranch east of Genoa
The River Fork Ranch is located at the biologically-diverse Great Basin/Sierra Nevada transition zone in the Carson Valley, where the West Fork Carson River and the East Fork Carson River merge and continue their meandering north-northeast flow as Carson River. The 805-acre working cattle ranch and nature preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy, is home to the Whit Hall Interpretive Center. The preserve includes interpretive displays and hiking and bicycling trails through ranch land—an alternative to the many slope and canyon trails of the Genoa Trail System.

The 0.7-mile-long East Brockliss Loop trail starts and ends at the Whit Hall building, next to which selected plants, such as common yarrow (Achillea millefolium, Asteraceae), are featured. A yarrow leaf is shown above. Interpretive panels around the building showcase a multitude of interesting topics: GeoExchange systems, photovoltaics (solar panels), Carson Valley floodplain, ranching heritage and wildlife protection.

Walking southwest from the Interpretive Center and enjoying the view of the Carson Range, you will get to the Partners in Conservation panel, saying: 

Conservation of the important wetlands, meadows and stream-side habitat that make up The Nature Conservancy's River Fork Ranch owes much to the vision and determination of Carson Valley ranchers Judy and Bill Sturgis and the support of the Timken-Sturgis Foundation.
Our shared goal is to ensure the health and survival of the natural world that sustains us all.

Next to the panel is a bench donated by the family of Charles and Kerstin Wolle on their 50th anniversary. You'll find more benches along the loop. The path leads over boardwalks in places of seasonally wet soil. At its junction with the West Fork Trail, you may want to continue south along the West Fork Carson River or return to Whit Hall right away. 

Getting to the River Fork Ranch
The East Brockliss Loop is part of the Genoa Trail System. A map can also be viewed or downloaded via the Maps menu of my Explore Reno-Tahoe Portal.
From Genoa's Mormon Station State Park, drive east on Genoa Lane for less than two miles and turn right at the River Fork Ranch sign onto the parking area. The Whit Hall building is west of the parking space and the trailhead for both the loop and the two-mile-long West Fork Trail (one way) is at its south side next to the river. A ranch's welcome board says that both the West Fork Trail and the East Brockliss Loop are open daily from dawn to dusk for bicycle and foot travel only. Dogs are not allowed on the preserve.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Discovery Trail: viewing Genoa from above

Carson Range slopes north of Genoa
The Discovery Trail is a 5.4-mile-long single-track trail going halfway around Genoa by traversing slopes and canyons of the Carson Range on the west side of this historic town in Nevada. The trail constitutes the upper portions of the 6.2-mile-long Eagle Ridge Loop and the 8.2-mile-long Genoa Loop of the Genoa Trail System.

The scenic Discovery Trail leads through U.S. Forest Land. The pine and fir forest opens along the trail for varying views of Genoa landmarks, the Carson Valley and the Pine Nut Mountains. The path—slightly going up and down between elevations of 5,000 and 6,000 feet—is well-graded in most of its sections.

Discovery Trail's north end is the Eagle Ridge Trail access point at 5,200 feet. For two miles, the Discovery Trail is part of the Eagle Ridge Loop, which integrates Eagle Ridge Road, a short section of Jacks Valley Road, Genoa's Centennial Drive and Snowshoe Lane as well as the lower two miles of the Sierra Canyon Trail into its circuit.  

Heading south on the Discovery Trail from the Eagle Ridge trail kiosk, you will get—after two miles—to the Sierra Canyon Trail, switchbacking up to the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) along a 7.6-mile-long ascend. Continuing on Discovery Trail for a 0.2 mile, you will reach its junction with the two-mile-long downhill portion of the Sierra Canyon Trail. Continuing further south from this junction via Schoolhouse Canyon to Genoa Canyon, you will reach the Genoa Waterfall. The Discovery Trail continues east for another 0.9 mile, from where switchbacks lead downhill through challenging terrain to the Genoa Canyon Trail access point at the end of Carson Street.  

Getting to the Eagle Ridge Trail Access
Genoa Trail System signpost at Eagle Ridge Trail Access, Douglas County, NevadaThe Discovery Trail is part of the Genoa Trail System. A map can also be viewed or downloaded via the Maps menu of my Explore Reno-Tahoe Portal.
From Genoa's Mormon Station State Park, drive north on Jacks Valley Road for about a mile and turn left onto Eagle Ridge Road. Follow this road uphill for another mile and turn left onto Timberline Road. Trailhead parking is found past the green water tank.
Coming from Carson City and driving south on Jacks Valley Road, you may want to turn right onto Adams Ranch Road and drive up to the water tank, which you can see in the Carson Range foothills, west of Jacks Valley Road.
Consult the previous posts on how to get to the Sierra Canyon and Genoa Canyon trail access points.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Genoa Waterfall in Genoa Canyon

Genoa Canyon is a short, V-shaped canyon in the Carson Range west of the historic town of Genoa, Douglas County, Nevada. The 2.9-mile-long trail from the end of Genoa's Carson Street to the Genoa Waterfall leads along slopes and across ridges through open forest of conifers, which turns into denser and mixed forest near the waterfall. As part of the Genoa Trail System, the Genoa Canyon Trail joins up with the Discovery Trail, connecting the waterfall with the Sierra Canyon Trail and scenic sites beyond (see map & more).

Genoa Canyon, Carson Range, Nevada
After passing the fenced Douglas County West Sierra Shadows Tank near the Carson Street trailhead, the trail follows the creek for a short distance. Then it continues along a chain of switchbacks for almost two miles. You will slowly ascend the north-facing slope of Genoa Canyon, while enjoying occasional views of Genoa and the meandering Carson River. The well-maintained trail provides for a pleasurable ascend through steep and fragile habitat, in which you always want to be alert of suddenly sliding gravel or rocks.

After leaving the challenging terrain, the Genoa Canyon Trail coincides with the Discovery Trail for about one mile. Along this trail portion between pines, firs and a few cedars, you need to cross a creek that comes down from the Kingsbury area. Now heading north-northeast, you will reach the serene Genoa Waterfall after less than a quarter-mile. Horsetail is thriving in the wet soil in front of the small waterfall. This is a refreshing place on hot summer days and a scenic spot inviting for a meditative rest.

The Discovery Trail continues north—traversing Schoolhouse Canyon and Sierra Canyon—to its north-end Eagle Ridge trail access point. In case you are returning to your access point on Carson Street, you certainly are not going to miss the sign with the following warnings:

Narrow Trail  Tight Switchbacks  Falling Rocks  Limited Sight Lines  Very Steep Drop-offs
BIKERS: Make sure brakes work! Ride slowly and wear a helmet.
EQUESTRIANS: Know the skill level of you and your horse!

Have a good ride! And don't cut the trail!    

Getting to the Genoa Canyon Trailhead
The trailhead kiosk for Genoa Canyon Trail access is located at the end of Carson Street in Genoa. From the junction of Genoa Lane with Jacks Valley Road and Foothill Road, drive south on Foothill Road or walk south on the paved Genoa Vista Trail for two blocks and turn right into Carson Street at the Orchard House corner. There is a small, tree-shaded parking area at the Carson Street dead-end. The single-track Genoa Canyon Trail is open to dog walkers, hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. A trip out to the waterfall and back adds up to about six miles.

Find more hiking & biking trails and exciting places at Explore Reno-Tahoe—for any skill level!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sierra Canyon Trail: from Genoa to Carson Range's Tahoe Rim

Carson Range & Valley view towards the Jobs Peak Ranch Trail area

The Sierra Canyon is a roughly V-shaped valley between Nevada's Town of Genoa and Genoa Peak in the Carson Range. A trail for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders leads through this canyon, connecting Genoa on the Carson Valley floor with the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) via a 9.6-mile-long single-track path—switchback by switchback (see map & more).

The first two miles from the Sierra Canyon trailhead kiosk, located at the end of Genoa's Snowshoe Lane, to the Discovery Trail junctions are a good warm-up. You'll reach the first junction after a 1.8-mile-climb, where you may decide to turn left and take the well-graded Discovery Trail for a scenic trip instead of scaling Sierra Canyon any further. Otherwise, you want to turn right and follow the 0.2-mile-section along which the Discovery Trail and the Sierra Canyon Trail share their paths. Then, at the rock outcrop, a sharp left-turn gets you onto the “final” 7.6-mile-long ascending stretch.

Most parts of the Sierra Canyon Trail are in shade or semi-shade. Leaving the Discovery Trail and starting the long climb, you will soon come along a few tiny waterfalls or seeps, depending on season, within a forest of pines, firs and cedars and a varying understory of manzanita and also mountain mahagony, snowberry and other bushes. Aspen, alder and willow trees grow close to the creek, which you can hear running to your left. As you climb the southeast-facing slope, the forest widens. Looking up the steep slope, you will appreciate the many well-planned switchbacks that make the elevation gain less exhausting to your body.

Eastward view along Sierra Canyon into Carson Valley

In the upper Sierra Canyon the switchback-stretches are getting longer. Some of the switchback-turns on the Carson Valley side make for nice vista points. As you continue over occasional talus slopes and pass by rock outcrops, such as the one in the top picture, you will reach the last two miles that are almost switchback-free. This east-west section along the southern slope of Genoa Peak features some trees of mountain juniper and several locations with great views of the Carson Valley and beyond (picture above).

Sierra Canyon Trail/TRT junction
You are going to cross two dirt roads, with allowance for motorized traffic, before you arrive at the junction of the Sierra Canyon Trail with the Tahoe Rim Trail in dense forest. No views of Lake Tahoe from this point. The signpost in the picture tells you the miles you managed and which you still have ahead to you while descending the same way you came up. You may have planned and arranged differently by considering  the other two options: continuing south along the TRT for 5.5 miles to the Kingsbury North Trailhead or continuing north for 6.7 miles to the Spooner Summit Trailhead.   
Getting to the Sierra Canyon Trailhead
The Sierra Canyon Trail is part of the Genoa Trail System. A map can also be viewed or downloaded via the Maps menu of my Explore Reno-Tahoe Portal.
From Genoa's Mormon Station State Park, drive north on Jacks Valley Road for about half a mile and turn left onto Centennial Drive. Follow this road, which turns into a gravel road and then bends right, to its junction with Snowshoe Lane. There you should find a sign saying “Sierra Canyon Trail Access Parking - Parking this side only” (see picture) on the right side of Centennial Drive, where shoulder parking space is provided. The trailhead kiosk for the Sierra Canyon Trail is found at the other end of Snowshoe Lane, a 0.2-mile-long road with no public parking at its dead-end!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Schiappacasse River Pathway, Reno, Nevada

Reno's bike-friendly Edgewater neighborhood
The Schiappacasse River Pathway is a small segment of the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway along the Truckee River. This recreational path underpasses Reno's South McCarran Boulevard between Crissie Caughlin Park and the adjacent Alum Creek neighborhood east of McCarran and the Edgewater neighborhood west of McCarran. Underneath the McCarran Blvd. Bridge you will find a metal plaque by the Regional Transportation Commission indicating 1989 as the year of the bridge completion.

The bridge is seen in the background of the picture on top. The right-side picture shows the Riverhaven Avenue/Edgewater Parkway junction, from where the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway continues westward by joining roads with motorized traffic. The next locations along the bikeway, having river access, are Dorostkar Park and Mayberry Park.

At the point where the Edgewater Parkway continues as the Schiapacasse path—open to bicycle and pedestrian traffic only—a sign is posted announcing  “City of Reno - Schiappacasse Park - Public River Access.” The “Schiappacasse Park” provides river access; most people, however, wouldn't recognize this as a park—especially, not those areas under the bridge span. But don't worry, nicely landscaped Crissie Caughlin Park with its George Vicari oak tree and Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park via the Alum Creek connector trail are close by. The junction of the latter with the Schiappacasse River Pathway is located between the McCarran Bridge and Crissie Caughlin Park.

Getting there
East side. Find the deadend of Idlewild Drive alongside Crissie Caughlin Park and the continuation of its bike lane as Schiappacasse River Pathway. Cross over the bridge with a sign saying “This area has been adopted by and is under the stewardship of the Reno Urban Forestry Commission.”
West side. From the intersection of South McCarran Boulevard and Mayberry Drive, go west on Mayberry Drive. After less than a quarter-mile turn right onto Edgewater Parkway and continue to its junction with Riverhaven Avenue.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Recreational and memorial lawn sites: Crissie Caughlin Park, Reno, Nevada

George Vicari pin oak
Crissie Caughlin Park is a stretch of green along the Truckee River. The park features picnic sites, a playground and a horseshoe pit. A pin oak (Quercus palustris) tree (right-side picture) in the park is dedicated to Sacramento-born George Vicari, co-owner of the La Fleur Flower Shop and lover of books and art (see obituary). A metal-on-rock inscription refers to George Vicari as ”A True Friend And Soul Mate.”

Crissie Caughlin Park makes its mark along the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway. West of the George Vicari tree and the horseshoe pit (view in top picture), the bicycle and pedestrian trail continues along the Truckee River: welcome to the Schiappacasse River Pathway. This paved path connects Crissie Caughling Park with Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park via the Alum Creek trail. It also connects with the neighborhood west of South McCarran Boulevard, where the bike path continues from the Riverhaven Avenue/Edgewater Parkway junction westward to Dorostkar Park and Mayberry Park, other small picnic parks with Truckee River access.

Getting there
From downtown Reno, drive south on South Virginia Street and turn right onto California Avenue. Stay on California all the way to its end and continue westward on Idlewild Drive. Alternately, drive west on West First Street and turn left onto Riverside Drive (at W. First St./Ralston Street junction). After crossings over the Truckee River bridge, turn right onto Idlewild Drive and follow it to its junction with California Avenue. Continue on Idlewild Drive. Before its deadend section, next to its junction with Riverberry Drive, you will find parking lots and restrooms on the right side along Crissie Caughlin Park.

Crissie Caughlin Park playground

Monday, September 23, 2013

Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park and adjacent ranch house parcel

Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park is a small neighborhood park at the intersection of South McCarran Boulevard and Mayberry Drive in Reno, Nevada. The Mayberry Landing Boutique Shopping Center (including a coffeeshop and a bakery), Gomm Elementary School and Roy Gomm School Park are found across S. McCarran Blvd. along the west side of the park. Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park is connected with Crissie Caughlin Park and the Truckee River trails via a northward path along Alum Creek, across Mayberry Drive. Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park is also connected with the Juniper Trails at Caughlin Ranch via the S. McCarran Blvd. underpass at its southwest corner.

Walking the paved trails of Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park and looking eastward over Alum Creek, you will spot an old ranch house. This is where Betsy Caughlin Donnelly, the park's namesake, was born on May 12, 1902. A panel at an interpretive park stop, subtitled “In Memory of a Generous Soul and True Nevadan,”  tells us that “she always wanted to keep some open land on the Ranch so that future generations of Nevadans could enjoy it along with the gently grazing cattle, as has been the case since 1900.” Maybe Betsy deserves the title of the first female open-space advocate of Nevada?

The open-space parcel that became Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park was donated in 1970 by Betsy to the Washoe County Parks Department. Today, it is a small landscape with a creek, lawns and adjacent orchard and pasture land within an urban setting. From the park lawns one can view the real open space of the Mount Peavine slopes and the Carson Range.

An interpretive panel in the park says that Betsy was a third generation Nevadan whose family influenced the shape and character of the local community over many years. The panel provides park visitors with interesting details on the history of the ranch house (seen above) and the surrounding ranch lands:

In 1874 the Caughlin Ranch [...] was purchased by Betsy Donnelly's grandparents, George and Betsi Andrews. In 1895 their daughter, Crissie married Australian born William Henry Caughlin, who was the sheriff of Washoe County for three terms. After marriage, at Crissie's insistence, he did not run for sheriff again. Crissie had been running the ranch alone since her brother's death in 1894, the result of a kick in the stomach by a horse on the ranch.

Betsy was the youngest of the four children of Crissie and William Henry Caughlin. She was born in the front room of the main ranch house, which was moved from Virginia City by wagon and the Virginia and Truckee Railroad in 1900. The family raised alfalfa, wheat and cattle on the ranch until 1918, at which time the ranch was leased to local ranchers.

Pastures within the park continue to be leased by local ranchers for ranching activities. The ranch house remains in place as part of the private home parcel, which remains under family ownership.

The Caughlin Ranch attracted many notable historical personalities during its early years. Crissie Caughlin became friends with writers Mark Twain and Bret Harte. Cowboy poet and artist, Will James, worked at the ranch. Boxing legend, Jack Johnson, trained at the ranch for his heavyweight title bout with Jeffries in 1910. 

You may want to run your own training program in the park, work out on its lawns or sit on one of those benches in the park's southeast corner, reading or overlooking orchard and pasture. The latter is used for kite flying, when the winds are right. The picture below captures a northwest view from the park across Reno neighborhoods towards Mount Peavine.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Devastated Area Interpretive Trail in Lassen Volcanic

Old Giants: red dacit formed at Lassen_Peak 27,000 years ago

The Devastated Area Interpretive Trail in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, is a short, wheelchair-accessible loop trail with interpretive and audio exhibits that feature aftermath evidence of Lassen Peak's catastrophic eruptions in May of 1915. Businessman, photographer, and author, Benjamin F. Loomis—Lassen Park's Loomis Museum is named in memory of his daughter Mae—came to inspect this area after one eruption, when the next one was following. An on-site panel describes that event:
On May 22, 1915, seven men, including photographer B. F. Loomis, passed near here while inspecting the damage that followed Lassen Peak's May 19 eruption. They were astounded by what they saw, but could not suspect that the horrific scene would be repeated just hours later. Had they dallied they might not have survived, for Lassen Peak blew again at 4:45 p.m. that afternoon.

Black dacite
Large lava rocks blasted from Lassen crater and were carried for many miles by avalanches to finally rest as monuments throughout what became to be the Devastated Area. Rocks of the May 19 and May 22 eruptions are aligned at the interpretive exhibit with the title New Rocks, Old Rocksblack dacite, banded pumice and light dacite pumice. An older rock that formed during an eruption about 27,000 years ago is the red dacite. Another “old-rock” red dacite is the giant boulder at the Old Giants exhibit. It is shown in the top picture. The panel says that it formed 27,000 years ago, when Lassen Peak first erupted, and was torn from the volcano via avalanche caused by the May 19 eruption.

Other exhibits along the loop trail showcase the legacy of B. F. Loomis, who photo-chronicled Lassen Peak's eruptions and glowing lava rocks. Further exhibits illustrate the mixing and solidification of basalt-injected dacite lava and the fracturing of cooling rocks into jigsaw-puzzle-like pieces.

Light dacite_pumice
If you are interest in rocks that have been shaped and altered by geothermal activity, you can find examples inside the Loomis Museum. A wall exhibit displays various specimen including Bumpass Hell sulfurous andesite, Sulfur Works quartz-pyrite pseudomorph, weathered Chaos Crags dacite and alunite-dusted clay.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cragsglow south of Manzanita Lake in Lassen Volcanic

Lassen Volcanic National Park's landscape has been a stage for glowing rocks during several episodes in its geological past.  According to an interpretive panel along the Devastated Area Trail, glowing lava rock was ejected from the crater of  Lassen Peak during the most recent eruptions (1914-1917) of this plug dome volcano. Rolled-down rocks—hot to touch—were captured by photographer Benjamin F. Loomis during that time.

The photo above captures the north-facing side of Chaos Crags during sunset, seen from Manzanita Lake on Sunday, September 1, 2013. This cold-rock glow, let's call it cragsglow, is the Lassen Volcanic version of alpenglow (after the German word Alpenglühen). The avalanche slopes of Chaos Crags are accessible via a half-day hike along Chaos Crags Trail to Chaos Crater, which takes you to a close-up experience with this wild rockfall terrain. Manzanita Lake is a somewhat safer place to view Chaos Crags; although this very lake is said to have been formed by damming Manzanita Creek after a cataclysmic rock avalanche that happened about 300 years ago. Lassen Volcanic visitors certainly will pay respect to the unstable slopes of the Chaos Crags plug dome volcanoes, which will let loose again in future. Naturally illuminated during the evening of a peaceful day, they make a spectacular backdrop.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Chaos Crags Trail to Chaos Crater

Inspite of its name that suggests rugged terrain, most of Lassen Volcanic's Chaos Crags Trail is a well-maintained, single-track trail through open forest and manzanita brushland interspersed with boulders. The hike to the Chaos Crater consists of a moderate ascend up to its rim. Only from this open ridge, your final approach involves a downhill climb with uneven footing and possible rockfall. The crater bottom may seasonally turn into a crater pond referred to as “Crags Lake.”

Hikers often prefer to skip the final descend and, instead, rest on the rocks along the open rim, overviewing both the crater hole and the breathtaking scenery of the steep slopes and talus sites below the craggy mountaintops. Chaos Crags is prone to massive rock avalanches. The Chaos Jumbles area between today's Lassen Park Road and the Nobles Emigrants Trail have been estimated to be a result of an avalanche that happened about 300 years ago. That giant slide created Manzanita Lake by damming Manzanita Creek. In fact, all facilities at Manzanita Lake, including the Loomis Museum, were closed in the mid-1970s, when a recurrence of such an event was expected. Reopening began in the 1990s. [1-3].

The Chaos area is a potential hazard zone. Cold rock avalanches will be triggered by earthquakes. High-speed hot-rock avalanches can be expected during an eruption of Chaos Crags, which happened—so far for the last time—about 1,100 years ago [2,4].

Getting to the Chaos Crags trailhead
The trailhead is located next to the road leading to the Manzanita Lake Campground. You'll find the junction of this campground road with the Lassen Park Road just east of the Loomis Museum, less than a mile to the east of the northwest entrance station of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Follow the campground road for a short distance to where it curves back west. Find the small parking area to your left next to Manzanita Creek and in front of the trailhead sign. Do not confuse this trailhead with the one for the Manzanita Creek Trail, which is located at the beginning of the D loop within the campground. The Manzanita Creek Trail requires a two-mile hike to actually reach Manzanita Creek, while the Chaos Crags Trail starts out along roaring Manzanita Creek and then veers off northeast.

More about Lassen Volcanic, its trails and its history:

References and more to explore
[1] Lassen Volcanic National Park (5): Manzanita Lake [].
[2] USGS Volcano Hazards Program: Chaos Crags and Chaos Jumbles [].
[3] Tim I. Purdy: Lassen Volcanic. Lahontan Images, Susanville, California, 2009; pp. 186-190.
[4] USGS Volcano Hazards Program: Hazards [].

Friday, September 13, 2013

Kings Creek Cascades and Falls

Exploring Lassen Volcanic National Park by driving the Lassen Park Road from the Lassen Peak trailhead to Summit Lake, you are passing the Kings Creek picnic area and Upper Meadow before you will arrive at the Kings Creek trailhead, where only a few roadside parking lots are available that easily fill up on weekend days. Next to the stairs at the trailhead a panel introduces visitors to the Kings Creek Trails:

Beauty of the Earth abounds along this five-mile loop trail. And meadows, lakes, creeks, waterfalls, wildflowers, and wildlife offer much to contemplate. Kings Creek continues flowing from here, cascading down the mountain into Warner Valley and emptying into the larger Warner Creek. Kings Creek Falls, a 50-foot waterfall, is worth the 2.4-mile round-trip hike to reach it. Hikers wanting to complete the full-loop trail can make stops at Bench Lake, which is more a pond than a lake, and Sifford Lakes, a cluster of six lakes. The first lake in the Sifford cluster offers a chance for a midsummer dip. Backpackers or distance hikers can also use this trailhead to connect with Warner Valley trails, which offer several unusual hydrothermal feature destinations.

Lassen Volcanic definitely provides an astonishing trail network—as I eagerly have alluded to in my Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center post. The Kings Creek Trails are right in the middle of it. The map below will help you to integrate the mentioned five-mile loop into your hiking plan, including side trips to Bench Lake and the Sifford Lakes .

If you are mainly interested in waterfalls, the Kings Creek Falls trail is the one to hike. Not only is its destination a waterfall, but along the trail you will hear and overlook water cascading its way downcreek towards Warner Valley—as seen in the pictures above. Due to extremely hazardous hiking conditions, the short Cascades Foot Trail has been closed. But you'll find cataract vistas off the Horse Trail to the right. Descend this trail to the creek and follow the 0.2 mile path along Kings Creek with water spilling over rock steps at several points until you arrive at the overlook of Kings Creek Falls (upper right picture on my Lassen Volcanic overview page). 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lassen Peak Trail: from the Lassen Park Road to Lassen Peak Summit

Lassen Peak is a  plug dome volcano in Lassen Volcanic National Park, northeast California. Since the collapse of towering Mt. Tehama less than 10,000 years ago, Lassen Peak at Mt. Tehama's northern edge is the highest mountain in the area: a popular destination for day-hike mountaineers. 

The well-maintained, 2.5-mile-long Lassen Peak Trail is steep and rocky, ascending 2,000 feet from the parking lot at Lassen Park Road's high point (8,512 ft, 2594 m) into the thinner air around the summit (10,457 feet, 3187 m). The photo above shows the broad sandy path just north of the trailhead. You also can see the short-cut trail that thoughtless hikers blazed up the steep slope off the first switchback. The list of Know before you go recommendations posted at the trailhead reminds hikers to stay on the trail, since short-cutting scars the landscape and takes years to heal. The trailhead panel also summarizes Lassen Peak's history:

The five-mile round trip hike to Lassen Peak introduces you to the volcanic event that spoke to a nation. On May 30, 1914, Lassen Peak awoke from a 27,000-year-long slumber, blasting steam out of a newly formed summit vent. By the following May, some 180 steam explosions had left a wide crater in the mountain's top. At the time, Lassen was the only actively erupting volcano in the U.S., and the nation looked on with wonder. The climatic eruptions of May 19 and 22, 1915, swept clean forests, pastures, and homesteads in the valleys below Lassen Peak's northeast flank. And on August 9, 1916, Congress duly recognized the forces of nature by establishing Lassen Volcanic National Park for all time.

More detailed descriptions of Lassen Peak's past eruptions can be found elsewhere [1-3]. A series of small earthquake swarms beneath the peak's southwest flank occurred in 2009 [1]. Lassen's volcanic activity is periodically monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) measuring ground deformation and volcanic gas emission [2]. You probably did visit nearby geothermally active areas such as Bumpass Hell and already have an idea of the ground and subterranean structures you are walking on. As long as the Volcanic Alert Level is normal and the Aviation Color Code is green, park officials will leave the Lassen Peak Trail open. It is your responsibility to check weather conditions and decide whether you feel safe to go.

Lassen Peak has a few permanent snowfields, which can be spotted on its upper northeast-facing slopes in the picture below. Early in the season you should expect the trail be covered by patches of ice and snow. When climbing along the summit ridge you will notice that there are two summits. After reaching the false summit, scale the real one and enjoy the magnificent view [4]:

To reach the actual summit, climb down into the saddle, cross the snowfield, and ascend the talus on the northern rim of the crater. The views of Mount Shasta to the northwest, and the Devastated Area on the northwest-facing slopes [what about the northeast-facing slopes?] of Lassen, are best from here. The white cone of the radio tower is the single sign of human influence on the summit; the lookout pictured on the interpretive sign is long gone. It's you, the wind, and the views, and it is wonderful.

References and more to explore
[1] USGS Volcano Information: Lassen Volcanic Center [].
[2] National Park Service: The Eruption of Lassen Peak [].
[3] Malin Space Science Systems: The May 1915 Eruptions of Lassen Peak, California, I: Characteristics of Events Occuring May 19 [].
[4] Tracy Salcedo-Chourré: Hiking Lassen Volcanic Park. Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, Connecticut, 2001; pp. 42-46.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bumpass Hell Trail: traversing between Bumpass Mountain and Little Hot Springs Valley towards Lassen's hot spots

The 1.5-mile-long Bumpass Hell Trail in Lassen Volcanic National Park connects its trailhead parking lot at the Lassen Park Road and nearby Lake Helen with Bumpass Hell. This is a boardwalk-accessible hydrothermal area of hot springs, steam vents and mudpots occupying the old eroded vent of a dormant dome volcano—Bumpass Mountain, whose present peak can be seen half a mile north.

The first half of the trail is a well-graded path east of Little Hot Springs Valley. This section with a  negligible elevation gain of 200 feet takes you to a saddle with a west-side overlook offering views of Mt. Conard, Diamond Peak, Brokeoff Mountain, Mount Diller and Pilot Pinnacle. An interpretive panorama panel puts the current landscape geologically into context with once towering Mt. Tehama—before it collapsed and present day Lassen Peak, a plug dome volcano, took over its landmark role.

The second half of the Bumpass Hell Trail leads over the saddle and downhill into the hydrothermal area to the east of the saddle. Along this section you'll find an interpretive panel introducing the area's namesake: ill-fated cowboy-prospector Kendall Vanhook Bumpass (1809-1885). Descending further, you'll come to a junction, at which the boardwalk over the brittle crust of the geothermal field starts, while along its south margin a hiking trail continues to Cold Boiling Lake (1.9 mi, 3.0 km), Crumbaugh Lake (2.4 mi, 3.8 km) and Kings Creek Picnic Area (2.5 mi, 4.0 km). From Crumbaugh Lake, you can continue west to Mill Creek Falls and the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at Lassen Volcanic's southwest entrance.

If you don't mind whiffs of rotten-egg smell and an occasional breeze of hot steam from a fumarole, you may want to stroll along the educational boardwalk and explore—close-up—the hydrothermal area, which Tracy Salcedo-Chourré described as follows [1]:

Bumpass Hell's evocative name suits it perfectly. Like its moniker, this geothermal area is a combination of the whimsical and the ominous. Fantastically colored superheated water swirls and bubbles in large pools, and burping mudpots are endlessly entertaining, but columns of hot steam and the wickedly rotten scent of volcanic gases (not to mention the numerous warning signs posted alongside boardwalks) are vivid reminders of the violence of the area.

You probably recognized one of those entertaining mudpots in the photo above. Along the boardwalk interpretive panels explain the working of other hydrothermal features including the Big Boiler, a fumarole with steam temperatures as high as 322 F (161 °C), the Boiling Pool with bacteria living in its hot acid-sulfate water, and the Pyrite Pools with black scum—a frothy mass containing tiny crystals of the iron-sulfide mineral pyrite—floating on its surface. Yellow sulfur and white-yellow sulfate salts are found scattered all over the thin crust surrounding the pools and holes. At the end of the boardwalk you'll arrive at the turquoise pool shown below. Here, the less heated ground and cooler water allow for the growth of plants including mountain heather and bog-laurel.

[1] Tracy Salcedo-Chourré: Hiking Lassen Volcanic Park. Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, Connecticut, 2001; page 40.