Nevada History by John C. Evanoff

Visitreno.com is excited to present this series of articles by noted author and poet, John C. Evanoff. John will tell us about Nevada history and cover some of the more remote and unusual things to see and do in Northern Nevada.

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Favorite Treks of Reno #6 of 10

August , 2009
By John Evanoff

Number six on my top ten-list of favorite treks in the area has the inviting panorama of Tahoe for your pleasure. Indeed, the entire Tahoe Rim Trail is a treasure of the Sierra Nevada’s. When some Lake Tahoe, Pacific Trail and Sierra Nevada mountain lovers got together and began the process of building the trail many years ago (25 years to be exact), it was just a dream of a particular few who knew very little of the massive amount of paperwork to be accomplished, volunteers to be recruited and the coordination of many government agencies to make the project a reality. The Tahoe Rim Trail exists today solely because of the work of those many volunteers who dedicated weeks and months during their summers to build, maintain, repair and now clean trailheads and trails to make this one of the best engineered and well kept treks in the entire United States. I applaud them on their initiative and vigor to have accomplished building the entire 165 mile loop encircling this wondrous lake. You can visit their site to see more at http://www.tahoerimtrail.org/ .

Now to the part of the trail I like the best even though some would argue the entire length is fantastic and I shouldn’t be picking it apart, but what the hay, I look at this differently because I actually helped build this section. Yes, you read right. My wife and I actually helped in the construction of the Whole Access Trail around the meadows and I became a Crew Leader and Trail Guide as a result, but that was more than 15 years ago. From the Mount Rose Highway (Nevada Route 431), just west of the summit a couple thousand feet, the Tahoe Meadows Trailhead comes into sight on your left as you head to the lake. The cool thing about this trailhead is that it is well maintained and managed for hikers, horse riders and bicyclists alike. Make sure you understand and acknowledge the rules for use if you are a mountain biker. It is to your advantage to know what days are open for your particular use, usually even days during the summer. Hikers and equestrians can go the route anytime, although I find the late summer or August is the best because the Ophir Creek wildflowers are still in bloom and the Sugar Pine give off a more pungent sweet and piney smell. Some of the Ponderosa and Sugar Pine groves you happen to pass along the route south will have you transfixed on their height and massive trunks. There are very few old growth trees left in the entire Tahoe basin, but a few small stands with individual trees more than six hundred years old are still alive and thriving along this part of the trail. Why the lumbermen left these is part coincidence and mythology. A few of the larger companies that ripped away the forest along the eastern shore of Tahoe for lumber to be used in the mines of Virginia City and the towns of Carson City and Reno actually employed Indians to do the many labors of cutting and moving the trees off the Sierras above Incline all the way south to Glenbrook. Many of the short-track narrow-gauge railways along the hillside were built to move as much lumber as possible with the least bit of effort. Since some of the hillsides were extremely steep, especially along drainage canyons, the lumbermen only took what was easiest to transport out of the area. Also, the employed Washoe Indians wanted to protect their burial grounds and religious sites so they told their bosses and the Chinese help that they did not want to trespass for fear of reprisal from spirits. The Chinese were extremely fearful of bringing on the wrath of any unearthly spirits and although this angered some of the lumbermen, they decided to abide by their wishes so they could keep the cheap labor working. Some of these ancient sites still exist undisturbed near the Tahoe Rim Trail and were extremely hard to circumnavigate during construction, but every precaution was taken to keep these areas safe from intrusion. You could walk by them a hundred times and not know they were even there, but their significance is such that it is appropriate everyone takes the time to bypass them and leave them alone. Expect consequences if you further explore any of them.

There are actually three treks at this spot. The Tahoe Meadows whole access trail is a little more than one mile in length and because it was built for ease of use including wheelchairs, it is suitable for everyone although at more than 8,500 feet of elevation, sometimes you might be out of breath. The paths are wide enough for three people side by side in most places and the angles of ascent and decent are low enough to relax and partake without giving into any exhaustion past the elevation you are hiking. The hike starts out at the trailhead parking lot and follows a circle around to the right or left depending on which way you want to check out first. Several interpretive signs and information kiosks give details on what you are viewing and the hard work of the volunteers who built the trail. A brochure can be picked up most days at the trailhead which gives details of the forest, the meadows, the history and the tribe that lived in the area. Since the trail is so easy to use, it is a great hike for your friends and neighbors to combine with a picnic and sightseeing adventure. Whenever we have relatives or friends over in the summer or fall from out of state, we try to put this hike into their visit. Another hike is to move along the Ophir Creek Trail from the Tahoe Meadows Whole Access Trail south though the meadows and west up the hill to the sandy ridge overlooking Incline and a better view of the whole of Tahoe. The Tahoe Rim Trail overlook at this point is a terrific spot to relax and picnic. Be sure to bring binoculars and a camera. This adds another mile and a half or four miles in total to the round trip from the trail head. The climb is an easy one but you should be sure to have hiking shoes and plenty of water for this short trek. Once at the overlook, for another trek, you can go south along the trail all the way to Spooner Summit. This is a much more adventurous hike and is spectacular for the shear quality of the forest and the fantastic views. I believe it is by far the best hike, horse ride or bike ride of all on the Rim Trail. There are stands of lodge pole and ponderosa that will give you the feeling you are the only one to ever use this trail. The quiet and backwoods wildlife will have you coming back for more. Watch for the Clark’s Nutcrackers, Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Mountain Bluebirds, Goshawk and an occasional Golden Eagle. You will also see signs of bear, bobcat, coyote and skunk, but will often cross paths with mule deer, squirrel and many chipmunks. If you take this third hike, make sure you have a ride at Spooner for the trip back or you plan an overnight stay for the eventual trip back. The hike is more than 23 miles long one way and is best divided into two, three or four days although I have had no problem making the trip in two. Make sure you sign in to the nearby forestry department upon departure so they know you are in the area in case of emergency. By hike or horse, take your cell phone and manage the hike with plenty of breaks to relax and take in the scenery. Mountain Bikers can make the entire roundtrip to Spooner and back in one day, even though some of the elevations will give you pause as to how fit your really are. My advice to everyone is to enjoy this trek at least once in your lifetime in the region. It will give you many happy photo remembrances and incredible panoramic vistas, no doubt ending up in your emails to friends, over your mantle or in your screensaver.


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