Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Nevada Beyond the Neon: Santa Rosa Mountain Range in the Humboldt National Forest

There's gold in them thar hills.
          Arrowleaf Balsamroot is the common name of the wildflowers shown above.  The flowers are named for the shape of their leaves and the fragrant balsam in their roots.  Fair enough.
          I can't help but imagine though, that the bands of Northern Paiute who inhabited this area years ago ascribed more inspirational names to these carpets of gold—"Fields of Sunshine" perhaps, or "Sunrise Touching the Hills".

          These first manifestations of spring ambushed our senses as we climbed Hinkey Summit Road in the Santa Rosa Range of the Humboldt National Forest in north-central Nevada.
          Our two-day trip to the Santa Rosa Range included other sensuous pleasures as well.   Driving past a spindly half-dead tree on the hillside we noticed a nest cradled in its branches.  After stopping the truck to inspect this find we spied two fuzzy heads bobbing in the nest.  And then we heard it, that tell-tale piercing scream—you've probably heard it on the soundtrack of a western movie or television show—of a Red-tailed Hawk.  Red-tail chicks!  I had never seen them in the wild and so Tim and I tentatively crept up the hill toward the tree.
         The screech we heard earlier meant that mama hawk was nearby and sure enough she flew into the nest, gave her chicks a scolding for allowing themselves to be seen, and then dive-bombed the two of us.  Warning taken.  We scrambled down the hill and away from those razor-sharp claws.  And the chicks didn't surface again.  Those youngsters listen to "Mom" when she tells them to lie low.

Red-tail Hawk family.  On our return down the mountain we saw the entire
family in the nest.  This time, using the truck as a blind,
Tim took this zoomed photo.
Mama and Papa hawk didn't pay any attention to us—so long
as we stayed by our truck.
         Singas Creek Trail presented another perspective on this mountain range.  The steep trail on the east side of the Santa Rosas climbs through wildflower-strewn alpine meadows and past mature aspens on its way to lichen-covered granite spires.  Tim and I had the trail to ourselves on this June day.
         Solitude and scenery.  Can't beat it.

Brilliantly colored lichen adorns the granite in the Santa Rosa Range.

          Our final visual treat was the town of Paradise Valley, a virtual ghost town now inhabited by 109 souls.  The town was named "Paradise" after an early settler exclaimed: "What a paradise!" upon viewing the mountains to the west.  With its abandoned buildings, rusty vehicles and towering old cottonwood trees the town these days would be better-suited as the setting for an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Paradise?  Or the scene of a horror show?  You decide.

          As with most everywhere in rural Nevada the town of Paradise Valley and the remote Santa Rosa range are accessed by one lonely dirt road.  If you choose to experience the treasures of north-central Nevada, mid-June is the perfect time to view its fields of sunshine and fledgling birds of prey.


  1. Solitude and scenery. That succinctly sums it all up! And your encounter with the hawks.
    Thank you for another wonderful post and some beautiful pictures, once again

    1. I've found that you can't beat rural Nevada for both solitude and scenery, which is a pretty good reason to vacation in the state.
      And that hawk encounter was truly special.
      Thanks as always for your comments, Soumyendu!

  2. What incredible sights on your trip! I've never seen such colorful lichen (we must get pretty dull lichen in New England!), and your photo of the hawk family is truly special. Glad you escaped the claws!!

    1. In my opinion Nevada has some of the most incredible scenery in the US. Yet, people associate the state mostly with Vegas. That's why it's been so much fun to do this series.

      About the lichen: it would be interesting to know why the lichen on that granite is so brilliantly colored. Perhaps a lichen specialist could enlighten us?

      I was concerned about the hawk—she came at us with lightening speed and who knows what damage those claws could have done. That's why we hustled out of there!

      It's great to hear from you, Vickie! I appreciate your comments.

  3. Hopefully, some official from the State of NV will express their gratitude to you for so adeptly revealing the many wonders of NV "beyond the neon".

    Regarding the Northern Paiute who once inhabited what is now the Humboldt National Forest, maybe their name for this area also incorporated the word 'Paradise", as did the more modern-era settlers did when naming a nearby town as Paradise Valley? :-)

    I'm curious about many rural towns in NV being accessed by one lonely dirt road. I'm assuming these areas get snow, and if so, then is it correct to further assume that these roads are plowed during the winter months?

    Oh! That was quite an encounter you and Tim had with the hawks. Seems as though you were unsuspecting contributors to the 'education' of the young chicks.


    1. Hi John,

      I don't know the answer to your snowplowing question but I assume that the decision to plow or not to plow is on a county-by-county basis. Or it could be that the few people who live in these rural outposts are responsible for plowing their own roads, or have to wait until the snow melts to leave home! I honesty don't know.

      I like your take on our hawk encounter as being an educational experience for the young chicks. I'm sure that hawk parents are exceptional teachers!

      Regarding your first comment—wouldn't it be nice if the state of Nevada used excerpts from my blog posts in their travel brochures?!

  4. Ahh, I can relate to this one, Rita. My first husband and I hiked the Singas Creek Trail in the Santa Rosa Range were intrigued by Paradise and its name. I'm surprised it still has 109 residents. We didn't see red-tail chicks. I wish we had. Once again, Rita, thanks for highlighting Nevada and all it has to offer when one is willing to wonder off the beaten path.

    1. I'm thrilled to hear that you hiked the Singas Creek Trail. That makes four of us!

      Actually I relied on 2010 census data for the 109 figure. We didn't see to many souls lurking about when we were there. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the population has dwindled.

      Although I've seen plenty of adult Red Tail Hawks that was my one and only sighting of chicks. Finding a nest with young in it is quite exciting!

      One more post in the Nevada series, Janet. I've enjoyed highlighting your former "home state'!