Visit With the Old Ones: the Spring Range's Bristlecone Pines


It is the middle of October, 2000.  In the nearby Spring Range, some vegetation is getting undressed for winter.  The objective of this mild hike was to visit with my old friends, the Bristlecone Pines that live at about 9,000 feet and above in the Spring Range.

How does one anticipate a winter when one has been around for hundreds of years, in some cases a few thousands of years?  Perhaps with complacency.
 

Part 1:  Orientation.

I drove 32 miles from home, north and then west up to Kyle Canyon.  I took two pictures as I approached the area where I climbed up to Cathedral Rock.  In the first one it illustrates the opening of the mountains into the bowl that is Kyle Canyon.  Mt. Charleston has clouds on the left, and Mummy Mountain dominates the right of the picture:

I made a right turn before entering the bowl that house a village and two inns. I turned onto the road connecting Kyle Canyon with Lee Canyon.  That road runs on the flank of the second highest peak(s) in the Spring Range, the body parts of the mummy (rocks seen from a distance, with very little imagination, look like a head, body and feet) that lies on and defines Mummy Mountain.

I think the desert overlook provided on that road is quite spectacular.  It is the reason I came the "long way" to Lee Canyon, I could have gone straight north on US95 and then made a left, westward up the Lee Canyon road.

This view shows the Sheep Range, home of the national refuge for Desert Bighorn sheep, across the valley, and the only other forested range in southern Nevada.  I think this picture puts into context the idea that these ranges are quite literally islands in the desert.  It is because of the isolation of these types of mountains here and in central Nevada that this state sports so many unique plant species, and some uniquely differentiated animal species as well.  On the west side of the state the vegetation is closer to that found on the Sierra Nevada (California), on the east side the vegetation is more like that of the Wasatch range in Utah:

This other view is from the same place but looking more to the north to a dry lake area that is part of the Nellis Air Force Range:

Turning up into Lee Canyon, I parked the car and hit the trail.  In terms of orientation, the wall of mountain that connects Mt. Charleston and the Mummy and defines the northern extent of Kyle Canyon is the same wall that forms the south rim of the Lee Canyon bowl.

Starting my hike, I am headed onto the northern, lower rim of the bowl that is Lee Canyon.  My destination is the ridge in this picture, the top of which sits above 9,000 feet in elevation.

Looking back from the trail which meanders a bit along the side of the north wall, the views of the Mummy's head are very nice:

The trail continues westward for a while, and then, just before turning north up the north-ridge itself, the trail allows nice views of the mountain just east of Charleston,

and then Charleston itself comes into view with just a tiny spot of snow clinging to its north side:

That's enough orientation, let's get on the trail and up the ridge!

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