Sunday, April 29, 2007

petersen mountain

Yesterday Mike, Kyhl, Megan, Alisha, Steven, Ann, Lois, and I hiked Petersen Mountain (7850 feet), a somewhat nondescript peak along the Nevada-California state line north of Reno. It's not particularly high, and it looks from the base like a long ridge resembling any number of other Great Basin mountain ranges. We started near Summit Spring and followed a good trail past Horse Spring to the ridge crest. We probably got within 100 vertical feet of the summit, although we didn't bother climbing to the true summit.

What makes Petersen Mountain special is that there's a hidden alpine valley splitting the two main summit ridges. This valley offers some spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, some unusual rock outcrops, and some of the best pronghorn habitat in Nevada.

We did see one pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) on our way up to Horse Spring. It watched us for a time, retreating periodically, and eventually bounded off. Pronghorns are the second-fastest land mammals in the world (only cheetahs are faster -- indeed, pronghorns evolved to outrun American cheetahs, which became extinct around ten thousand years ago). This one, though, was obviously pregnant, so it moved somewhat heavily for a pronghorn. Still, when it finally decided to leave the area, it wasted no time.

Anyone who thinks Nevada is a wasteland needs to spend some time on Petersen Mountain. It's a beautiful, ecologically rich place. We saw some early balsamwood, some budding desert peonies, and carpets of phlox. Desert mahogany, Utah juniper, white fir, and aspen. A large herd (maybe 25-30) of mule deer. A covey of California quail. Lake Spring, our destination and turn-around point, is one of the loveliest camping spots I've seen. No wasteland here.

No comments: