By Alicia Reban/ January 28, 2014 at 2:30 PM
I’d been avoiding it. A favorite spot, not that far from my front door. I just couldn’t bring myself to look (okay, it was that AND the fact I needed a new knee). It had been at least three years since I last hiked up to the top of Owl Rock – the dramatic outcropping rising high above Toll Road and the canyon floor. It was during a year when the wildflowers were simply insane – paintbrush and lupine and balsamroot covered the hillsides and the bowl behind the Rock in glorious color. In 2011, the Bain Springs Fire burned roughly 600 acres along Toll and through the bowl of which I speak. The image of that wildflower-filled day helped carry me through the long days of acquisition – and while I’ve been up and down Toll many times since and have grown used to seeing the fire damaged areas below, I hadn’t hiked back into the bowl and up to the top of Owl Rock until several days ago.
While there was some trash evident, and the ubiquitous (could this please just stop?!?) broken glass and shell casings littering the easily-accessible areas, illegal dumping seems to have decreased overall since NLT joined with KTMB and the dedicated and caring neighbors and volunteers for a couple of huge cleanups several years ago (that and the neighbors watch the area like hawks!). John, the kids, and I hiked up the side canyon and into the bowl. Most of the pinyons and junipers were burned, but a stand of Jeffrey pine further in remained largely untouched.
Unfortunately, what was also missing was evidence that many wildflowers had come back these past couple of years. Typical of post-burn areas, I could see pretty much a monoculture of invasive weeds. As we got higher, though, I started to see more buckwheat, and the occasional pinyon seedling. At the top of Owl Rock, where my kids and I pretended to be bandits watching for stagecoaches coming down the Old Geiger Grade from Virginia City, we found more evidence of rebirth. Several more seedlings were growing from the broken red-and-yellow andesite that comprises Owl Rock - and I could see that wildflowers had bloomed here just this past spring.
It was a glorious day, and the views from up top are fantastic. We celebrated the fact that we live in northern Nevada and there’s a place like this practically out our (and everyone else’s) back door. We celebrated the signs of recovery from the fire, and saluted the surviving trees. We watched birds and found many signs the deer were back. We celebrated my 8-month-old knee and the fact that I can get back out to more of the places I love and take part again in our family’s outdoor adventures.
Next time we’ll go higher – at the saddle we’ll head right to check out the summit to the north and look down on Owl Rock. Maybe we’ll have an even clearer view of Toll Road all the way to Dead Man’s Curve. Maybe we’ll see the eagles that live up canyon. We’ll surely see those stagecoaches coming from even further away – to give our imaginary accomplices below even more warning. Before we all become Sheriff’s deputies and save the day, that is.
To learn more about the Toll Road/Tanner aquisition check out the story in Fall 2013 newsletter: