Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Miscellaneous June 2017

 I guess I'm not too far behind if I'm wrapping up June! Here are a few photos that didn't make it into previous posts. We enjoyed eating at the new Kerouac's Cafe in Baker, Nevada. The food is delicious and service is great! We've returned several times!

For work, I went up high in the mountains to protect some limber pines from mountain pine beetles. They are part of a proactive white pine blister rust program. Several trees (both bristlecone and limber pines) have been selected and pinecones harvested. The US Forest Service is propagating the pine seeds and then testing them for white pine blister rust, a non-native pathogen that can kill whole forests. The idea is that some resistant trees might be found, then their pine seeds can be stored and grown and resistant trees planted to help when the rust eventually arrives. In the meantime, we have to protect those trees from mountain pine beetle, so we apply verbenone, a natural pheromone that the  beetles excrete to say that the tree is full of beetles and the incoming beetles should select a different tree. So cool! (Bristlecone pines don't seem to be affected by mountain pine beetles, so we don't need to put verbenone on them.)

The bristlecone in this study isn't part of the study, but it looks cool.

We had been having some warm temps, but on this particular day it was really cold. And there were still snow drifts. Bruce and Becca helped us get up the road, moving trees and digging through snow/ice drifts. It was an adventure!

To my surprise, Nevada primrose was already blooming.

The views from Mt. Washington were amazing.

I spent a week near Redmond, Oregon teaching cave rescue. We had a fun day on the cliffs. This was a different type of rock than what we used for the rest of the week.

That's because there are lots of lava tubes around Redmond.

We didn't actually go in many, but we played at the entrances of several, including doing a highline across this one.

We also had some zen time in the gym/exhibition hall, floating students across.

Back at home, we tried out a new (used) sailboat that my husband purchased. It's lots of fun, but also a little scary when the wind gets going.

I enjoyed a trip to an ice cave that has part of its entrance blocked by snow.

It had never been entered this time of year before, so we didn't know what to expect. We couldn't use the bolts at the entrance, so tied off to a tree and went over the snow.

The transition to snow to ice was abrupt. It was an interesting cave, but very difficult to get to. We installed a wildlife camera at the entrance, so we'll learn what else is using the cave.

We've also been spending time with the lambs. We figure if they get used to chaos here, they'll do better at the fair. So we invite friends over to play!

Desert Boy got some lessons on showmanship, but needs a few more! It will be fun to watch him at the fair. He's definitely gotten a lot more confident, and I can see why it's good to start with animals that weigh about 100 pounds instead of those that weigh much more (like steers).

Sunday, July 23, 2017

To the Top of Eastern Nevada: Up Wheeler Peak with Kids

The day arrived: time to head up Wheeler Peak. We had two seven year olds and a ten year old. We had spent the night before at Wheeler Peak campground at 10,000 feet to acclimate and make the hike easier. We took a before hike photo when we were still all smiling (we forgot to take the after hike photo, but I can assure you some of the faces would have been showing different expressions!)

The start is easy, not too steep, fairly flat ground, and gorgeous views. We could see where we would soon be--on the ridge that leads up to Wheeler Peak (the mountain on the right in the photo above).

As we got higher, the trail got rockier. The kids wanted lots of breaks, so we had to use our best parenting techniques to keep them going.

I found the flowers distracting. I especially loved this pink one, moss campion (Silene acualis), that grows in a mound.

At one point, Desert Boy went ahead, found a wind shelter, and then laid down and pretended he was dead. Here are the kids trying to revive him. Fortunately they were successful!

Higher up, we found some snow!

We decided to take this snowy route for awhile.

Desert Boy's expression shows how enthusiastic he was. But then he and Isaac started talking about video games, and they got a second wind.

Jenny is such a trooper, up to any challenge! And with a smile.

Almost to the top!

One of the benefits of climbing the peak in July is seeing the bright pink Palmer's primrose (Primula parryi) in bloom. It's usually a riparian plant, but for some reason it also likes the higher slopes of Wheeler Peak. The purple plant is sky pilot or sticky Jacob's ladder (Polemonium viscosum), and it smells like skunk. Fortunately it wasn't too odiferous on this particular day. In the middle of the photo below, you can see Bald Mountain, with Buck Mountain to the right. The dry playa in the background is Yelland dry lake bed in Spring Valley.

Finally we got to the top! It was so nice to be there. We shared the summit ridge with about 20 other people, who were scattered along it.

Some of us went to the eastern edge of the ridge to see the Wheeler Cirque Rock Glacier and Jeff Davis peak. This year there aren't any thermokarst ponds (pools of water) on the rock glacier.

Jenny got a family photo of us.

And I wanted to get a photo with Jenny!

We spent about an hour at the top on the rare, almost windless day. You might notice we're not even wearing jackets. This is not common at all! Desert Girl wasn't feeling so good, and we hoped heading down would relive her altitude sickness.

The Ross's aven (Geum rossii) with its mats of yellow flowers and cushion phlox (Phlox pulvinata) with its white flowers decorated the scene, along with more sky pilot.

I thought going down might end the whining, but the kids were tired and let us know it.

With snow down the gully to Stella Lake, we thought that would be a fun alternative to the trail. There were a few fun moments...

 ...but it was really long and probably didn't really save us any time. But now we know.
We were all exhausted when we got back to the vehicles and forgot to take the after photo. The kids said they would never hike the peak again. But once they told other people and saw their reactions, they changed to saying that they wouldn't hike the peak in the next few years. After that, who knows?

Anyway, we were really proud of them for accomplishing such a big feat. and it was great to spend the day outdoors in such beautiful settings. For anyone wanting to take kids to the top, plan on an all-day adventure (it was about 9 hours total for us, including an hour at the top), lots of food and water and patience. And it sure helps to have good weather!

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Warm-up Hike: To the Bristlecones

 Jenny and I had a plan: get our seven-year olds to the top of Wheeler Peak, 13,063 ft. The trail starts at 10,000 ft., so that's a lot of elevation gain. We figured we better do a training hike, so we headed up the Bristlecone Trail at Great Basin National Park. This trail also starts close to 10,000 ft., but doesn't gain as much elevation. Plus it is so inspiring to walk among trees that are over 3,000 years old.

Of course I took my camera to get some photos of the cool trees.

Each time different trees catch my eye.

Our group photo. We ended up with three adults and five kids on this hike. Everyone did great.

On the way down we even found a little patch of snow to slide in. I love finding snow in July!

Jenny got some extra strength training in carrying Willow!
Coming up next...the big hike...

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Exploring Central Nevada-Part 3: The Mountains

This is Part 3 of 3 of the Exploring Central Nevada blog post series.
If you missed them, check out

 We had left Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park and had a few hundred miles to drive home. We could take Highway 50, but why not explore a little bit more? I had researched that there was a really great drive through the Toiyabe Mountains, along Big Creek and over a pass and along Kingston Creek. We were driving a tough 4WD pickup truck, so I knew this would be a good time to do it. As soon as we entered the canyon, we were impressed, tall mountains surrounded us. How would this road turn out?

The wildflowers were spectacular. Here are some shooting stars near a spring on the side of the road.

 The road got steeper and narrower, and we had ATVs coming from the other direction. We were hoping the road wouldn't get really gnarly. Fortunately, it was nothing that a little 4 Low couldn't handle, and we went up and over some amazing high country. On the other side, we stopped by beautiful Kingston Creek to play in the water and enjoy the scenery.

Desert Girl was delighted to catch a butterfly.

I could have stayed there overnight, but we had other plans, so we kept going.

Further on we passed the start of the  Toiyabe Crest Trail, marked as TCT on a sign. This trail is 75-miles long, built by the CCC in the 1930s, and according to some, doesn't look like it's been maintained much since then. It starts on this road and extends south to the South Twin River Trail. It skirts the tall peaks and follows along the high country. It sounds like it would be a fun adventure...someday! Apparently finding water along the way is part of the challenge, with up to 20-mile long stretches dry.

Not much farther down the road we found a large reservoir with lots of campers and anglers. At one end, though, we had it all to ourselves.

We enjoyed dinner in Eureka at the Urban Cowboy Bar and Grill, and then continued on our way. The evening light on Ely made me want to stop and take a photo.

We didn't stay, but instead headed to nearby Cave Lake State Park, where we luckily nabbed the last campsite at the Lakeview Campground. After claiming our campsite, we quickly went back to the lake to check it out.

The kids had fun showing their babysitter the fish and crawdads.

It's such a scenic lake! The surrounding mountains cradle the lake.

We ate some food and then Desert Girl went with me for a walk along the shoreline to enjoy the sunset.

 It was one of the longest sunsets I've ever seen, with the clouds continually changing colors and being reflected in the lake.

The kids wanted to pose for a photo. Then it was time for showers (hurray!) and enjoying the campfire. We were all too lazy to set up the tent, so we just put our sleeping pads and bags down on the ground and in the back of the truck. It looked like it would be a perfect night for sleeping under the stars.

I still wanted to get more photos, so I headed back to the lake to get some long exposures. The moon was rising fast enough that I wasn't going to get a good Milky Way photo, so I hoped for some star shots. What I wasn't expecting was to get so much color in the cloud.

Crawdad hunters were out, roaming the shores, so I had some interesting flashlight flares in some photos I took. Then the moon rose and lit up the other shore.

When I got back to camp, I took one more photo. Then it was time to snooze.
The next morning we got groceries and headed home. Overall, it was a great trip, and we all enjoyed exploring more of Nevada that most people don't have an opportunity to see.
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