Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Winnemucca Lake/Pyramid Lake: Nevada

Dried remains of Winnemucca Lake

ancient Tufa 

Tufa dotting the dried lake bed

sand dunes near Pyramid Lake

Pyramid Lake in the distance

Tufa information in the Visitor Center on the Paiute Reservation

Pyramid Lake

Living Tufa on Pyramid Lake

Spring water seeping out under the tufa

soft clay on shore of Pyramid Lake

Continuation and Conclusion of a trip to the Sierra Nevada back in August:

Moosie and I woke up on the floor of the dried ancient lakebed of Winnemucca Lake. I slept good amongst the sage and sand. After breakfast, Moosie and I decided to explore a few more of the dried tufa structures dotting the dried lakebed. Again, it was a fascinating education we received as we tried to imagine what life must have been like for the Native populations living in Nevada 10,000 years ago, when much of the state was covered with lakes. We wondered what stories the people must have heard and learned over time, especially as the lake began to slowly disappear. What was a typical day like in this dry climate, fishing along the lake shores? What, if any, was the significance of the rocks and mountains? How many generations of people lived in these areas? What was it like in Nevada when there was once so much water?

Around lunchtime, we drove to nearby Pyramid Lake, on the Paiute Reservation, the largest remnant of the ancient lake world of Nevada. Pyramid Lake once fed into Winnemucca Lake before it dried up. Pyramid Lake answered some of our questions. After purchasing permits, standing along the shores felt pretty powerful, as we could now see in person what we imagined the day before in dry Winnemucca Lake. We could see with our own eyes, living tufa structures, seeping spring water, white, surrounded by live plants and animals, inviting to sit amongst while having a meal, or sharing stories. We could feel the refreshing, cool lake breeze, birds of different sizes fishing. We could imagine the large and famous Lohanton Cutthroat Trout that makes the Pyramid Lake a prized fishing destination for anglers. The one thing that still bothered me was the desolate surrounding mountains, so dry and foreboding. What did the natives think of them?

Before long, Moosie and I had to leave. I would be flying back east the next day, and Moosie was starting a new school year teaching in a couple days. It felt great to get a small taste of the Sierra and west once again, just before summer officially ended...

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Winnemucca Lake, Nevada

The dried remains of Winnemucca Lake

Tufa structures: Created by fresh water springs and high concentrations of dissolved calcium ions in the subsurface lake waters. The huge amounts of calcite form around the spring orifices. These are the same structures also found at Mono Lake.

Dry Lakebed


Where there was once water, there were also humans. Arrowhead and flint remnants, perhaps thousands of years old. Moosie and I left any artifacts where we found them. 

old snail shell.

Camping on the ancient dry lakebed

 Continuation of a trip to the Sierra Nevada, and Lake Winnemucca back in August:

After Camo, Moosie, and I returned to Nevada after our trip to the Sierra, Camo had to fly home. Moosie and I had a couple days before I had to fly back, so Moosie suggested a trip to Winnemucca Lake in Nevada. In turned out to be a fascinating, fascinating mini trip where we learned a little about geology and ancient Native Americans. In fact, our visit to Mono Lake on the way home from the Sierra a couple days prior offered a bit of foreshadowing. It was our first exposure to a geological formation called tufus, the calcite formations that make the lake visually famous. Tufus form from little holes in the lake bottom that emit fresh spring water. The spring water mixes with high concentrations of calcium ions in the lake which then slowly forms the calcite structures. They can take hundreds, and thousands of years to form. Once the lake's water level recedes, the calcite structures reveal themselves after growing under water for so long. In a place like Winnemucca Lake, since the lake is no longer there, the tufus stick out like sore thumbs around the dry lake bottom. 

To the casual observer, Nevada can look like a desert wasteland. It's hard to believe there were once many ancient lakes dotting the state. Moosie and I enjoyed the exercise of imagining what a place like Winnemucca Lake once looked like. The surrounding mountains have fading rings on them, bathtub rings. It can seem unbelievable that the place was once filled with water and people living there, but the evidence is all there. It was fun to imagine what a typical day for the people must have been like, fishing along the ancient lake. At one point, thousands of years ago, the lake was connected to a series of nearby lakes all flowing and feeding into one another. The lake was considered a shallow lake all the way until 1930, when a dam and road were constructed that restricted the remaining water flow, finally ending the lake's lifespan. 

Moosie and I took a dirt road into the lakebed to camp beside an ancient tufu formation for the night. Desert camping is the best. Views as far as you can see, dry air. We simply rolled our sleeping bags and pads out onto the sand. For some reason I can't explain, I didn't like camping near the tufu, and didn't like looking at it at night. There's no rhyme or reason why some places are more inviting than others. 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Big McGee Lake/Mono Lake: Sierra Nevada

Woke up to our first clear, crisp Sierra morning light, after smoke blew out.

So nice to see that clean air

Heading back to the trailhead

Looking back towards McGee Lake

Back to parking area where Moosie picked us up

Mono Lake

Intense orange/red smoke filled sky as we made our way back to Reno

sun and smoke

 Continuation of a trip to the Sierra Nevada back in August:

Camo and I woke up to a windy, cool, crisp morning at Big McGee Lake. Finally, at last, the smoke blew out almost completely, and we were able to experience the crystal clear Sierra light and mountain air. We broke down our tents, and after breakfast, began our hike back to the McGee Pass trailhead parking area, where Moosie had planned to pick us up after returning from San Diego. The hike back to lower elevations was enjoyable, the wind kept the air cool. Before we knew it, we were back in the parking area. Moosie arrived shortly afterwards with cold drinks. We decided to visit Mono Lake on the way back to Moosie's place in Nevada. It was my first time seeing Mono Lake. The environment felt harsh and exposed, the wind was intense, the sun hot, the water an interesting soapy texture. Birds love it here. Camo, Moosie, and I explored the coastline for 45 minutes or so and then returned to the car and made our way back to Nevada. We drove past several forest fires, the worst and most intense just before Carson City. The blue sky suddenly was covered with smoke and we drove through an apocalyptic scene, the sky transformed into a dark orange red, ashes falling from the clouds like snow...