A Summer Saunter in the Sierra

Posting by Caroline Seitz
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There was a lot of snow this June.

NO — don’t worry, no more snowmageddon for us here in the DC area. I just returned from my June trip to Reno. There was plenty of snow in the Sierras and we even had a brief sleet/thunder storm down in the desert around my dad’s house. No shoveling, but we did enjoy some hot soup and a fire in the fireplace.

During my visit, I had the opportunity to hike at my favorite Washoe County park: Galena Creek. Galena Creek Park is located just southwest of Reno, NV and features miles of fantastic hiking trails, horse trails, camping, and picnicking. Galena is in the Sierra Nevadas, but it is low enough in elevation that most of the hiking trails are clear of snow by June.

The air was crisp and cool, the skies were bright and sunny and the relative humidity was around 6%. Really — 6%! Nothing like a typical June day here in Virginia!

Galena Creek itself is usually a small creek — sometimes it even dries up completely. But not the day we were there. The snow melt above caused the little creek to become a raging torrent!

The Sierras are home to some really beautiful wildflowers.  Snowplant, mule’s ears, spreading phlox, and more are all natives.

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My favorite plant in the Sierra is the Jeffrey Pine.  It is a close relative of the Ponderosa Pine, but it’s bark is fragrant with the smell of butterscotch or vanilla and its needles are more fragrant as well.  Another way to differentiate the Jeffrey from the Ponderosa is with their pine cones.  The Ponderosa’s cone has a prickle on each scale that turns outward and the Jeffrey’s cone’s prickles point inward.  Remember the saying:  “Prickly Ponderosa, Gentle Jeffrey” to remember the difference.

 

Due to the cool climate of the Sierra Nevadas, there are not as many reptile species as there are here in the DC area.   There are approximately 13 species of amphibians, including the introduced Bull frog.  About 19 species of reptiles are able to survive in the Sierras and only one is venomous:  the Western Rattlesnake.

While I was at Galena,  I spotted only one type of herp, the Western Fence lizard…

After we finished our hike at Galena, we headed up the Mt. Rose Highway over the highest all-season pass in the Sierras.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
— John Muir

Galena Creek Regional Park 
Galena Creek Regional Park
18350 Mt. Rose Highway
Mount Rose District Ranger: (775) 849-2511

Nestled in a forested area on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, Galena Creek Park is seven miles up the Mt. Rose Highway from the intersection with U.S. 395. Galena Creek flows through the park creating separate north and south portions of the park. Campfire programs, ranger-led hikes, and exhibits in the old stone visitor’s center add to the diversity of the park. The park offers fishing at Marilyn’s Pond and an outdoor education camp called camp We Ch Me. Reservable building and picnic pavilions.

Call the ranger office at (775) 849-2511 for more park information.
Call the Parks Administration office at (775) 823-6501 for building and picnic pavilion reservations.