Just a few weeks ago we spent a sunny afternoon high in the Virginia Mountains. We had gorgeous views of Pyramid Lake and the surrounding mountain ranges. I wonder what this view looks like now, with all the recent snow?
A crisp, cool, fall day is a perfect day to take a hike up Nevada's Sentinel Peak (known to locals as Turd Peak). Located in the Pine Forest Range, Sentinel Peak offers gorgeous views of the Black Rock Desert, the Jackson Range, the Black Rock Range and the surrounding Pine Forest Range.
The US NWR system was officially established in 1903 by president Teddy Roosevelt, although the history of "official" wildlife habitat restoration goes back further, finding its genesis perhaps in the 1864 act of Congress that transferred Yosemite Valley to the state of California with the stipulation that its wildlife and flora must be protected.
The NWR System has more than 560 refuges, 38 wetland management districts, and other protected areas that protect 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the far reaches of the Pacific. Habitat is protected for over 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species, and more than 1,000 species of fish. More than 380 threatened or endangered plants or animals are protected on wildlife refuges. Each year, millions of migrating birds use refuges as as resting and recharging "fueling stations" while they fly thousands of miles between their summer and winter homes. There is at least one NWR in every state and territory and within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas.
Author Rachel Carson, who worked as the chief editor for the USFWS from 1939 to 1952, wrote about the refuge system:
Wild creatures, like men, must have a place to live. As civilization creates cities, builds highways, and drains marshes, it takes away, little by little, the land that is suitable for wildlife. And as their space for living dwindles, the wildlife populations themselves decline. Refuges resist this trend by saving some areas from encroachment, and by preserving in them, or restoring where necessary, the conditions that wild things need in order to live.
Grayia spinosa, spiny hopsage, is a common Western woody shrub. It is perennial. It has diffuse branches and varies between 1 and 5 feet in height. It can be long-lived, and flowers from April to July. In the southern deserts it is evergreen, but it loses its leaves in the summer in the northern deserts (Wikipedia only says it is evergreen "in some regions"). It grows between 2,000 and 5,500 feet and is highly tolerant of drought and fairly tolerant of grazing and fire.
Native Americans ground "parched" seeds for pinole flower. It is distributed throughout the the Western United States included all of the basin and range region. It is also known as applebush.
Most of the information on this page taken from the Utah State University Extension "Spiny hopsage" webpage.
“I am persuaded that the coyotes in my valley, which is narrow and beset with steep, sharp hills, in long passages steer by the pinnacles of the sky-line, going with head cocked to one side to keep to the left or right of such and such a promontory.”
Promontory, but that’s a word that relates to bodies of water, that is, the rocks or high points that overlook them. Here is the full entry, written by Robert Hass, in Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape, edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney, the really great resource for anyone interested in words about the landscape (and who isn't!):
Many of the promontories of the basin and range stand over lakes that are absent to the human eye, with its infinitesimally narrow view. What we see as desert peaks were a blink ago headlands standing against wind-whipped waves. Entire mountain ranges would have once stood as promontories over the long lakes on their flanks. So, while we might not see the water except in our imaginations, the promontories remain.
Meanwhile the coyotes continue to guide themselves by desert landmarks.
Interesting basin and range promontory factoid:
Promontory is also the place in Utah where the railroads met and the Golden Spike was spiked creating the first transcontinental railway.
The sky narrows to a ribbon as we enter the canyon. We have walked up from the eastern edge of the canyon, out in the Mud Meadows southeast of Soldier Meadows, where we have spent the morning volunteering to restore habitat for the desert dace. The work finished for the day, we leave the group to explore into Fly Canyon. The canyon was created when a natural dam holding back High Rock Lake gave way and unleashed a torrent of water that carved the steep walls and drilled holes, known as "potholes," in the canyon bottom. Read more about this at the Friends of the Black Rock/High Rock geology page.
From the distance, the canyon is unassuming, but as we near it reveals itself, a massive slice through a high ridge. We scramble down and the narrow steep walls envelop us. Twisted rock forms abound while puffy high desert clouds cross the ribbon of sky. We enter farther and the canyon deepens. We start to have to work our way around potholes, smooth and deep pools of unmoving water. Finally we are turned back by a rickety ladder climbing from one level to another and the lateness of the day.
We'll be back Fly Canyon! It is easily accessed from roads heading east from the main Soldier Meadows road. We camped at the Soldier Meadows Hot Springs, which had led to a long soak and many encounters with red spider mites, which left this writer pocked for a couple of weeks after our excursion, so be careful.
This is a doubly basin and range post because it's the basin and range and it's nearly at the boundaries of the Basin and Range National Monument. We first arrived on our bicycles from Ely after a long day's ride into a stiff headwind through Lund (about the only other shade we found), but when we made it out to Hot Creek it all washed away. It is a fast-moving hot springs creek with crystalline water, An idyll. The Kirch in the name is Kirch Wildlife Management Area, of which Hot Creek is a part. There is a big campground about a mile or so away. We spent a full day there and there are also cool water bodies to explore and plenty of sun to hide from out in the big basin.
The Hot Creek Refugium area has been designated as critical habitat for the Moorman White River springfish, so enjoy your use but please treat the area with care and respect!
The West Humboldt Range? You mean East Humboldts right? You know, Angel Lake, beautiful granite, right? No? The West Humboldts? Never heard of them. Oh, you mean those hills behind the Lovelock Prison east of I-80?
Yes, indeed. Nearly every traveler along the western corridor of the Humboldt has beheld the West Humboldts. Now they are mostly ignored, but many cursed them as the rock piles of hell for they overlook the pass from the Humboldt Sink to the Carson Sink and the reaches of the dreaded Forty Mile Desert. But not so for the Saurian Expedition of 1905. They were a group from Berkeley. They searched the area's Triassic Limestone and found twenty-five ichthyosaur skeletons including some of the largest and the most complete taken from their resting places and preserved.
But not all have been travelers passing by the West Humboldts or seekers looking to extract from it. For thousands of years it was just home to generations upon generations of people, an important testimony of which can be visited at Lovelock Caves, on the western slopes of the range and an easy tour route from Lovelock, read an interesting account of the caves via Travel Nevada.
The south end of the range, the Mofung Hills, was the site of a recent excursion/break from the I-80 drive. It is easily accessed via the 95 Fallon exit and good gravel road going north from beyond the railroad tracks and just before the highway goes over the range's last flank. The hills were colorful and interesting. And there is an Earthscope out in the hills! What is an Earthscope, you ask? (As this writer certainly did!)
The Earthscope is a massive science program:
EarthScope is a program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) that has deployed thousands of seismic, GPS, and other geophysical instruments to study the structure and evolution of the North American continent and the processes that cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It involves collaboration between scientists, educators, policy makers, and the public to learn about and apply exciting scientific discoveries as they are made.
How cool is that!
This has been one crazy busy summer. We haven't had time to do much other than jump from one commitment to another. When things get crazy it's important to take some time to reconnect. Luckily we were able to sneak away one weekend and enjoy some of the good old backcountry roads that exist in the Basin and Range region.
Public lands in the Basin and Range region of the United States offer a multitude of opportunities to get away from it all. More often than not, it provides ample space, beauty, solitude and quietude. With wild plants, animals, lakes, streams, deserts and mountains to enjoy. With Labor Day approaching, we hope you are able to take some time and enjoy the wild beauty that our public lands provide!
Get out and get wild!
Seeing these old friends make it feel like Spring is truely here! Love these bright beauties adding their color to the high desert landscape.
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