A July morning of mosquitoes, wind, snow, ice, wildflowers and heat
July 13, 2005
Very early last Friday morning, Elaine and I left Carson City for another of our many outdoor adventures in this area.
We were on the highway, headed south, out of town, by 6 a.m., and as usual, while driving, I was busy talking, while alternating a cup of hot coffee and a large, chocolate pastry bar (my favorite breakfast!) in my non-driving hand.
I was busy telling Elaine about our destination, one of my all-time favorite locations in the Great Outdoors, Winnemucca Lake near Kit Carson Pass on Calif. S.R. 88.
I wanted to check out the status of the wildflowers along the hiking trail to Winnemucca Lake, so as to be able to write one of my annual columns on that breathtaking display of Mother Nature’s beauty.
We arrived at our parking area at about 6:45 and hopped out of my little red pickup right into swarms and swarms of pesky mosquitoes.
They were unholy!
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However, little did we know that the worst was still ahead of us.
We quickly loaded everything into my day pack and began to hike, upwards, on a faintly marked trail toward Frog Lake.
That trail is one that I have used for many, many years. It is steep but a relatively short hike, up a ridge to Frog Lake.
At that little lake, you intersect the main hiking trail from the paved parking lot, located at the top of Kit Carson Pass. From that intersection, it is a short, easy hike to the meadow where the main display of wildflowers is located.
As we climbed steadily upwards, we left those darn mosquitoes behind (for the time being!), but quickly encountered all kinds of snow patches and large, deep snow drifts across the trail.
Based on many years of hiking in this area, those patches and drifts were far more numerous than you would normally see at this time of the year.
Most interesting, where you would normally see scattered patches of brightly colored wildflowers, they were missing!
The plants were just budding out, with just an occasional flower, here and there. We were too darn early, this year. And, it was already July 8!
When we reached Frog Lake, we took a short break (because of mosquitoes) and took digital photos of the scenery.
One of those photos was of the huge, dark clouds of mosquitoes hanging over the brush along the lake. Zillions of them!
If you venture into that country without any repellent, you’ll be sorry! They are waiting and hungry for blood…your blood!
Even though the majority of the flowers are not yet blooming, there was still enough of a display along the trail at Frog Lake to make the hike well worth the time and effort.
The swarms of the mosquitoes finally drove us away from the lake and as we left for Winnemucca Lake, two thing occurred:
We began to encounter more and more and bigger and bigger snow drifts, plus a very cool, strong wind began to blow.
The mosquitoes disappeared due to the wind (Thank God!) and so did the hiking trail. It was somewhere under those large drifts.
When we finally reached the main area where the wildflowers are located, it was disappointment time: No flowers. Nada, Nil, Zip!
They are just budding out.
I would hazard a guess that it will still be a couple of weeks before those flowers are ready for viewing and photographing.
From there, we continued on to Winnemucca Lake. At the lake, we took a long break and a number of photos of that gorgeous scenery.
That included the remaining ice on the surface of the water at the far end. Yep! Ice on July 8!
Most amazing, in a span of three hours between the time we left my little pickup and the time we left Winnemucca Lake to begin our return hike back to the truck, we saw ZERO people! Zero! It’s true!
That is unbelievable for any time of the year and especially now.
After the break, we began our return trip back to the truck.
Finally, as we drove across Carson Valley toward Carson City and as the mid-day weather got hotter and hotter, it was pleasant to remember where we had just been short time ago: The cool wind, snow and ice of Winnemucca Lake.
If you like to hike at high altitude, give it a try this weekend.
If you want to admire the wildflowers, I’m afraid that you will need to wait a little longer.
• Bet Your Favorite Pigeon
Bet your favorite pigeon that he can’t tell you how many people I have seen in one day, who were admiring the wildflower display on the Winnemucca Lake Trail.
If he grins and says, “A number of years ago at the height of the wildflower display, Don stopped counting at 400 people,” he could be a close friend of mine.