Friday, June 17, 2011

Recent Hike: Water in the Desert

On our late May trip through central Nevada (May 27th), we stopped at our usual spot — the Cold Springs Pony Express Station — to do a bit of hiking and biking. MOH went ahead on his mountain bike...
...while I stayed behind, hiking uphill slowly, looking for wildflowers. I found a few, not as many as a couple years ago, not as many as on May 31st of last year. We might have been late for the biggest bloom, we might have been early. I noted a large amount of cheat grass, more than was around with wildflowers in late April two years ago, more than was present with lupines and other wildflowers one year ago. Possibly the wet, cool spring gave the cheatgrass an advantage.
I finally came to the station ruins, which crudely mimic the distant cliffs of welded ash-flow tuff — boulders of that same ash flow tuff form the walls of the ruins.
And then, surprise! Running water! The creek that goes by the station is usually dry when we stop, though sometimes it's been muddy, and it was marshy with nearly stagnant water a year ago (May 31st, 2010). This time, the creek was in full flow, all the way from its source somewhere above the mouth of the canyon about a mile uphill, and down to the station and beyond. I'm not sure how often this creek was in flow during the 1970s and 80s; Pony Canyon creek or wash is shown as intermittent on the 1982 Cold Springs 7.5' topo map.
Water running past the Cold Springs Pony Express Station, looking west toward the Clan Alpine Mountains.
And onward it goes, heading downstream toward the juniper in the middle distance toward the left.
Meanwhile, MOH has biked up to the head of the alluvial fan south of Pony Canyon and is now coasting back down.
There he goes down the trail, past phlox and other flowers, over miscellaneous pieces of ash-flow tuff, back to the parking area where the Prius awaits us both. I still have about a mile to go, walking all the way.

P.S. People who don't live here may not understand the fascination that "desert" dwellers have for running and standing water. Driving by puddles after a rain I'm wont to say, "Oh, look! Water!!" It's variably surprising or unusual depending on the exact locality and time of year, but always worth noting.


Gaelyn said...

Nice to go back to such a beautiful setting and see it in different moods. I know what you mean about the excitement of water in the desert. Bet that little creek flowed with more frequency when the station was in operation.

Silver Fox said...

I hope it did! :)