Tag Archives: Nevada

Views of Carson Valley

P1100336I remember the first time I saw the Carson Valley in the state of Nevada, and my amazement at seeing lush green hay growing in the shade of the Sierra Nevada peaks, on the edge of the desert. That was at least 30 years ago, and on every visit since then, usually just driving through on the way to somewhere else, I have feasted my eyes and heart on those scenes of quietly grazing cattle, and sagebrush lining the roadways.

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Meadow on Luther Pass

My friend “Rosemary” and her family have recently moved back to the West, and to visit them where they live a little south of the capital Carson City, I drove east through California and over the Luther Pass at 7740 ft. on Hwy 89 south of Lake Tahoe. The pass is named for Ira M. Luther who traveCarsonrivermaprsed the mountains by wagon train in 1854.

 

 

This map shows a much larger area north and east of where I visited, including the whole of Carson Sink as it extends into Nevada and California.

 

 

 

 

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I arrived late at Rosemary’s place because I just had to stop and take pictures of the new-mown hay.

P1100286 Carson Vly hay

And on my layover day my friends took me on a hike up the slope west of the valley, toward Job’s Peak. The skies were black or grey, and we heard threatening thunder, but no rain fell.P1100317 Job's Peak Trail

In just over a mile we had reached the California border. I thought it was very exciting to be standing on that boundary line. Not that we could see the edge exactly…

 

 

P1100331 from state line

This is what we saw looking down from the state line. We had ever-changing cloud shows that afternoon, which made for varying light conditions, too.

The lupines wP1100294 flower crpere finished and had already made thick pods from their flower spikes, but small flowers nestled into the granite gravel, and big bushes of wild roses grew close to the little creek we jumped over.

 

 

P1100351 cloud

The air was so dry, my hair hung limply. Though the sun stayed mostly behind the clouds, it still managed to burn my face and lips. But I felt really good, standing on the side of the mountain with the breeze blowing my blouse.

It was a very happyP1100369 few days, being together with my dear Nevada Family friends. We sat outdoors in the clean and dry, just-warm-enough air for hours catching up on all the concerns of our hearts and minds  — well, as many of them as possible in this short visit. I’m looking forward to another trip over to that lovely Carson River Valley. P1100368

The mule’s ears are still babies.

I’ve been up in the mountains, at Mr. and Mrs. C’s cabin. Several times I’ve written about our cabin stays at Lake Tahoe, and the previous posts had more interesting photos and reports. They are from May 2013, May 2012, and Sept 2011. This time I couldn’t seem to focus my documentarist skills, but I did have some noteworthy experiences.

This was the first time to have snow! As we reached Echo Summit on Highway 50 (7382 ft.) the snow began to fall, while clumps of older snow were at the same time dropping from the trees because of the recent rain.

Echo summit snow trees rocks 5-6-14

We couldn’t hear the clumps fall, though – Everything was too soft and fluffy to make an impression on our ears.

We two couples drove to the Nevada side of the lake to Virginia City, as we had done in 2011. It’s not very photogenic, because the interesting old buildings are full of too many shops full of junk. But if you used to enjoy the “Bonanza” TV show, you might remember that Virginia City was the closest town to the fictional Ponderosa Ranch. This map that I photographed in the cabin is confusing in that North is not at the top of the image.Ponderosa E of Tahoe

We didn’t come up completely short as we strolled through town, because we all found some treasures in a rock shop: bracelets, bookends and an onyx box made from stones that came from all over the world. We drove around the residential area down the hill from the rickety old boardwalk and the most beautiful things were the many lilac bushes in full bloom of every possible color.

Back down in the forest by the lake, the wooly mule's ears Tahoe 5-7-14squaw carpet is in bloom, and most of the mule’s ears are still babies. I thought their little fuzzy leaves were very dear.

I liked walking around the neighborhood of the cabin, where tall Ponderosa and Jeffrey pines have dropped big cones all over the yards and streets. In every place that squaw carpet was blooming, spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa) was right there trying to steal the show.

spreading phlox and squaw carpet
(purple) squaw carpet and (white) spreading phlox

Many of the public beaches on the lake are still closed, but one day we parked on the highway and walked through the forest on to this beach so that we could throw sticks – or actually, small logs — to the dog Cali.

Kiva Beach 2014

The mountains above still have their frosting of snow, but spring is here, and the weather is warming up. Soon the tourists will arrive, but we are gone….and home again.

I praise Modoc, and question Jefferson.

Surprise Valley, California

It looks to me like some cowboy lost a piece of his shirt on this barbed wire. I took the picture when we were poking around in Modoc County, “where the West still lives.”

Ten years ago our family met a cowboy who looked like The Marlboro Man himself, as we stood on a hillside watching him lead a string of horses through the sagebrush and across a creek, with pastel layers of aspens and mountains behind him.


This remote and rugged land is one of the areas that has perpetually been found within the proposed boundaries of The State of Jefferson, a longed-for 51st state that would include several counties in northern California and southern Oregon.

The modern Jefferson includes more counties.

Just last month the supervisors of Modoc and also those of its neighboring Siskiyou County voted to secede from the State of California, as the historic movement revs up again.

The Sacramento Bee reported:

[Mark Baird, one of the prominent activists] insists the State of Jefferson is the answer to revive logging, protect ranching and lure new businesses. He bristles at suggestions that these counties need to subsist on social services.

“It’s absolutely infuriating to people up here, this idea that we’re little children and we must have our hands held out,” Baird said. “Well, we would make our own way. We are intelligent, creative, hardworking people, and without the morass of failed social engineering experiments here, we would do fine.”

Barn in Yreka, in Siskiyou County, California

The Modoc county seat is Alturas, a word that means “valley on top of a mountain.” Much of this country is considered High Sage Plateau, with evidently enough water for many cattle ranches and hay fields.

If I hadn’t had a traveling companion to restrict my stoppings, I’d never have made it home for trying and trying again to get the perfect picture of black steers grazing on varying shades of green and yellow-green, with dark mountains behind them.

Nothing close to the perfect shot was to be mine. Either I was not high enough above the grassland to get the sweeping view, or the steers clumped up close to see if I were bringing their dinner, or, in the case of those next to our our motel in Alturas, they ran away when I was still 50 yards from the fence.

Many of these fine scenes were in Surprise Valley, which is even farther east than Alturas, east of Hwy 395, on the other side of the Warner Mountains. This valley’s elevation, if you drive up and down Surprise Valley Road as we did, is above 4,000 feet.

The photo below looks still farther east, toward a band of tan that might be an alkali lake, and up into the Hays Canyon range of mountains that lie mostly in Nevada.

Looking east from Surprise Valley to the Hays Range in Nevada

Besides your typical mountains, you can find the Glass Mountain Lava Flow on the western edge of Modoc County, though it lies mostly in Siskiyou County. On our previous visit we climbed on parts of that “mountain” and brought home huge pieces of obsidian and pumice. Everyone’s shoes no doubt suffered a month’s worth of wear on that terrain.

 

 

Glad kids scramble on Glass Mountain.

Murals on several buildings in downtown Alturas express aspects of the region that the residents appreciate. Modoc County has mule deer, herds of wild horses, Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn, and birds galore. We didn’t make it up to Goose Lake, but the bird mural makes me think of Goose Lake Valley, rich in all kinds of bird life. The painted fowl look as though they could fly right off into the real sky.

At the bottom of the mural you can see landscape such as we also noticed on our way up to Alturas, when the rich farmland gives way in places to slopes on which the soil is evidently too rocky and poor to support anything more than the occasional juniper tree. But the existence of fencing makes me think that in the springtime they might run livestock on the greened-up grass.

juniper trees
Fisherman
Pronghorn

more murals

We ate breakfast at the Hotel Niles in Alturas.

I don’t know about the Jefferson thing. It’s a nice idea….can you believe we have a lot of family who reside in Jefferson counties both in Oregon and California? Probably none of our kin would be found at either of the cultural extremes within the succession movement, but at least one sports a license plate frame on her car declaring “State of Jefferson.”

Nowadays there is a public radio station that claims the name, and people can attend the Jefferson State Hemp Expo, “…founded on the belief that through awareness, education, and the cooperation and coordination of citizens and public officials, many complex social issues can be solved.” Note the emphasis on cooperation, not separation. Separation was formerly the goal of all Jefferson adherents, and a big part of the content of Jefferson as in its nickname “State of Mind.” Currently it does seem that many of the people who use the name don’t really expect anything to come of it. To at least a few it is probably just a brand they use to sell something.

another Surprise Valley view

At the other end of the spectrum, perhaps, are the hunters and most of the ranchers, and the politically conservative. This segment of the populace might include the woman who was noted in the police report column in the Alturas newspaper, which I perused while sitting on the bed in our motel room. She called the sheriff and said that if someone didn’t speedily do something about the dog that was threatening her alpacas, she herself would “dispatch” the dog. I doubt that was the word she used.

Maybe the serious secessionists would include the people who shoot at Belding Squirrels during the Annual Squirrel Roundup. These are a type of ground squirrel that looks like a prairie dog, and their large populations damage the cultivated fields (I’m guessing it’s by their holes and tunnels?), so once a year the residents hold a big fundraiser/pest-control event.

The giggling squirrel-shooter in this video I ran across is embarrassing, but you could turn off the sound, try to ignore the squirrels flying into the air, and see some nice footage of Surprise Valley in the background. The Roundup is held in March, so you will see less yellow and brown than in my pictures. If you make it to the very end you’ll be rewarded with a view of Mount Shasta, something that would not be possible from down in Surprise Valley. The moviemaker must have driven back over the pass to the west at the close of day.

The likelihood of all these diverse Jefferson people agreeing to secede seems slight to begin with, and that’s not the only challenging aspect of the project. Perhaps the nickname The Mythical State of Jefferson is the most appropriate. Whatever you call it, I do love this country.

On Cedar Pass, between Alturas and Surprise Valley

The parasitic snow plants are blazing at Tahoe.

Mr. and Mrs. C. invited us to their cabin again on the south end of Lake Tahoe. At 6,000 ft. elevation it’s still pretty brisk in May, but the sky was SO blue, the lake was SO blue, and the air was dry, full of the smells of pine trees and cedars with some wood smoke thrown in. I breathed deeply.

Here is a map if you need to get your bearings. The lake itself lies on the Nevada-California state line. We usually approach from the southwest and drive through the state capital of Sacramento to get there.

I had escaped the world down below where picture storage was one of the many time-consuming computer problems that had recently worn me out, and I arrived with a reluctance to use my camera. Of course that didn’t last long, especially when wildflowers are out. May in the Sierras brings flowers you can’t see in the summertime, so I had to seize my opportunity, didn’t I? My other blog posts about the Tahoe area have different photos from what I came away with this time.

Cascade Lake in foreground, Tahoe in distance.

We hiked to the top of Cascade Falls one day. It drops and flows into Cascade Lake which lies just south of Emerald Bay, a little higher in elevation. This picture was taken from a granite shelf looking as straight-down as I could manage to the bottom of the falls.

Sticky Cinqefoil
                      This looks to me like some kind of buttercup but I haven’t found it in a book yet. (Update: I added the caption after one of my readers enlightened me.)

The Snow Plants have popped up all over, here and there on the floor of the conifer forest, with no leaves. Mrs. C. was coveting one, wondering how she might get a specimen to grow near the cabin, but what I found out on Wikipedia when I came home makes me think that would be near impossible to make happen.

The snow plant is sarcodes sanguinea, the only species in the genus sarcodes, in the heath family. It is unable to photosynthesize its own food, “…a parasitic plant that derives sustenance and nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi that attach to roots of trees.” Now I can imagine the roots of these bright plants extending deeply into the world of tree roots. If we are lucky, perhaps the right conditions will in the future concur and surprise Mrs. C. with a burst of red.

A lagoon by Kiva Beach

Another color that got my attention was the sand around Lake Tahoe. We took the yellow lab to swim and fetch and I sat on the shore and considered how all the grains of sand were warm golden tones, not like any ocean beach I’ve seen.


Wooly Mule’s Ears, also known as mountain mule’s ears, were in bloom, and I got a photo of them as in a perennial bed planted by Mother Nature, with a border of Squaw Carpet in front.

Wyethia mollis and Ceanothus prostratus

Here’s a nice flowering bush that I don’t know. Maybe someone reading this knows this plant? It grows in the forests on public land and in private yards. (Update: the same reader in a comment below is kind enough to tell us that this is Western Serviceberry.)


Did you ever do a Google image search of “lichen”? Amazing, amazing plants. Here is one of the more subtle designs, which we saw on a rock at the top of Cascade Falls, a lovely arrangement of vegetable and mineral and just one example of how God’s artwork is splashed all around the world for our pleasure and His glory. Thank You, Lord, for the refreshment.