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Outdoors/Washoe Valley Activities Page
January 17, 2006: It is cold and dry with not much snow on the
ground so we decided on a little adventure and fired up the Suzuki Samurai to
try to drive to Virginia City over the Jumbo Grade Road. Activity was pretty
high for a winter weekday at the OHV area near the trailhead with an adult on an
ATV and several kids on dirt bikes. Soon after the trailhead, the road comes to
a spot that always made me a bit nervous as the road cuts close to the creek
bank and was at quite an angle (off-camber" as the 4-wheelers say) that made us
think we would tip over. Since last summers fire though, a bulldozer has been up
there and smoothed it out. A little further on the bulldozer also worked on
where the creek and the road share the same route for about 75 yards although I
can't see much improvement. Since we've had freezing daytime temperatures for
the last couple of weeks we thought maybe the creek was frozen solid- it wasn't.
We drove over most of it but broke through at one point. In 4 wheel drive, the
Samurai broke through, slid sideways and before I could interfere, crawled out
and continued on. Only one wheel broke through and it was about a foot deep so
it seemed more exciting than it was. We stopped a ways up to take a photo and
Sandy the golden retriever immediately ran back and took a dip in the icy hole.
After shooing her back inside and wiping down the seats we continued on.
The main road that follows the creek goes down in a gully and up
a fairly steep hill so we decided not to try that with snow and possible mud.
Instead we took what I call "Alternate Plan B" (see
Map) which is a left turn immediately after you leave the creek at the the
above-mentioned spot. This goes up and around and through some Jumbo ghosttown
"suburbs" and eventually connects back to the main road after the tough spots
(although it has a gully crossing too, maybe there is another route around
"downtown" Jumbo we continue on over the rocky road to another small, dry gully
which we crawl through and continue on up toward the "saddle" that marks the
high point of the road. There was only an inch of snow the whole way and we did
not have any traction problems (or chew up the roads). At the saddle there used
to be a toll house from the 1860's when the road was used for hauling ore to the
mills in Washoe Valley and wood back up to the mines. You can still see square
nails and broken glass and pottery. Continuing on to VC was easy with beautiful
Nevada vistas including the snow-capped Pine Nut Range which is southeast of
The whole length of the road is rocky so it takes about an hour to cover the 8
miles to VC.
Nearing Virginia City we could look down toward American Flat
and see the newly completed roadbed and tracks for the new Virginia and Truckee
Railroad. The home of the "Big Bonanza" is pretty sleepy this time of year and
its easy to find a parking place and a bar stool as several of the watering
holes remain open all year.
Despite what we did, the best way to travel the Jumbo grade is
with the buddy system where you go with another vehicle in case there is a
breakdown, injury or "stuckness".
Rattlesnakes & You
We've seen several snakes recently when out on our wildflower hikes in east
Washoe Valley. Don't know if they were rattlers but they were treated with
caution anyway. We should all be wary when in the Nevada outdoors and here are
some tips on
rattlesnake safety. Here's an
article that discusses
horses and rattlers. This one has some
info on dogs and
snakebites. Snake Aversion Training for dogs is available locally according to
article. Another option is rattlesnake avoidance training for dogs July 8-9
and 29 at Washoe Valley State Park. For details, call Jon Tyler at
412-7552 or e-mail email@example.com.
The Nevada Department of Wildlife has produced a video “Venomous Snakes of
Nevada” that gives information about the state’s venomous snakes and Gila
monster, a venomous reptile. The videos are available at public libraries. The
beneficial kingsnake (consumes rattlers and vermin) is sometimes killed out of
fear of rattlesnakes. Kingsnakes, however have colored bands instead of the
"diamond" markings of the rattlesnake.
Those Bloomin' Spring Wildflowers/Dead
May 16, 2006 by the Editor
Now is the time to get out and see the wildflowers in action as our wet
winter and spring combined with our current heat wave has created the optimum
time to enjoy nature's bouquet. You don't have to hike up to Little Valley or
some other alpine meadow to enjoy the flower festivities. Just about anywhere
you can hike you will find some splash of color. The blooms probably won't last
long with this hot weather so now is the time to enjoy.
We just got back from hiking up Dead Man's Creek Trail in southeast Washoe
Valley. This is a free trail in Washoe Lake State Park and is located
approximately a quarter mile south of the park entrance at the big dead tree on
the east side of the road (Eastlake Blvd). Several routes can be taken from this
trailhead of varying length and difficulty. The trail has just been modified and
improved to provide a more gradual ascent and smoother path. At the summit your
reward is a shady gazebo where you can sit for awhile and take in the view of
Washoe Valley. Surrounding the gazebo is a beautiful rock garden with showy
displays of spreading flox, lupine and desert paintbrush. This can be an
out-and-back hike or a loop. continue on up the hill past the gazebo and around
and down to the state park office and back to the trailhead along an historic
ditch trail (see map) approx. 3.2 miles.
Man's Creek Trail System Map
Bowers Mansion Regional Park
The fully restored Bowers Mansion offers a rare glimpse into Nevada life
during the 1860s. The mansion was built in 1864 by Comstock millionaires L.S.
“Sandy” Bowers and his wife Allison Oram.
Their stories, and the history of the mansion, reflect the
rags-to-riches-to-rags tales so commonly associated with Nevada’s first silver
boom. Along with the history, visitors are sure to enjoy of the mansion itself.
Each of the sixteen rooms are furnished with Victorian antiques.
Bowers Mansion Regional Park is managed by Washoe County Regional Parks and
Open Space. The park is located on the eastern slope of the Sierra in the heart
of Washoe Valley.
Park facilities include a playground, pool, and picnic areas. Mansion tours are
$5 for adults and $4 for youth and seniors. Tours are available every half hour
during weekends in May, and seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Good news about the Winters Ranch Property, Washoe Valley's latest public lands
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) now has an interim management plan for the
Winters Ranch property which will take us through the next 2 - 3 years. Still to
be finalized is the Cooperative Management agreement. The Cooperative Management
Plan will consist of different agencies taking over different duties. For
instance, garbage pick-up might be by Washoe County, noxious weed control by
State Parks, law enforcement by WC Sheriff's Dept., etc. Community volunteers
will be welcomed. This fall, probably in October, the Winters Ranch Property
Interim Management Plan will be ready for presentation and public comment.
History and Location
The Washoe Valley Working Group (WVWG), under the leadership of the Nevada Land
Conservancy, has been working since 1999 to acquire the Winters Ranch property
for public open space. Over the years the WVWG has included many people
representing; BLM, USFS, Dept. of Wildlife, Dept. of Transportation, State
Parks, WC Parks, and WC Community Services, the Nevada Land Conservancy and
others who have worked unselfishly to save this fantastic property. They have
done so because they value open space, scenic beauty, wildlife, and wonderful
This west Washoe Valley property begins behind (east of) old Washoe City and
runs south, on either side of Hwy 395, to Bower's Mansion. It is mostly pasture
and wetlands, with some parcels in the forest at Davis Creek Park and Bower's.
So far about 1,700 acres have been brought into public ownership, and are
managed by BLM and USFS. And that's not all. An additional 300 acres is
currently being pursued which will complete the purchase of the Winter's Ranch
The Winters Ranch Property needs a little TLC from its neighbors and friends.
The Washoe Valley Working Group, including the Nevada Land Conservancy, BLM and
USFS has successfully increased Washoe Valley's open space by 1,700 acres of
wetlands, meadows, shrubs and trees, including water rights, with the
acquisition of the Winters Ranch Property. This land is intended to remain
undeveloped for current and future generations
I think that's a pretty impressive accomplishment, don't you? Do you want to
say, Thank You?
Here is what you, residents and friends of Washoe Valley, can do to help. Now
that this property belongs to the public, it has to be maintained and protected.
The help of individuals and non-profit groups will be greatly appreciated.
Maintenance projects include weed control, trash removal, repair of the
irrigation system, and repair or removal of old fencing. Also, inventory of
resources will include vegetation, wildlife, wildlife habitat, wetlands, and
historical & archaeological resources.
Would you like to help with trash cleanup, fence removal/repair, or irrigation
ditch maintenance? Do you have special training to contribute to the resource
inventory work? Do you belong to an organization that would like to get
involved? Do you have other ideas on how you or your organization might help?
How about environmental education? I'm open to any and all suggestions and will
pass them along to BLM at our May 19 meeting.
Please give me a call and I'll add you to the list of interested individuals and
groups. Carol Christensen; tel. # 849-0801 or e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org . If you e-mail please put Winters Ranch Property on
the subject line.
Hiking and Running Trail Finder
USA Track & Field, the national governing body for track
and field sports, has put together a cool device on their website,
www.usatf.org, for finding trails and adding
your favorite trails into a national database with over 20,000 entries and
counting. The free service utilizes Google Maps. If you are familiar with Google
maps, you know you can easily see street and aerial photos of the the whole
country, including our area. The USA Track & Field map interface, found
here, allows you to search for trails
or input your own overlaid on the Google Maps interface. As you map your route,
the program also tracks the mileage. If you are interested in new routes in the
area or want to share your own, check it out. This is so cool I put up a
permanent graphic in the upper right of the outdoors page called "Trail Finder"
that will link directly to the site.
By The Editor, April 4, 2006
Last fall, new trailhead
improvements were completed at the gravel pit on lower Jumbo Grade. If you are
not familiar with the area it is reached by turning south onto Jumbo Grade Way
from Eastlake Blvd at the south end of New Washoe City. About a mile up this
road is the trailhead near the old gravel pit. This area is used extensively by
4 wheelers, ATVs and motorcycles, hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. Over
the past years the area has seen a lot of use with many unofficial roads and
trails created over the hills and sagebrush. In 1988, the BLM designated the
area "limited use" confining people to existing roads and trails. "Off Roading"
can create unnatural drainage patterns, destroy plant life and endanger wildlife
and it was deemed that this area was being "loved to death" which can lead to
total closure at worst and something just plain ugly at best. To help educate
visitors an informational kiosk has been constructed at the trailhead. One panel
explains the concerns and what people can do to protect and sustain their
resource. Another explains the history of the area including the ghost town of
Jumbo that is about another mile up the main road. Jumbo sprang into being into
about 1908 as a mining camp and quickly grew into a town with boarding houses,
saloons, assay offices, an ore processing mill and even a newspaper. This panel
is very well done and has a lot of history. A third panel discusses the plants
and animals of the Jumbo Creek watershed and the importance of protecting and
respecting the area. Also a part of the improvements are a large parking area,
fencing and a restroom facility.
So if you haven't been up Jumbo Grade in awhile, go up and
check it out. Hopefully, the improvements will be respected and those that wish
to continue enjoying the area will educate those who don't understand what can
be lost through misuse and carelessness. High clearance/4 wheel drive vehicles
can navigate Jumbo Grade all the way to Virginia City passing through the old
Jumbo townsite on the way. All that remains of Jumbo is some broken glass, nails
and shards of pottery among the old dirt streets. A few old vertical mineshafts
exist which are very dangerous and should be avoided.
My Five Favorite
Places to Hike in East Washoe Valley
by Christina N., 30 year resident
Click on the thumbnail map for a larger version
The best time for hiking in Washoe Valley follows on the heels of our coming
spring. The desert, hills and lakes of the valley come alive with wildflowers,
newborn quail and cottontail rabbits, and the sky takes on a fresh quality after
months of being blanketed with wood stove and fireplace smoke. After living in
the Valley for more than 30 years, I have found and settled on the choice places
for hiking in the area.
My companion on most of these treks is my whippet mix, Mesa. She is the ultimate
explorer and has led me on many expeditions around the area. I rate each of
these hikes using dog points:
• ease of access
• sniffability (level of interesting terrain)
• lack of traffic
• views and location asthetics
Some of the names for the following trail areas are not official, they just
happen to be the names I have called them since I was a child growing up in the
5. Jumbo Grade
Jumbo Grade is famous for its historic mining town and notorious for its BMX,
ATV and dirt bike traffic and noise. That aside, it is a rugged and fascinating
place to hike. I suggest having a leash handy for your dog in case of an
inordinate amount of bike traffic. In the spring, Jumbo Creek becomes a small
river with waterfalls and pools. This is a great place to water your dog.
Jumbo is a good place for horseback riding as well. I was hiking once and I
heard a galloping horse behind me. I turned around to see a preteen girl
standing up in the saddle of her horse with her arms outstretched, her blonde
hair flying behind her.
Jumbo Grade has a large parking area and the trail is wide and pretty easy to
follow. You can go as long as you want and in about 6 hours of good hiking, you
may be able to reach Virginia City. Walk as far as the aspen grove (look to your
right about 1/2 mile in) and hike to the top of the highest hill above the
grove, you can see all the way to downtown Reno. Be careful, the hill is very
steep with loose rock. Jumbo Grade trailhead is reached by turning onto Jumbo
Way from Eastlake Blvd about a mile south of the Seven Eleven. Continue through
the cattleguard about another half mile and take the right fork.
4. The Trail Across from the Mormon Church
I don't think this trail has a name, but it is best accessed across McClellan
from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The trail is sandy and a
bit difficult to walk on when it is dry, but it gets easier the higher up you
go. After you pass the old barbed wire fence the trail will fork, turning right
takes you up to a hill with a great view of the entire south side of the valley
and Big Washoe. The left fork takes you into the piÒion pine area of the
Virginia Range where you can pretty much take your pick on where to go next.
Explore and keep your eye out for deer and rabbit tracks.
3. Scripps Wildlife Management Area
This is not really a trail, or a hike, but it's a great way to enjoy the looming
view of Mount Rose, Slide Mountain and even Job's Peak down in the Carson
Valley. This jeep and truck road (only for major four-wheel drive, mountain
bikes or horseback) is a direct link from Big Washoe Lake to Little Washoe Lake.
The best way to get onto this road is from Bruce Drive off of Slide View Way, or
the right hand turn off of the dirt road that takes you to the North boat ramp
of Big Washoe Lake. Follow the road all the way to Little Washoe. It's highly
likely you will see a coyote or two, so keep your dog close.
2. Tie: Castle Rock and Dead Man's Trail
I think my childhood friends and I might have named this place, I just know it
has always been called Castle Rock for its architecturally interesting
formation. Starting from East Guffey Dr. and turning onto East Sinclair St.,
follow any of the dirt trails up into the Virginia foothills keeping the large
building-block rock formation above you in view. When you get to Castle Rock,
climb up on the back part of it, the front is steep. Unfortunately some graffiti
has been sprayed on the rock, but if you look to the south, you can see an
interesting painting of a prehistoric reptile. I think it was painted by the
same artist who painted Dog Rock on Eastlake Blvd. on the way to Carson City
since they have the same style. The view from Castle Rock is really amazing, you
can see the entire valley and even up into Saint James Village. Another access
point is from Eastlake Blvd, turn toward the hills onto East Cottontail and
continue until it turns into a dirt road. Park here. The rocks are straight up
the road and over the ridge.
Dead Man's Trail
The ghostly, white tree across from the south boat landing at the Washoe Lake
State Park is the start of Dead Man's Trail. The grave and the name came from a
pair of brothers in the late 1800's who fought and killed each other over land
rights. I would love confirmation of this story from any historians out there.
This is a short and sweet hike that winds through two hills alive with
wildflowers, cattails and a spring that gurgles out of the rocks. The area was
burned in a fire in 1999 and many of the dead trees are still around. The best
part of the hike is the top, where a gazebo has been built. The view of the
lake, and both mountain ranges is beautiful and a great place for a picnic.
Here are some photos of the trail from a blog on the RSCVA website:
1. Pagni Gorge
In danger of becoming part of a development, and already being shadowed by the
new freeway project, Pagni Gorge gets my vote for one of the best places to walk
and hike in the valley. It is technically on the way to West Washoe Valley, but
still has the rugged sagebrush feel of the East. The best way to get to the
trail is to park near or around Amsterdam Antiques on the north side of 395
heading toward West Washoe Valley. You have to go through some barbed wire
fences to get to the trail, but once you are there, head down between the high
hills into the gorgeous riparian area. Here a small stream meanders through
cottonwoods, Russian olives, wild roses and grasses. The stream dumps into a
small pond down near Washoe Hill where I've seen coot, yellow-headed and
red-winged blackbirds, bullfrogs, blue heron and deer. Mount Rose is always
ringed by the gorge's hills and the sound of water is always around.
One of the best encounters I ever had in the gorge was with a group of cub
scouts, all dressed up in their uniforms with their compasses and notebooks
ready. They were so excited to see my dog.
Even though I love not running into other people while out hiking, I would
sacrifice some of my peace and quiet to have more people become involved in the
hiking trails of Washoe Valley. With the possibility of new developments
encroaching on the valley, the best way to keep our area free for these types of
activities is to know more about them and love them enough to fight to keep them
open. The best way to do this is to lace up the boots, grab the dog and hiking
pole and see for yourself why this area deserves to be protected.