We woke up early on one of these recent spring mornings, our stuff all packed up the night before, and got on our bikes for a ride to Carson City where Renee had convinced me we should go to take part in a Carson Valley monkeyflower survey. Since we had the whole day with no plans, Renee sweetened the deal by suggesting we take our bikes.
We haven’t been on our bikes too much lately and it was a bit of a struggle starting out, cutting over to Virginia Street/Old 395 I wasn’t sure we’d make it all the way at all, much less on time. But we had the road more or less to ourselves on an early Sunday morning through Pleasant Valley, up over Washoe Hill, and down into the valley. With just a bit of a breeze some parts felt like a battle. And such a beautiful morning, why not just turn around, sit in the sun, start to take it easy? But we were determined and pushed forward and soon enough (20 minutes early) we pulled into the parking area for the trails behind the Great Basin CC and met up with our other surveyees, the dedicated members of the Nevada Native Plant Society.
I was definitely out of my element with all the latin names flying around (the Carson Valley monkeyflower is Erythranthe carsonensis, but I only know that because of the Internet), but it was a pleasure to spend time with these people who are interested in each and every one of the plants that we walked by. Renee was like a kid in a candy store! The Carson Valley monkeyflower is a threatened plant that exists in a very limited geographical range. It like sandy scrub soil in sagebrush/bitterbrush slopes, much of which has become housing developments.
With this dry year too, the little guys were pretty well hidden. Renee showed me one at first, and I thought I had it down, but the first one I thought I saw turned out to be something else. But it didn’t matter too much, just walking and looking intensely at the ground for something was sort of meditative and it felt nice to walk after the miles on our bikes. I did sort of despair of ever finding my own, but toward of the end of the walk I did see a few that weren’t pointed out to me by someone else, which felt like a victory.
Then it was back down to the bikes, lunch on the deserted community college campus, a side trip for another nearby variety of monkeyflower. Faced the whole time with the big climb out of Carson City. But by the time we got back on our bikes we both felt better than we had in the morning and although it is a tough climb we rocked it and the ride through the Carson Valley on Franktown Road was an absolute delight of dappled pine tree shady lane with big views of the valley meadows.
We stopped and lazed away a bit of the afternoon at Bowers Mansion State Park. I’d been there before, but never really walked around the site very much, and it has quite a story. At its heart is the magnetic figure of Eilley Bowers. She was born in Scotland, made her way to North America with her recently converted to Mormonism husband. The story gets long but detours through in Virginia City where she makes a fortune in silver and oversees the construction of Bowers Mansion. Silver Rush money being what it is she lost it all and after all the windy path, she ends her days as a fortuneteller/street person in Reno and San Francisco. A legend. So much packed into that, a grand novel of the West, but instead of published it remains inscribed in this French style mansion on a quiet lane in Washoe Valley.
After a nice relaxing rest, it was time back on the bikes for the ride back to town. The miles melted away wonderully now, energy of course building energy and, after a stop in south Reno for a bit of lunch #2, we were home tired and sore but feeling better than when we left. Bicycle Magic!