Sunday, May 29, 2016

Exploring the New Basin and Range National Monument, Nevada

About a month ago I joined some friends and acquaintances to do some exploring in the new Basin and Range National Monument, located in south-central Nevada. This national monument was designated in July 2015. It is managed by the BLM and is huge--about 704,000 acres. There is no visitor center, no amenities, few signs, and few paved roads (Nevada Highway 318 goes through part of it.) Here's a link to the BLM website with a map and more info.

We had topo maps, 4WD vehicles, and a sense of exploration.

The fossils in the Joana limestone are terrific, with lots of crinoids.

This crinoid stem had a nice star shape in the middle.

The northern end of the national monument is in the Great Basin desert, but at the southern end it is a transition zone to the Mojave desert, and cholla appear.

There are a few homesteads on the monument, including this abandoned sheep ranch.

This is a corral in a different part of the monument, when I approached from Highway 318 north of White River Narrows. I liked the series of mountain ranges framed by the corral entrance.

Most of Coal Valley is encompassed by the monument. I thought the sagebrush looked really healthy in much of the valley, and there wasn't much cheatgrass, which was nice.

There is cattle grazing in the monument, and I spotted this water tank by one of the hills.

We put up tents in a leave-no-trace makeshift campsite and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

The next morning it was time for some hiking.

We loaded up our packs and started heading up into the mountains. Note the lack of trails.

The number of fossils was amazing. This entire rock is covered.

We were also lucky to see some claret cup cacti blooming. They are so gorgeous!

Numerous holes dotted the cliffs. This one went in about ten feet, enough to get a fun view.

We kept hiking up and up and eventually made it to the top of the Golden Gate Range, the mountain range in the center of the monument. We found a survey marker and some assorted equipment that made us wonder what had been there previously.

To the west we saw Garden Valley and the Grant Quinn Range. It looked even more impressive the next morning with a fresh dusting of snow.

Here I am on the windy summit! It got so windy that day. My tent didn't do so well with all the wind.

We did some more hiking along steep slopes. Again, no trails. This place is wild!

Then we rappelled off the side of a mountain and into a cave.

It looked like we made the first footprints into the cave.

It didn't go far, but it had some nice speleothems.

The entrance was nice and wide and tall. It was fun being in a cave that didn't require crawling the entire time.

Some birds make their home there too.

I also saw some of the most amazing midden ooze that day, very orange. It looks soft, but it was actually very hard.

Later we were walking around some other cliffs and found this climbing rope dangling. It looks like climbers are putting up new routes (but I sure wouldn't leave my rope there, it wasn't that far back to the vehicles!).

It will be interesting to see how the monument is managed. They are currently working on a management plan.

A marker glued to the wall. Maybe this is the Scorpion King wall?

It is a gorgeous area. I really liked the cliffy mountains, abundant fossils, small caves, healthy sagebrush, numerous wildflowers, and isolation. We saw about eight vehicles all weekend. If you go, take supplies to stay overnight even if you're not planning to be there over night, as it's really remote and you may or may not run into someone else. Good tires, plenty of water, maps, and a good sense of direction are also helpful. I'll be back to explore!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Little After School Exploration

 The kids are almost done with school, which means we'll have time for lengthier adventures soon! Right now we have to be content with shorter ones, so after school we went to explore this gully. It has lots of side canyons that are lots of fun. I told the kids to watch out for snakes, and we happened upon this nice gopher snake. I really like these snakes, they eat lots of rodents.

The canyon walls are very crumbly, but they also contain some pretty cool patterns.

It was cloudy, and at one point the sun emerged to light up the mountain tops. They are still covered with snow, so it made them glow.

On our return wander, we saw this eared grebe. It dove under the water a couple times and disappeared, then would pop back up.

Down the way we saw a brown blob on the shore. Upon closer inspection, we found it was a muskrat.

It took to the water when we got a little too close.

Next we went down the road a little ways to a place where we found lots of arches. This was a tiny one, about the size of the nearby globemallow.

The distant Wheeler and Jeff Davis Peaks looked rugged from our vantage point.

Desert Boy climbed up to explore an opening.

Desert Girl was busy taking photos on the other side of another arch.

We had fun taking photos.

Desert Girl wants to enter photos in this year's County Fair, so she's getting an early start!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Wildlife at the Watering Hole

 The days are getting warmer, so the kids asked the other day if they could go to the swimming hole with their friends. Sure, why not?

A little garter snake was hanging out there.

Desert Boy asked if he could catch it, and I said yes. He quickly captured it.

 It wasn't very big.

Desert Girl came over to check it out. Do you notice what she's wearing? It looks like she wants to go swimming.

Ava gave it a try, but it was cold!

Desert Girl's expression is what mine would be if I got in the water! Needless to say, there was a lot more time on the beach than in the water. We're approaching high water now, so the streams are up and dirty. That should give us a nice sandy bottom in part of our swimming hole. We like the sand a lot better than the silt when we're walking in the pond!

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