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!