Celebration in the Rubies

A couple of weeks ago we took a weekend trip to our nearest “city”, Elko. It is a three hour drive to get to Elko and it’s population is less than 20, 000 people (yep, our town is pretty remote). Our reason for going was pretty important, though. We adopted our son almost two years ago from the Democratic Republic of Congo and he just now officially became a U.S. citizen. We had to travel to Elko to meet with an USCIS officer to pick up his Certificate of Citizenship (Yay!!). We technically could have done it in a day trip, but we took advantage of the opportunity to visit an area we hadn’t seen before- the Ruby Mountains.

The Ruby Mountains got their name when an early explorer found garnet in them and wrongly assumed they were rubies. While the mountain range may be lacking in precious gems, it is most definitely not lacking in beauty.

On our drive to Elko we took a side trip to visit Angel Lake, the only lake in these mountains that can be reached via paved road. Unfortunately, we got there right as the sun was setting behind the mountains. Even though we ended up experiencing the place in the shade and the temperature started to quickly drop, it was still a beautiful sight. It is also a good thing that we went as Angel Lake ended up being the only lake we saw on the trip (spoiler alert).

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The following day we took a breathtaking drive through Lamoille Canyon. We earnestly scanned the mountain slopes for mountain goats and bighorn sheep, but never saw any.

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We reached the end of the road, had a picnic lunch by a pretty creek, and then set out on our hike to Lamoille Lake. The beginning of the trail took us through this cool rocky valley. We headed out into it for a while, mesmerized by the scenery, until we realized we weren’t really on a trail anymore. We backtracked a couple times until we discovered that we were supposed to cross a creek near the beginning of the trail. We lost some time and energy, but we finally found the right way….and that is also when things got tricky.

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The aspen leaves were long gone (which was a shame since there were so many of them). All we had were these red stick plants to add a nice pop of autumn color.

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Just taking a breather on one of our many rest breaks. At least we had a nice sunny rock to sit on this time.

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The Ruby Mountains are the wettest mountain range in Nevada and we soon found how their conditions differed from the mountains in our neck of the woods.

The trail started out at around 9,000 feet and went steadily uphill from there. There was patchy snow from the very beginning, but the patches became increasingly larger and the trail became increasingly steeper. It wasn’t supposed to be that long of a hike, but after over two hours of slogging uphill in the slippery snow and ice, there was still no lake in sight.

At one point Matt was helping me through an especially treacherous section. My feet lost all traction on the slick, melting snow and they slid out from underneath me. If Matt wasn’t holding onto my arms, I would have slid all the way down the trail. I don’t know how, but we managed to get to the side of the trail where there was a snow- free patch and I was finally able to stand upright again. We hiked uphill a bit farther, but my nerves were shot and I eventually admitted my defeat. I was a bit bummed to give up my chance of seeing Lamoille Lake, but it was not like we did not see gorgeous scenery the entire way. So we rested and then started our slip- and- slide descent off the mountain.

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Even though we didn’t reach our destination, we still ventured farther than most people. The parking lot was full of sight- seers, but most of them just strolled through the sunny and warm rocky meadow. We saw hardly anyone anywhere on the trail. (Maybe they were wiser than us, but we had ourselves an adventure!)

All in all we had a great weekend exploring a new area of our state and celebrating our family and Roland’s new citizen status. We fell in love with the rugged beauty of the Ruby Mountains and we definitely want to visit them again (but maybe not quite so late in the season).

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“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature…We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.” 

~Henry David Thoreau

A Perfect Day

It is not often that a perfect day comes around. A day when nobody is sick and everybody is in a good mood, the weather is pleasant and the views are beautiful, and there are no little stressful hiccups along the way. A couple weeks ago we were fortunate enough to have one such day.

When we had our September snowfall, we assumed we missed our chance of going to Great Basin National Park for one last autumn hike. However, a stretch of warm weather melted the snow and opened the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive back up again. We were a little hesitant to go because the snow on the Bristlecone trail on our visit back in June made our hike pretty difficult. This time we tried out the Alpine Lakes trail and we were pleasantly surprised to find that the snow was almost entirely melted (even at 10, 400 feet!).

At the lower elevations of the park road, the aspens were dazzling in their yellow autumn leaves, but as we drove up higher the trees were past their peak and had already begun to lose their leaves. It was interesting to see the seasons change as we gained thousands of feet in elevation.

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The weather was wonderful as we headed out on the Alpine Lakes trail: sunny and hovering right around 60 degrees. It wasn’t a difficult hike, but I could definitely feel the high altitude as we hiked uphill to Stella Lake and Teresa Lake. They were both petite in size (one barely more than a pond), but they were surrounded by grand, snow- covered peaks, creating the most picturesque of settings. It was pure bliss to set myself down on a rock, bask in the sunshine, breathe in the cool air and take in all the beauty surrounding me.

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Roland’s moods are usually the limiting factor on the enjoyment level of our hikes. His whininess and grumpiness can spoil even the most grand of hikes. However, on this day, not one whine came out of him. He kept up with us without a fuss and he was in a happy mood the whole day. Even when he fell down, he cried for just a minute or two and then he was able to move on and get back to enjoying himself, which is no small feat for him.

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If you have met our son, you know he is not a quiet child. There is always some sort of sound coming out of his mouth, whether it is words, songs, or just senseless noises. On our hike back down from the lakes in the darkening woods, I noticed it was perfectly quiet. I turned around and saw Roland was just walking along, playing with a couple sticks AND WASN’T MAKING ANY NOISE! It may not sound like much, but being able to enjoy the quiet serenity of the woods is not something that happens often when you have a kid like mine.

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I soaked it all in and marveled at how everything came together to create a perfect day. Days like that feel like a little sneak peak of what heaven might be like. In the midst of a string of ordinary days, sometimes God will give you a day that feels like a slice of heaven on earth and you can almost hear him whisper, “Don’t worry, there is an eternity of more days like that. Just wait.”

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“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”

~George Washington Carver

Daily Gratitude

There seems to be quite a bit of turmoil the past couple of months, with the forest fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and mass shootings. And of course there is the stuff that is always going on somewhere in the world, whether it is on the news or not: corrupt governments, civil unrest, poverty, orphans, disease, and war.

I feel very sheltered and safe living in my small town surrounded by these massive mountains. I know we could have natural disasters here, too, but we aren’t right now. In these times of relative peace I need to remember to be grateful EVERYDAY to God for my normal, day- to- day life. My life definitely does not feel luxurious, but I know it is a luxury to have the free time and the physical ability to go hiking and explore the great outdoors almost every weekend. Sometimes I feel a bit silly writing about my family’s hiking trips while there are so many bigger things happening in the world. Although, I think it is not a useless task to give glory to God for the good in my life and the beauty I see in nature, and that is what I hope I am doing with my blog.

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Last weekend we drove up to Success Summit to view the fall colors. Besides the trees in town, there are not any natural deciduous trees in the valley so we had to take a drive up into the mountains to get our yearly dose of fall foliage. It was a glorious autumn day, with groves of aspen ablaze in gold and amber splendor. Of course our colors can’t compete with the Midwest and East, but our colors come with a majestic mountain backdrop.

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The picture below is not the best, but I thought the golden strip of trees on the mountainside really stood out against the dark green pines and brown soil, creating an interesting design.

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Just taking in the gorgeous mountain and valley view, with a few trees just starting to get their yellow leaves sprinkled in.

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If you see a fallen tree while walking in the woods, and you are a little boy (or a big boy), you have to take the time to walk across it.

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Beautiful autumn. Thank God for days like this.

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My family right now is in a pretty good place. Of course things aren’t perfect. Some days my child’s poor behavior mystifies me. And we always seem to be short on money. And our dog just recently passed away. But that’s just normal life and I am grateful for it. I have lived enough life to know this period won’t last forever. We all have our seasons of strife and suffering. Whether you are having a regular stressful day or your whole life has just been turned upside down, remember you are not alone. God will never abandon you and He will see you through.

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Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Serendipity

On September 21 (the last official day of summer), we received our first snowfall. Talk about skipping a season. The several inches we received in the valley derailed our plans of going into the mountains to view some fall foliage the following weekend. The forecast was rain, snow and gloom in all directions from town, except for one. So we headed two hours west on “The Loneliest Highway in America” to the Hickison Petroglyphs Recreation Area.

On our 120 mile drive, we drove through numerous valleys and mountain passes. In the valleys we had pleasant, partly cloudy skies, but as we drove over every pass, the clouds became darker and heavier and looked like it could rain or snow at any moment. In fact, on the return trip, the road was wet over one pass and the temperature was right at freezing so we were a bit concerned about ice and, just outside of town, we did drive through a bit of snow. We were cutting it a bit close, weather- wise.

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When we arrived in Hickison, the sun was peeking in and out of the clouds so it alternated between chilly and pleasant and our layers went on and off throughout the afternoon. We must have chosen the wrong trail because we never saw any petroglyphs, but we did see some pretty awesome scenery.

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The landscape we hiked through was adorned with boulders, caves, alcoves and rock cliffs. We walked through this interesting rockscape for a couple miles until the land opened up into a rolling valley. The towering, snow- capped mountains on the other side of the valley seemed to float atop the Earth with the clouds. They were breathtaking.  The place reminded us of pictures we have seen of Mongolia. All that open space, fresh air and beautiful scenery filled my mind and body with the perfect mix of peace and energy.

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On our hike back we lost track of the trail we had been on. As the late afternoon autumn sun hung lower in the sky, we had to backtrack to the last trail marker we had seen (and we wondered why we did not pack a flashlight). By the time we found the main trail again, we were getting tired, but enjoyed the sun’s farewell glow on the surrounding rocks.

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The most notable part of the day was our wildlife sightings. Even with four hours spent in the car, I”d say we were pretty lucky with what we saw. On the drive out, we spotted a coyote scurrying near the roadside and also a couple of pronghorn farther afield. As we were driving back home through a vast valley in the evening, we spotted a mountain lion. Matt slammed on the brakes and pulled off to the side of the road. I hopped out of the car to get a better look and to try to take a picture. The mountain lion and I stared at each other for a second before she turned around and bolted, showing off her long, muscular body as she leaped through the sagebrush. It was an unusual sight to see her in a wide, open valley, but she was very near a herd of wild horses so I think the thought of having a foal for dinner is what lured her out of the mountains. This was my very first mountain lion sighting (even with all the years we lived in Idaho, I never saw one and Matt only saw one once). The experience was very exciting, but entirely too brief.

This was not the day I had planned, but I am so happy that the weather directed our route to Hickison. If the weather conditions had been different, I would have missed my first mountain lion sighting and all the beauty of this area. God’s serendipity planned a better day for us than I ever could have.

 

Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

From Mundane to Extraordinary

I have lived in seven different states scattered across this country, including all four corners and the middle. The first full year I live in a place is always the most intriguing. I love experiencing a new place as it transitions through the seasons: discovering what flowers bloom in the springtime, watching the water levels of rivers and lakes rise and drop, finding the best patches of fall foliage, and witnessing the first snow flakes fall from the sky.

I have lived in Nevada for 6 months and this is my first autumn in a Southwestern state. I know the area does not support many deciduous trees so I had low expectations for fall color. However, the sagebrush caught me by surprise. These usually mundane green- gray plants that cover our valleys and hillsides are now exploding with brilliant yellow blossoms.

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Sagebrush is prevalent throughout Nevada and it is, not surprisingly, the state’s flower. Driving hours through monotonous sagebrush valleys can make the plant seem ordinary and boring, but they are actually pretty fascinating. Sagebrush contains certain compounds that deter consumption from animals. Pronghorn are the only large herbivore that can tolerate substantial amounts of it. What is really interesting is the plants’ ability to communicate with each other. If one sagebrush plant is getting eaten, it will release chemicals to warn other nearby plants. Those plants will then increase their quantities of the repellent compounds.

Sagebrush isn’t good to eat (they are toxic to the liver and digestive system in humans), but the Native Americans still found them to be quite useful. It was used externally for many purposes, including preventing infections and relieving head aches and other body aches. There are not many resources available while living off the land in the desert, so if one plant surrounds you for hundreds of miles in every direction, I guess you are bound to find a use for it.

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I have driven through areas with sagebrush before moving here, but it must never have been during the early autumn. I am just loving these cheerful, abundant yellow flowers, glowing brightly in the sunshine against the big blue sky. They are the perfect welcoming committee for autumn and I am eager to experience all the nuances of this season in my new home.

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Maybe there is something to be learned from the lowly sagebrush. Something so common and so drab can, for a short time, become something beautiful. God created everything for a purpose, especially his children. We may feel depleted from the daily grind, feeling that we have nothing extraordinary to offer. Our spirits may feel akin to the sagebrush- a tumultuous mix of toxic and medicinal. However, never doubt that God has a plan for you. Even the sagebrush can provide soothing relief and a bit of cheer in a harsh world. We will all have our day in the sun, an opportunity to blossom and live out the purpose that God has called us for.

 

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

 

 

Kalamazoo

A series of unfortunate events has kept me away from my blog, but I am finally back from my unintentional hiatus. About a month ago I sprained my ankle pretty bad (not by doing anything fun, either- just carrying in the groceries). A week or so later our computer unexpectedly died on us. The following week we went on a quick weekend trip to Utah and I lost my camera. The three things I need for my blog (healthy legs, a computer, and a camera) all disappeared in a matter of weeks. My ankle is finally almost back to normal and we replaced the equipment so now I can get back to sharing about our little explorations.

Last weekend it was forecasted to be near 90 degrees in town so we decided to escape the heat in the mountains. We headed out to Kalamazoo Summit, which is in the same vicinity as Success Summit in the Humboldt- Toiyabe National Forest. After the pavement ended we continued on the pretty steep gravel road up to the summit, at an elevation of 8,950 feet. The sky was partly cloudy, there was a light breeze and the temperature was perfect for taking a hike.

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I know I say this about almost everywhere I go in Nevada, but the views were just amazing. At various points in the hike we had to stop and admire this granite monolith at different angles and as the sunshine reflected off of the different ridges.

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My favorite thing about the Kalamazoo Summit area (besides the fun- sounding name) was the abundance of red rocks scattered across the landscape. Much of the afternoon was overcast, but when the sun peaked out from behind the clouds, the crimson hue of the rocks brilliantly sprung to life.

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The hike became a bit rugged and I was taking my time to prevent re-injuring my ankle so we got a nice long look at this interesting hillside. (My eyes were fixed on the trail as we walked to make sure I wouldn’t trip on anything. Every few steps I glanced up and I saw the exact same view. That’s how slow I was going.) Along the slope of the mountain you can see strips of soil that are reddish and light green and we wondered what caused the different colorations. That is just one example of what makes this state so exciting. There is very little that is monotonous here- every mountain, rock, and even bit of soil has its own character to it.

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As we drove back down the mountain in the late afternoon we were lucky enough to spot some wildlife. We saw numerous mule deer throughout the day, but watching this pretty doe and her fawns quietly grazing was a special experience.

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We also enjoyed seeing this jackrabbit. The ears and hind legs on this animal are incredible. When he was moving and his legs were outstretched, he looked taller than I thought any rabbit could look. And those ears, just- wow!

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We thoroughly enjoyed our day out as a family, taking in all the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. I know you can find beauty anywhere, but there is something special about Nevada. The sparse, rugged landscape truly showcases God’s majesty and creativity. I feel fortunate to be able to call this little forgotten corner of the country my home.

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The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:19

Abandoned Dreams in the Sagebrush

On our latest outing we visited our first ghost town in Nevada. From Ely we traveled roughly 30 miles west on US 50, known as the “loneliest road in America”. We then left the pavement behind and traveled the rest of the way on dirt forest roads. Less than two miles from the highway we made our first stop and had a warm, but pleasant picnic at the picturesque Illipah Reservoir. We were surprised to not have the place to ourselves;  there was a fair amount of campers and fishermen also enjoying this small desert lake.

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After our picnic we continued on the dirt road another 10 miles as it wound its way up and around the mountainside until we reached the ghost town of Hamilton, sitting at an elevation of 8,000 feet. Along the way we passed many patches of these pretty white flowers, which, based on my best identification efforts, are desert poppies.

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There is not much left of Hamilton. It first became a town in 1868 when silver was found in the area. It was originally called Cave City because of the numerous natural caves in the area, some of which were used as shelters by early settlers.

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By 1869, the population swelled to 12,000 people. In it’s heyday, Hamilton boasted 200 different mining companies, 60 general stores, and almost 100 saloons. This remote town in the mountains was even the first county seat of White Pine County.

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Just one year later, it was discovered that the silver ore deposits were shallow. People abandoned their ambitions and fled their newly- created town. The population quickly dropped to less than 4,000. In 1873, a large fire swept through Hamilton and most of the businesses chose not to rebuild as the town was already dying.

Looking at the place now, it is hard to imagine that thousands of people once lived here. It was not an especially smooth drive getting to the town site today. I wonder what the access road was like in the 1800’s. Now all that is left to see are the crumbling remains of a very short- lived boom town nestled in the timeless sand and sagebrush.

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After driving by some of the ruins, we parked the car and set out for a little hike. The first several minutes were spent unintentionally chasing a sage grouse family down the trail. The mom and her babies didn’t like to fly and lacked the good sense to just move off the trail. I felt bad about wasting their energy, but we kept walking forward. They were moving pretty slow so we quickly gained on them and at the last moment they finally did some sort of awkward run/ fly combination and scattered into the sagebrush. Their moving abilities weren’t that impressive, so it is a good thing that their camouflage was spot on; you could hardly tell them apart from the sandy dirt.

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We followed the path for a while and then headed off- trail up to a rocky ridge. The view on the other side was, of course, more mountains.

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Did you know that Nevada is home to the largest number of wild horses in the country? We were fortunate enough to spot a herd of them grazing on the side of this mountain. The scene was perfection- the wild horses truly highlighting the wild beauty of the area.

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I just can’t get enough of the Nevada landscape. Over every mountain is another mountain or valley that is different from the last. There may be a cave or rock formation or interesting plant to discover. Then add in a bit of history and wildlife to the mix. This land is so rich and varied, there is no limit of what there is to explore.

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Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.
~John Muir

Family Traditions

We have been blessed to have family visiting with us over the past week. Matt and I love living in the West, but unfortunately ALL of our family live on the East coast so we don’t get to see them very often. When family does visit, we try to make the most of it and cram as much fun as possible into a week. This was the first time we had company since we moved, so it was extra fun showing off our little corner of Nevada.

We started off the week with a hike at Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park. Our walk started off pretty slow as the intense sun baked our skin, but our steps definitely became swifter when the clouds rolled in and the sky began rumbling with thunder. Even though we sort of rushed through the hike, we still ended up walking back in the rain. Although, I think we all agreed the cool rain was more pleasant than the oppressive heat.

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Charcoal Ovens

On another hot afternoon we drove out to Garnet Hill. It is an area not far from town that is open to the public for garnet collecting. We had fun searching through the rocks looking for the shiny, dark red stones. We did find some, but most were little more than specks inside of larger rocks. We weren’t quite serious enough to bring a hammer and chisel with us so we left most of our findings on the hill for the next person.

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Of course we had to pay a visit to Great Basin National Park. We first took a tour of Lehman Cave. We admired the amazing formations and enjoyed the cool, dark air. Then we headed back out into the sunshine and drove up the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive. Gaining over 3,000 feet of elevation greatly cooled the temperature, making pleasant conditions for walking the forested nature path at the end of the road.

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On my birthday we took a ride on the Nevada Northern Railway. We rode out on a steam engine through Robinson Canyon up toward the copper mine. Matt and I braved the sun and sat in the open- air car, but we found out that the coal flakes showering our skin were even more uncomfortable than the heat. We stuck it out and we can now claim we had the full steam engine experience.

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This train has been in operation for over a hundred years. As we rolled through the desert, it was interesting to think of what life must have been like in the early 1900s in rural Nevada. People think Ely is remote now. Imagine living out here without amazon.com, major road systems, or reliable communication.

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Before the train headed back to the depot, it took us by the ghost town of Keystone Gulch. It was not a real town, but created by volunteers for the entertainment of the train passengers. It was a fun surprise and was a cute addition to the train experience. I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but the jail was located adjacent to the saloon, keeping things nice and convenient for the sheriff.

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We all had a great time together and Roland got to experience two new firsts: the first time in a cave and the first time on a train. When our week together came to a close, I began to ponder  the importance of family and the traditions and values that are passed on from one generation to the next. The two most important gifts my family gave to me as a child were encouraging my faith in God and my love of nature. Those gifts are precious to me and I try to instill the same values to my son. We had a special week of three generations of my family enjoying ourselves in the great outdoors while giving glory to God for all he has done. It brought back all the happy memories of my childhood and it makes my heart glad that my son is being exposed to the same positive experiences I had. Of all the traditions some families may have, I think my family has some pretty good ones.

 

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6

 

Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth. 

~Walt Whitman

Unexpected Mountaintop Experience

We don’t always have a precise plan for our outings. Sometimes I just look at a map and pick out a forest service road we haven’t been down yet and we head out and see what there is to see. Usually we drive down the road until it gets too rough or we find a place we want to get out and start hiking.

On this outing we decided to start hiking down the road when it got too rutted and rocky to comfortably continue by car. When we set out we did not know we would eventually end up standing on top of the mountain seen in the picture below. It started out as an easy uphill walk and when we reached a fork in the road we thought we chose the path that would lead us through a meadow. We were wrong- 1.5 miles and 900 feet of elevation gain later we were standing on top of a mountain.

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As I said before, the first part of the hike was pretty easy, but the second leg of the hike up the mountain became quite strenuous. The picture below doesn’t really show it, but the path became very steep. It was so steep that it was hard to even balance myself while standing still. My feet and calves became fatigued from the sharp incline and the loose gravel made my steps unsteady, but the summit was in our sights, urging us upward.

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We had our sights set on a rocky outcrop that we thought was the top, but when we reached it we realized the mountain kept on going. By this time we were so close so we continued to trudge on, one slow, steep, rocky step at a time. When we finally reached the summit, we were rewarded with a fantastic view of Steptoe Valley and the surrounding mountains.

The reddish area in the middle and the adjacent pond are part of the Robinson Mine. It is a major open- pit copper mine that employs many people in the town that we live.

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On the right side of the picture below you can just barely make out the town of Ely. From this vantage point, it really looked like such an isolated little community, surrounded by endless miles of rugged mountains and desert. It is accurate that our town is remote- our nearest real city is a 4 hour drive away.

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After we soaked in the views and had a snack, we started the slow descent. Going down was even harder than going up because the steep grade of the trail and the loose gravel made it hard to keep traction underfoot.

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Taking our time going down the mountain gave us an opportunity to savor the views.

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After some time we made it down the steep, open and grassy mountainside and continued on the more leisurely walk through the juniper and pinyon pines.

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In one section of the trail there were clusters of these pretty purple flowers that attracted swarms of butterflies.

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As we headed back to our car we chatted about how we had no plans of hiking up a mountain that day, but we ended up on the top of one that offered us some amazing scenery. Sometimes it is fun to just head out without much of a plan and see where the road takes you.

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“All journeys have a secret in which the traveler is unaware.”

~Martin Buber

My Hometown National Park

I have lived in various towns in seven different states, but I have not lived within two hours of a national park since my childhood in Miami, FL (Everglades NP). National parks have always been travel destinations for us while state parks and national forests sufficed for day trips throughout the year. We enjoy those areas (especially because they are usually less crowded), but there is always something special about visiting a national park.

The entrance to Great Basin National Park is only a little over an hour from our house and we have been eagerly waiting to visit it since we first moved to Nevada in March. However, the mountains here received a healthy snowfall last winter and Great Basin NP does not plow the park road so we had to delay our first visit until mid- June (and it turned out even that was a bit too early).

June 17 Great Basin (6)

The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is only 12 miles long, but it swiftly rises over 3,000 feet in elevation. We crossed numerous ecological zones as we wound our way up the mountain. By the end of the road we had reached an ecosystem similar to that found in northern Canada, even though we had only driven a few miles. At each turn in the road, our view of Mt. Wheeler (the second highest mountain in Nevada) became more grand and impressive.

June 17 Great Basin (9)

The road ended at an elevation of 10, 000 feet and that is where we began our hike to see the bristlecone pines. The trail started off relatively easy in a pretty pine forest with only a patch of snow here and there. However, as we continued to hike uphill, the snow patches on the trail became larger and harder to navigate. In some places we only had a sliver of rocky trail to walk on between the snowy areas and other places there was no option but to walk over the slippery, melting snow.

We felt that we had the trail to ourselves at the beginning, but the groups of hikers seemed to bottleneck near the top as the hiking conditions grew trickier and everybody was going at different paces. We definitely enjoyed hiking in the cooler weather up on the mountain, but the price we had to pay for it was navigating a snow- covered trail.

June 17 Great Basin (24)

June 17 Great Basin (22)

After hiking 1.5 miles and gaining 600 feet in elevation we reached the bristlecone pine grove.  These twisted, gnarly- looking trees can live for thousands of years in severely harsh conditions. Interestingly enough, the harsher the conditions, the longer they can live. These trees are one of the few living things that truly thrive on adversity.

June 17 Great Basin (35)

June 17 Great Basin (38)

After spending some time admiring those ancient and resilient trees, we headed back down the trail. The hike took a little longer than we had expected and it was approaching evening by this time, but the amazing views of the Snake Range and Valley kept us from rushing back to our car.

June 17 Great Basin (57)

June 17 Great Basin (62)

We enjoyed our first experience in Great Basin and look forward to becoming frequent visitors, although next year we will probably wait until July before attempting to walk amongst the bristlecones.

 

“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.”

~Willa Cather