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In Reno for another club volleyball tournament, my daughter's team didn't play their first match until 10:30a. That gave me a few hours in the morning to do some hiking and tag a few peaks which helps immensely with the guilt of sitting around all day on one's butt in a convention center. The two summits I picked out for the morning were on the east side of town, near Hidden Valley Regional Park. The higher of the two has been named "Road to Nowhere Peak" on SummitPost, Hidden Valley Peak elsewhere. Personally I like the latter name as the former sounds kinda silly. This funny name comes from the old mining road that has been bulldozed onto its east face, without any obvious way to reach it. I used the SummitPost directions to reach my starting point, utilizing Alexander Lake Rd which starts near the intersection of McCarran Blvd and Longley Lane, passing through Huffaker Park and eventually ending on the north side of a mining venture at the base of the mountain.
One of the first things I noticed was a large number of wild horse in the area though the landscape has been nearly stripped bare. Though I was the first one out this way in the early morning around 6:30a, others soon arrived, coming to feed the wild ponies with small bales of hay and alfalfa. The first such arrival was there to feed a lame horse that I had walked past soon after starting out. This I could understand. Others would come later, feeding healthier horses and their young offspring. This seemed counter-productive. Do a quick internet search and you can see that this is a hot topic for debate in the area and has been for years. There are signs pointing out it is illegal to feed them (though oddly, not illegal to water them), but people still come to help out the ponies. I've seen plenty of wild horses in Nevada now, and seen plenty of how they can sculpt a landscape left unchecked, but nowhere have I seen the land transformed as the east hills of Reno. Here the land has been reduced to piles upon piles of horse poop spread amongst nearly barren soil and rock. Junipers and a few other plants that the horse won't eat manage to survive, but most everything else is gone. Where feeding doesn't occur, the horses will naturally migrate to other ranges, the weaker ones dying of starvation. But here, the well-intentioned feeders keep the horses in the foothills until the next handout arrives. Because they aren't fed to satiation, they spend the time between feedings combing the nearby hills for meager tufts of grass and other marginal plants. Fences have to be built to keep the horses out of parks and neighborhoods. The difference in the landscape from one side of the fence to the other is often startling. Some citations say these horses end up as nuisance animals like Yosemite bears, unafraid of people and the things associated with them that can kill (like cars). True or not, it seems to make for sad herds of horses and a desolate landscape.
I followed up a short ways past the lame horse waiting near the start, then clambered up to the NW Ridge which I used to reach the summit. Halfway up I crossed over the Road to Nowhere (it appears unused for a long time) where the ridge goes through a shallow saddle. There are several very large cairns near the top, one of them at the highest point. These are visible with good eyes from town below. There is a grand view of Reno from the summit with the Sierra and other ranges added as backdrop. A geocache found in an ammo can serves as a register with many, many entries - this appears to be a favorite with locals. My descent route took me down the North Ridge where I picked up a good use trail, leaving it to descend left into a colorful canyon, past a dry waterfall and eventually emerging at the SW corner of Hidden Valley Park. It was here that I noticed the fences to keep the horses out, the signs not to feed them, and the watering station set up by one of the neighbors. A trail sign I found inside the park was the most detailed one I'd ever seen, with far more information and stats than anyone could possibly care to know or bother to read. I would have thought it almost a joke if I didn't know that someone who is really into trailbuilding was undoubtedly behind it's conception.
I walked through the adjacent neighborhood, aiming for the lower Peak 4,910ft found on the west side of this development. There was no trick to getting to the top, just up the east side, down the south side. A lone cairn crowns the summit where a lower, but more intimate view of the city is to be had. It was as I was descending the south side of this summit on my way back to my car that I saw a number of SUVs had come out to feed the horses. Certainly they are very cute, especially the young ones, but at what cost do we continue this practice?
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Peak 6,075ft - Peak 4,910ft
This page last updated: Fri May 23 01:36:14 2014
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