Monday, July 18, 2011

Ruby Mountains - Last Night

This is how much I love the Ruby Mountains..... I *almost* changed my header picture!
But instead of so drastic a measure, I decided to stay an extra night, and that required moving to a new site. This one was right on Lamoille Creek.

My friend Patty is camp hosting at Thomas Canyon for her third year, and her partner in crime, Doug, is working on his fourth season. Don't tell anyone, but they actually get paid for working here!!!!

Doug invited us to join him at his campfire my last evening where we watched the storm clouds up the canyon and the light changing on the mountains.

No storm, but the almost full moon did come up while we sat around the fire.

Great-grandpa Bunny Bunny created the best sunset yet for my last night in the Canyon.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ruby Mountains - Terraces

There are a couple day use areas in the canyon. My favorite is The Terraces. It was originally the site of a Forest Service Station. Now it has individual picnic sites dispersed among the quaking aspen trees, each very private.

And then there's the views down the canyon from my favorite spot.

A rustic water system, an old foundation, and stairs build into the granite terraces are all that's left of the Ranger Station.

The cabin over looked a cool native flower garden in the front.

Out the back door those lucky rangers had a waterfall.

The early soldiers thought the red rocks were rubies and so the name Ruby Mountains. They were actually finding garnets. I didn't find any rubies or even garnets in the creeks, but the granite rocks sure had lots of color mixed in. (On second thought, maybe after this big run-off it will be a good time to look for garnets!).

I walked down the road hoping to get some good shots of the terraces. No luck there, but Lamoille Creek was sure beautiful.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ruby Mountains - Road's End

Road's End is the trail head parking and day use area at the beginning of the the Lamoille Canyon. The mountains surrounding the bowl at Road's End are just teasers for the rest of the range. The trail through Liberty Pass heads off into the Wilderness area for 35 miles passing under Liberty Peak at almost 12,000 feet. For a day hike though there are several options that include four lakes in a loop.

Without looking at the map I assumed Liberty Pass was in the middle of the pic below, but taking a closer look I think it actually turns off to the right and then goes behind these mountains.

My friend Patti who is camp hosting at Thomas Canyon had warned me that reports were the hiker's trail was snowed in, but the horse trail was relatively clear. The hiking trail follows Lamoille Creek on the north slope while the horse trail is on the more exposed southern slope. (Also a more gradual climb :).

In the parking lot I had seen a young couple with snow boards and was hoping to see them again on the mountains. But as it turned out, they had all ready hiked up the canyon AND snowboarded back down! If you look closely at the pic you can see their tracks.

The trail was very rocky and almost always full of water creating a very challenging hike, more like climbing stairs. I crossed several small snow drifts across the trail, but I could see it was probably going to stop me soon.

The beginning elevation at Road's End is 8800 and I hiked an hour and a half to this point where I finally had to call it quits for this trip. Next time I will do a loop up the horse trail to Lamoille Lake, then on to Liberty Lake before to turning back to pass the two Dollar Lakes on my way back down the hiking trail.

I knew the snow would stop me before the lakes, so no disappointments, and with these gorgeous views all the way back down.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ruby Mountains - Island Lake

Thursday afternoon I drove down to Elko (in a big thunder storm!) to the Forest Service for a map of the back country trails. It was easy to choose Island Lake for my second day hike. On the south side of the canyon so free of snow, the trail begins at elevation 8800 and climbs to 9600 over two miles.

Looking back down the trail, my van is in the upper left corner of the parking lot.

The trail has nine switch backs. Some crafted with beautiful rock walls.

The creek from Island Lake was roaring, but from the looks of the bridge it had been it had been significantly higher before. The up stream section is constructed of 8 2x8s (or maybe 10s) layered on edge. Look closely in the pic to see the damage caused by the high water.

After some rock scrambling across melting snow and mud at the top, I found Island Lake still mostly frozen over. A local hiker just ahead of me on the trail said she had *never* seen it like this so late in the season.

It won't be many warm days before the ice on the lake is gone, but I bet there will be plenty of snow left on the mountain the whole summer.

On the trail back down I came across a chipmunk gather material for her nest. In case you're wondering....she won the stare down!

The U shape of the Lamoille Canyon is so dramatic, I just couldn't capture it in a picture, although I kept trying!

From a pull out on the road at the bottom of the canyon I could look up the creek and see the notch that marks the location of Island Lake.

It doesn't look like two miles does it? But believe me, at 9000 feet, it felt like that and more!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ruby Mountains - Thomas Canyon

It was a long, flat drive across Nevada on I 80 and somewhere along the way I forgot that the Ruby Mountains were another 20 miles out of Elko. Finally though I turned onto the National Forest Scenic Byway up Lamoille Canyon. My first view of the canyon was across the Lyons Club camp in the valley and up to the Lamoille Glacier.

The Ruby Mountains are located in the Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest. Very much like Yosemite, the valley is U shaped by the millions of years of glaciers. Hanging valleys and hidden lakes rim the tops of the canyon walls.

The 8 miles road into the valley, which received a major face lift last summer by the Nevada DOT, is a joy to drive. My van hardly noticed the several thousand feet increase in elevation from Elko in the valley.

There's only one campground in Lamoille Canyon. The other developed areas are lovely, but for day use only. Thomas Campground is about four miles up the canyon in a thick forest of Quaking Aspens along Thomas Creek.

At elevation of 7600 feet, it's still spring there.

The canyon is very narrow. I looked up out my back window to a lovely little waterfall.

And to rugged mountain tops from my front window.

All along the tops of the mountains are fantastically shaped peaks.

My first evening I walked up the road a couple miles. Several 'knife edge' ridges like these are along the north wall of the canyon. I'm guessing they were formed by water after the glaciers.

Thomas Canyon was formed by a smaller, side glacier to the main Lamoille glacier. Mt. Fitzgerald watches over the campground.

And provides the headwaters for Thomas Creek.

There are several smaller beaver dams along the creek (including one right in the campground!), but this was by far the largest.

My first day I hiked up the Thomas Canyon to the snow line. People had been crossing the snow fields, but that was out of my comfort zone. The deep winter snow and late, cool spring would limit my hiking the whole week, but no worries, the big flow in the creek and millions of wild flowers, not to mention the view back down the canyon made for a great day!

(I'll do my posts of the Ruby's in a series to keep them a bit shorter. Stay tuned for Day 2!)