Exploring Nevada’s alps: Lamoille Canyon

In September, 2016, I set out on a long road trip, from Carson City to northern Montana, and back to southeastern Arizona.  The trip took almost 2 weeks and covered more than 3,600 miles.   It was a good test for both my little CR-V camper and my recording equipment, as I ran into a wide variety of temperatures and a lot of rain.

I spent the first night in the Ruby Mountains of northeastern Nevada.  It’s  a long drive across the state on interstate 80, but it gives a nice glimpse into why the Greater Sage Grouse is in trouble.  Large swaths of big sagebrush habitat have converted to non-native grassland, both intentionally planted as cow food, and rapid invasion after wild fire (promoted by those same grasslands).  These non-native grasslands are ecologically deficient compared to the native big sagebrush.  Thousands and thousands of acres of prime sage grouse habitat have now converted to grasslands.  Grasslands have a more frequent fire interval, which means the fire-intolerant sagebrush won’t return for a long, long time.  After visiting the lush sagebrush stands of the Sheldon Antelope Refuge and the hills above Ely, Nevada, it was sad to see the grassy slopes along I-80.

I camped in Lamoille Canyon, south of Elko, along a beautiful scenic drive that leads into the heart of the Rubys.  Glaciers have left remarkable u-shaped valleys below 11,000 foot granite peaks.   The camping is limited to just a few campgrounds, but there are a lot of hiking trails.  After setting up camp, I took the dog on a quick hike up Thomas Canyon as the sun was setting.   It was a beautiful trail, along Thomas Creek, amid aspens and sumac that were beginning to show tinges of fall color.  We didn’t make it up to Thomas Lake, as the darkness was descending too quickly.  The moon set behind the high canyon walls early enough for me to get some decent star shots before going to bed.

The milky way shines above Lamoille Canyon
The milky way shines above Lamoille Canyon

After the other campers shut off their generators and went to bed, the canyon was filled with the rushing sound of Lamoille Creek and the whisper of aspen leaves.   The critters were silent until first light, when some light bird calls joined the aspens and creek.

After breakfast, we drove up to the end of the road, parked, and took a lovely hike up to Lamoille Lake, nested among the high peaks.

Shadow enjoys a dip in Lamoille Lake.
Shadow enjoys a dip in Lamoille Lake.

After my short hike, I headed back to the car to resume the journey north.

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