On the Trail with Sam Bauman: Dead Man’s Creek trail offers easy hike, views of Washoe Valley
For the Nevada Appeal
Dead Man’s Creek has always been a favorite spring hike of mine. It’s a moderate trek of about 2 miles (never mind that the sign at the trailhead says 1 mile round trip) ending up at a gazebo perched on a ridge overlooking Washoe Lake. Right now the desert peach is in flower and its rose or white flowers bloom all along the trail. Other small flowers bloom in pink, blue and yellow.
The trailhead is about 5 miles from Carson City via U.S. 395 and East Lake Boulevard.
Until recently a large tree trunk, denuded of bark by the 1998 fire, marked the parking area with room for about half-dozen cars. The tree has been cut down but the massive trunk is still there.
This is a trail where I always wear sneakers; boots are not needed for the dirt trail with few rocks along the way. I sometimes get arguments from seasoned hikers; boots are nice for such trails as the Echo Lake trail up to Lake Aloha, but not needed for smooth trails.
The new trail takes off right up the hill and along the creek; the old one, no longer maintained by the Washoe Lake Rangers, is steep and falling into disrepair. The old trail cut through some local bird and animal habitat so it’s best to avoid it.
About halfway up the trail, the path divides. The right fork goes up to the gazebo. The left fork takes one to a ranger road that starts at the ranger station about a half-mile away. It’s flat and easy.
The station, by the way, is well worth a visit. Ranger Jennifer is often there to answer questions, hand out pamphlets and sell a modest stock of T-shirts and the like. It’s small but pleasant and welcoming. The fork to the gazebo is moderately steep but easy for anyone who can walk a mile. The view from the gazebo of Washoe Lake and Slide Mountain is as good as any around, and the gazebo is a fine place to enjoy a snack and just sit and enjoy.
Surrounding the gazebo area are patches of phlox, mostly white, that offer a nice break from the brown earth and rocks. Wild Rose, Mormon tea, bitterbrush and mule’s ear are also around but not in bloom as of Wednesday. Avoid the stinging nettles that grow along the creek bed; brush against them and the plant will live up to its name.
Indian rice grass and Monkey flowers are here at times. Up at the gazebo (rebuilt after the fire by an Eagle Scout candidate) there’s more hiking if you’re up to it. A dirt road leads up the cliff to the east and while it’s a bit steep you can always wander off to inspect some of the rock formations. Some crude shelters have been built into the rocks. At the top there is a junction with other dirt roads, but I’ve never explored them. Roads sort of take the hiking out of it.
At the beginning of the trail, the fork to the left follows the contour of the hill. This leads to the before-mentioned ranger station, where cuts of 45 percent to the budget haven’t closed things down but have hurt. Fees have gone up about a dollar for most things at the park, like from $4 to $5 for locals driving into the park, more for out-of-state visitors.
Deadman’s Creek will be the site of a Washoe Lake Wildflower Walk Saturday starting at the boat ramp in the Washoe Lake Park. Included will be the dunes area, where sand has been built up over the years by the west winds blowing across the lake. The walk will be led by plant expert Ann Pinzl.
This will be a moderately strenuous 3-mile hike, designed for people wanting a more detailed description of plants (including scientific names) in the Washoe Valley. Hikers should bring lunch and water and the program is suggested for those 10 and older. Sandals are discouraged. The hike starts at 9:30 a.m. at the ramp parking lot. Fee for Nevada residents is $5.
If you’ve got guests coming who enjoy camping, there are 49 sites in Washoe Lake Park with horse trails all around. This year, thanks to the nice show fall, the lake should remain well filled for most of the summer.
And Washoe Lake State Park is a delightful place for a weekend picnic; there are plenty of grills and comfort stations. This is very nice camping, away from the city but close enough for picking up provisions.
The 75-Mile Hike Program that Nevada State Parks is offering this year includes 75-miles of hikes along State Park Trails. That’s out of 271 miles of state park trails. Hike, bike or ride a horse or ATM to get a 75-mile certificate. It’s an all honor system, nothing to get signed. Go to http://www.parks.nv.gov to get with the program.
• Contact Sam Bauman at 841-7818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.