Silver Saddle Canyon a good find in Carson


With gas costs as they are, I keep trying local hiking trails that I haven't tried before. Last weekend it was the canyon on the east side of Prison Hill.

Take 5th Street east past the traffic circle and a right on River Road. A loop dirt road takes you to the Silver Saddle Ranch, where the trail starts, or at least seems to. The trail to the canyon is across a brush-studded flatland, or at least seems to be. But after losing the trail once it moved away from the ranch fence several times I gave up, forgetting that the last time I hike the canyon I parked when the loop road began, closer to the beginning of the canyon trail.

So I walked back to the ranch and picked up the Silver Sage trail, which heads south after a walk along a dirt road heading east. This is a flat hike along to where it joins the Mexican Ditch trail.

The ditch was built back in the Comstock days to supply water to a mill, but when the gold boom tapered off the ditch was unused. Today it is a open ditch with caked mud on the bottom.

After about a half-mile the trail starts following the Carson River, deceptively wide here. There are a few breaks in the fence along the trail to allow you to get to the riverside. The trail ends at the remains of the Mexican Ditch dam, so it's a return along the same trail except that there is a short loop to the left that includes a plank bridge over a channel from the ditch to the river. Once back at the Red House of the Silver Saddles Ranch you can continue the Mexican Ditch trail north and out of the ranch area.

At the ranch we met Gary Gumienny, late of Chicago but now of the Bureau of Land Management Carson City Field Office. He offered a cup of coffee in the neat BLM bungalow.

Gumienny spends much of his time there in between keeping the ranch area controlled. It's a nice bungalow and he often invites visitors in for coffee or just to talk.

Out in back in a shady area are picnic tables and a grill. "If it's just a couple of people, they are welcome to use the picnic area; bigger groups have to pay $5," says Gumienny.

Right now there is legislation in the Congress to transfer ownership of Prison Hill rec area and the ranch from the BLM to Carson City. It's widely predicted to be approved as the BLM gets other land in return.

"Then it's going to be a scramble to see who gets the ranch and this bungalow," says Gumienny, who figures he will be out of a job then.

The Silver Saddle Ranch is a complex of farm buildings, corrals and riding areas. The switch to Carson City control of the ranch and Prison Hill means a new, interesting park for Carson. Developers and private groups have been held off thus far, and it will be up to the city to make the best use of this fine, outdoor facility. But it should be saved for the general population, not given to some special interest group, which would limit its use.


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Time to put the knee to some seriour stress, so this weekend we're going to try the hike to Sherton Lake, past Kirkwood and across from Silver Lake. We'ves done it before and remember it as a delight of a place, a trek up for about a half mile and then a mile or so down to the lake. It's a mountain lake of rare beauty, up against a wall of granite. It's deep and an ideal place for a cooling dip. A rocky trail with cairns all over the place. Details next week.


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