Thursday, April 16, 2020

Hiking Sacramento Pass Trails in White Pine County

It was spring break, and we needed to get out of the house! Fortunately we live in a county where the population density is 1.1 people per square mile. We wanted to hike on a trail, so we headed to Sacramento Pass Trails on Highway 6 & 50, about 15 minutes northwest of Baker, Nevada. These trails were developed as part of a SNPLMA project and are some of the most overlooked trails around. Here are previous posts about mountain biking, trail running, and camping.

The kids were eager to go for a hike. That's when I knew what a toll all this social distancing is on them. They usually groan and complain, but they were quite ready to get out of the house, even when I said we were going to do a two-hour hike.

We drove to the upper trailhead and started on the Sac Pass Trail. The views were fantastic.

Then we took the Lucky Boy Trail to the junction of the Mine Shaft Trail and took that.

The Mine Shaft Trail heads to the east and goes around a long, rocky knoll. Our plan was to do part of it and take a shortcut back.

I was expecting a lot of wildflowers, but we didn't see that many blooming. We did see a lot of this phlox, which I think is grayleaf phlox (Phlox griseola). I've uploaded it to iNaturalist, but haven't gotten a confirmation yet.

The leaves are very grey, and the flowers extend a bit from corolla tubes (I think that's the right terminology). 

After a bit, we reached the loop of the Mine Shaft Trail. I convinced the kids to stop and smile.

We continued on a bit, going over a pass and onto the east side, where we could see the curving highway. Off on the distant hills, I could see...

 ...the scattered patches of lighter color. These used to be nicknamed the "silver dollars." When gophers or harvester ants disturbed the surrounding vegetation, winterfat would grow. However, when cheatgrass invaded the area, it took over many of the silver dollar circles. From closeup, the patches don't look very circular or even all that noticeable. But from afar, you sure can see a pattern.

 While we were hiking, the kids came up with a survival game. They picked different locations, like a deserted South Pacific island or the Sahara Dunes, and we each got to choose seven things we would bring with us to survive. It was quite entertaining as we considered different items.

When we got near the balanced rock and the wash, I suggested we take the shortcut. The kids readily agreed.

Going up the wash was a little trickier than I had thought. Of course we weren't looking for the easiest route, but the funnest route!

The kids are in the photo below for scale--these rocks are big!

It didn't take too long to emerge on the west side. 

I suggested we take a break and play on the rocks.

As we climbed higher, we got some good views.

It was such a nice place to scamper.

Eventually we decided it was time to head back. We decided to bushwhack. It was easy at first, through sagebrush, then a little more complicated through pinyon-juniper, but none of it was hard.

And along the way we even saw another wildflower, dwarf lousewart (Pedicularis centranthera).
In the next few weeks, hiking Sac Pass Trails should be ideal. They are currently snow-free, and even more wildflowers will be blooming. Take some water, as there is none available. And you're likely not to see anyone else, so take anything else you might need. It's a great getaway! As the temps rise, the trails will get hot in the middle of the day, so early and late in the day will be more desirable.

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