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!)

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