Tag Archives: Nevada

What we found on Highway 6.

Driving from Baker, Nevada to Mammoth Lakes, California took most of the day, and filled our vision with wide views. Pippin took the picture above showing one fine example.

We stopped within a few minutes to take pictures of clouds. Scout rode with me for a while, long enough to tell me stories of third-century Rome, especially of the tetrarchy of the the emperor Diocletian. When we pulled over for car and human fuel Ivy took his place, and for about an hour we didn’t have enough of a mobile signal to listen to a book together, so I asked her to tell me about The Black Stallion, which she read very recently. She is a good storyteller; I think she remembered more details from her first reading than I even noticed the last time I read it.

As soon as possible, we started listening to The Call of the Wild, which she chose from my Audible library. I hadn’t read it since I was just a little older than she is now. We finished the whole book during our drive, and Ivy paid close attention. The next day on the trail, she was composing poems as we hiked, one of them about a husky dog in the northern wilds.

We saw plenty of mountains in the distance as we pushed on toward California, but the plant life seemed thin. Only when we parked our cars along a wide spot in the road in the Stone Cabin Valley did Pippin and I see the truth. Darling and diminutive flowers in a rainbow of pastel colors were scattered all over the gravelly sand.

The Professor was amused at the sight of our happiness in what many would call a “godforsaken place,” as we scanned the ground for just one more version of what the Seek app told us was “Saltlover.” Here is the picture he took of us:

What we learned later when we were able to research it online was surprising and a little sad. This plant Halogeton glomeratus is not a native plant but was introduced from Russia and China; it is a noxious weed of the amaranth family in rangelands of the American West, because of what it does to livestock and to the soil. Grazing sheep are especially vulnerable and can be killed by the high levels of oxalates it contains, and the mineral salts it excretes into the soil make it hard for other plants to survive. Two different species of plants have been introduced that tolerate the salts and might compete under the harsh conditions of that territory. The seeds of Saltlover “have the ability to germinate within one hour after being exposed to water.” That is vigor!

A bright orange flower stood up above these little spires in a few places, the Desert Globe Mallow:

And colorful rocks also caught our eye. I wanted to take this big one home,road but after I dislodged it I could see it was too large and heavy:

Not to worry, several other smaller ones were just as brilliant, and before we piled in our cars again and continued on our journey, I had squeezed a few in the back of my Subaru. I told the children that when I die, they should be sure to take these rocks out of my garden and keep them as their own continuing memorials to the time Grandma came along on their mountain and desert explorations.

The Secret Pass to the Ruby Valley

I took this one last picture from the campground, and shortly afterward we left Lamoille and drove north and east and then south for several hours. The first hour and more were on gravel roads with miles of washboard bumps and billows of dust, but they all passed through spectacular expanses of wild country that shared some qualities of other arid lands, but were different in the shapes and colors of the mountains, and in the varieties of plants. Soon enough these lonely roads took us over the Secret Pass to the eastern side of the Ruby Mountains.

Ivy looked over the barbed wire fence at the view above and said, “It looks like wild horses should be running out there.” We had stopped our cars on the shoulder of the highway, and all six emerged to stretch our legs and look, and take pictures. But immediately Pippin said, “Oooh, the smell of the sagebrush….”

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She had been riding with me, and I’d had the windows closed so we could hear each other talk; the sudden breaking into our senses of the warm and sweet aroma of the deserty plants, with the pungent dominance of Common Sagebrush… that was what I wanted more than any photograph, to put in a bottle and take home with me.

As we were standing there breathing and trying to take in everything, a big pickup appeared and stopped in the middle of the road, and a gray-haired man spoke to us through the window, with his engine running. “Welcome to the Ruby Valley,” he said. He told us that the little valley we were looking up at higher in the mountains, with splashes of yellow aspen, and some other plants turning red and orange, was named Joe Billy Basin, and his brother runs cattle up there.

He himself has a hay and grain business in the valley, and he hospitably invited us to “come back anytime.” We were still talking the next day about the unusual meeting and human warmth we had experienced in those few minutes — a person who loves his place and feels such ownership of it that he can spot a few souls who are kindred enough to be obviously appreciating what he also doesn’t take for granted.

This trip across Nevada might be called a Great Basin journey. The Great Basin is an area of the western United States most often defined hydrologically as in the map below, an area where the waterways do not flow to the ocean. We had now arrived on the other side, the east side of the Ruby Mountains, which, to answer Martha’s question from my last post, are said to be named after the garnets that early explorers found.

The family are camping in Great Basin National Park, and I have been staying 2,000 feet down the mountain in Baker, Nevada. My husband and I came to this place with our children when they were small, and I am thrilled to explore again with one of those children now that she is grown up and camping herself. The campground by Baker Creek has forests of wild roses, now covered with hips, and their leaves turning yellow and orange.

Jamie drew in his nature journal a picture of the rose hips, and a dragon making a meal of them. Ivy and I explored the creek, which runs right by the campsite. I collected sand for my collection in a snack bag, and while I was taking pictures of thistles she spotted a coyote by the creek.

Our day was mostly consumed by an experience I didn’t get in this park on our last visit, a hike to the Bristlecone Pines that have grown here for millennia, and to see a glacier! Other joys of the hike were various species of conifers that we adults are always trying to learn better and distinguish from one another, the local ones in this case being Limber Pines, Bristlecone Pines, Piñon Pines and Engelmann Spruce.

By the way, the Seek app we have found of no help, unless you are someone who is happy enough to be informed that the tree you are looking at is a Conifer. Here Pippin is holding a Piñon pine nut cone, in which all the nuts seem to have either not developed, or been eaten by some insect. She foraged through many cones and nuts under these trees but never found a good nut.

The talus below the active glacier, along the three mile trail that climbs up to the glacier, is the most colorful and lovely you could ever see. I may have to do a post of only rocks, to show you what variety there is. Pippin and I could not stop taking pictures of the marble-like slabs and blocks that came in blues, purples, orange and pink, often striped and patched with contrasting colors composing the most sublime abstract designs, not modern but as ancient as the mountains.

As we climbed up the rocky trail to over 10,000 feet elevation, we were surprised to see flowers still in bloom. Occasionally drops of rain began to fall on us but we didn’t actually get wet; some of the pretty rocks got prettier by the moisture. Below, the active glacier a the top of the moraine can be seen by the lines of white to the middle right of the picture.

Above, one of the weathered Bristlecones that are thousands of years old. I wrote about my visit with my late husband to see these trees in the White Mountains ten years ago; here in the national park is the only other place in the Great Basin where trails have made viewing of them possible.

My back and knees are a bit strained from the various exertions of the last few days, but I’m eager for the mountain adventures yet to come, and grateful also for my readers’ vicarious enjoyment with me. I hope to be back soon with more!

Lamoille

I am in Nevada with Pippin’s family. We met last night in Lamoille Canyon in the Ruby Mountains, after they had driven one long day to get here, and I had taken two shorter days. I arrived less than two hours before them, because I dawdled so much on the way — which was, after all, what I had made provision for by traveling in a more leisurely way.

But did you know that the speed limit is often 80 mph in the wide open spaces of Nevada? Though that aspect of my journey might not seem leisurely, I did very much enjoy the hours of passing through ever-changing magnificent rock formations and groupings of different colors and textures of sage and other scrub brush. I had lingered over breakfast with friends in Reno yesterday and appreciated being able to take my leisure at high speed.


I wish I could write one of my leisurely travelogues, too, but I prefer to give my time to gawking at monoliths, studying beaver dams, and walking up Lamoille Creek to the place where the grandchildren have their fairy houses and boats (built for toy dragons nowadays).

But  I’d like to show you enough pictures to make a proper representation of this glorious place. I am staying in an Airbnb lodging on a cattle and chicken ranch with a view of those Ruby Mountains out my bedroom window. I can see the stars from my bed at night, and it takes only 15 minutes to drive up to the campsite where the rest of the group are staying. Their campsite looks very much like the one that our family used more than 30 years ago, and Pippin does remember being here.

We’ll be in Nevada for a couple more days, and I hope to post again about my expedition.

Love and Adventure

P1030560ed I walked behind my car across the shoulder of the highway, and crunched closer to the whitened meadow to snap a picture. Immediately snow and dirt fell into my shoes as I dropped a foot down through the crust. I didn’t even get a good picture for all that, but I didn’t regret making the effort and taking a chance.

Just breathing in the cold mountain air was making me giddy, and the wet places in my socks soon faded from my consciousness. I love the excitement of being in the mountains in the winter. Even if I do have to take pictures from inside my vehicle.

In telling the story of my trip to western Nevada last week, I’ve exclaimed to many people, “I was in the cloud the whole way — there was not one minute in the whole five hours when I didn’t have to use my wipers, usually at full speed!” But now I realize that that wasn’t exactly true: I had forgotten this two minutes at least, when I was actually able to get out of the car with my camera and not get it wet.

(I wish I could paint some clouds into these first few photos so that the white sky wouldn’t blend seamlessly into the white screen here on my blog!)gl P1030548ed

No accidents happened on the freeway in spite of the drenching that slowed traffic for hours; I didn’t see anyone driving recklessly fast. Probably they were all thinking like me: “This is glorious! Think of all the reservoirs filling up! We love the rain, so let’s just enjoy being slowed down a bit because of nature’s gifts.”

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Long before I got close to Nevada, though, my route took me through wine country, whose colors were extra vibrant with the rain falling on them. Every year I try to take pictures of the mustard in the vineyards or pastures, and every year I pretty much fail. The solution to my problem must be a helicopter, hovering at the perfect height above the bloom, from which to view my mustard fields from the most revealing angle.

Or, I need to learn to paint, and then try to find the few minutes between March rainshowers when I could sit near a soggy display and catch the essence on my canvas. I love springtime in the wine country, so in the future I will probably repeat my same old lazy way of engaging with its brilliant contrasts.

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While enjoying the scenery I listened to classical music for as long as the station came through. They played Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which in my youth was the first classical piece I paid much attention to, because we studied it in Music Appreciation class when I was a college freshman. Now it is so familiar to me that hearing it for those few minutes roused me as though I were listening from the balcony at the symphony. I love Beethoven’s Fifth.

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Eventually I did ascend into the forest, where what I think are willows show more color than they will later on when they leaf out. Maybe there are several species of bushes that make these orangey splashes against the snow, or against the desert brownness where they grow in rows along creeks.  Anyway, I love how they decorate the landscape.

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I was headed east, and eventually crossed into Nevada. I’ve written about this part of the arid West before, in 2011 and in 2014. You might like to look at that more recent post to see how beautiful it is in early summer; I was able to stay a few days that time and take lots of pictures. I love the Carson Valley, every season I have been there.

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The reason for my foray into the storm was to visit my friends Jacob and Rosemary upon the occasion of their chrismation into the Orthodox Church, and to be Rosemary’s sponsor, or godmother. That was a wondrous thing, but that is not really my story to tell. I love being at their house, full of books and food and comfortable friendship. I love them.P1030598

I loved being part of this momentous day, a participant in the sacrament by which they were sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, being anointed on cheeks, forehead, hands… Now I am related to Rosemary in a deeper way even than our already sisterly friendship.

After the chrismation service and Divine Liturgy, we came back to the house with more friends and enjoyed the many delicious things that Rosemary had been preparing for a week in advance, including “Gyroll,” and a lemon tart.

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I had planned to return home on Monday, but because I’d have had to drive in snow and ice, and take more pictures from my car, I put off my departure one more day. We were all happy to have a few more hours together of relaxing and talking and reading. Jacob makes the best popcorn. I love popcorn.

I even took a walk in a nearly freezing rain, and admired the xeriscapes at that elevation of 5,000 ft. Everyone uses some rock, because it is natural and doesn’t require irrigation, and so many rocks are beautiful. It helps control erosion from the torrents that can flow down through the neighborhood from the higher heights. I love rocks.

I slept incredibly well in my guest quarters, which was interesting because I was in the middle of reading 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. It’s about how we are being robbed of our sleep by society’s demands to perform and be constantly responsible. But I was with sensible people and we all affirmed that sleep is good, even while one of us sent an email at 2:00 a.m. and another one checked his (or her?) phone an hour later, thus demonstrating the reality of what the author laments. The Bible commands, “Love not sleep,” but it also says that “He gives His people sleep,” so I feel it is okay to admit that I love sleep, as a gift from the Lord.

Finally the morning came when I would set off on the last leg of my adventure. Truly, anytime you get out of bed in the morning you have to be ready for adventure, but driving alone on strange roads, which may be icy, is upping the suspense of Anything Could Happen.

Jacob and Rosemary live on the east side of Carson Valley, so as I set off down the slope from their house, this was my view, looking across the valley to the range of mountains I would cross on my way back to California. It is the Carson Range, considered a spur of the Sierra Nevada that lie mostly to the west. And this was also the most blue sky I saw in five days:P1030601 across Carson Vly to west

I was fearless, it seemed, eager to climb higher again. I was going home a slightly different way, and interested to see the sights on the Kingsbury Grade, a route I wasn’t familiar with. The weather was supposed to be partly cloudy, with no rain until the afternoon. But plenty of snow had fallen in the night, and I wanted to see it from the freshly plowed highway.

The pastures are green even now, from all the rain, making the high-elevation farms beautiful against the hills. The Carson Range doesn’t get nearly as much rain and snow as the primary ranges of the Sierra Nevada to the west of Lake Tahoe, but recently it got more than a sprinkling.

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As I looked back from the mountain slope, this was my view of the Carson Valley looking east to the Pine Nut Mountains:

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But when I got closer to the top, the valley is barely visible in the distance (my trusty all-wheel-drive Subaru in the foreground.)

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I don’t often experience snow. The last time, I had been with my husband in mountains very near here, and I briefly and bittersweetly remembered that day. But this day I was consumed with loving God’s creation, being thankful for the strange stuff that is snow, delighting in being there. I hadn’t been thinking about this, just doing it. He was my companion on my journey, and that must have been why I wasn’t feeling lonely or having anxiety about traveling solo.

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It’s a steep grade, so before long I was at Daggett Summit, elevation 7,334 feet. The trees were loaded with snow up there, much of it having fallen just the day before. Clumps were falling in showers of wet flakes and splashing on my windshield. The temperature was just above freezing.

In another two hours I was out of the mountains and in the Central Valley. I visited with Pearl for an hour, and got home  before dark.

It had been such a satisfying expedition. Not the kind of excitement that some people associate with adventure, but plenty of the sort of newness that is a reminder and an expression of Him Who changes not, but whose Life fills every moment.

The unexpected aspect of adventure came in the form of weather developments that made me change my plans. It was kind of my Father to arrange for such a mild and pleasant happening for me to deal with, at this season of my life; He knows I’m not really the adventurous type. It seems that love for my family and friends makes me go forth and travel, and then His love and companionship and the beauty of this world He gave us thrill my soul, more than any wild and perilous sort of adventure could. I love Him.