Elko Correspondence – August 2016

Elko

Exploring Elko County’s History — Aspen Tree Carvings

Quaking aspen, turned golden in the fall, along the Charleston to Jarbidge Road, with slender, dark spires of Engelmann spruce beyond.

Quaking aspen, turned golden in the fall, along the Charleston to Jarbidge Road, with slender, dark spires of Engelmann spruce beyond.

D Clarke Aug'16 05The back roads of Elko County are perfect for exploring in August. When I am out driving I always find the aspen tree carvings worthy of stopping and checking out. In the early to mid-1900s, Elko County was home to many Basque sheepherders. They would spend the summers tending flocks in the nearby mountain ranges. One of the pastimes adopted by the herders was carving in the aspen trees while the sheep grazed or were bedded down. The smooth thin bark of the aspen made for easy carving with a knife. Carvings often included human figures, self-portraits, or depictions of animals. It was also common for herders to carve their name and a date to mark their passage across the mountains. While aspen carvings reflect unique expressions of identity and culture, some also functioned as communication between herders in these remote landscapes.

D Clarke Aug'16 03Many of these carvings can still be seen throughout the area, and these photos show carvings along the Charleston to Jarbidge Road in northeast Elko County. Because aspen is a short-lived tree, the carvings are slowly disappearing with time. Today, this artwork is protected by law and people are reminded to protect these carvings for future enjoyment by others.

So, next time you are driving the back roads of Elko County, take time to look through the aspen stands to see what art you can discover. Happy exploring!

Hiking In The Rubies

Australian visitors Marg and Colin taking in the alpine view of Lamoille Canyon.

     Australian visitors Marg and Colin taking in the alpine view of Lamoille Canyon.

In July, I had two house guests from Australia who were touring the West, and I hosted them for two days. Marg and Colin are both avid hikers, and they were excited to see the Ruby Mountains up close. The obvious choice was to take them to Lamoille Canyon and hike part of the Ruby Crest Trail. This is my favorite hike in the Rubies, and I was anxious to get on this trail for the first time in 2016. We drove up the Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway to Roads End where the Trail starts. The trail winds it way along Lamoille Creek as it climbs in elevation towards Liberty Pass. We had no destination in mind when we started, but knew would turn back before we got too tired.

We passed by blooming wildflowers, crossed Lamoille Creek several times, and hiked in the cool shade of evergreens. Before long we passed the three small Dollar Lakes, and ten minutes later we stopped for a break at Lamoille Lake. My new friends were handling the elevation well, so we decided to keep going to Liberty Pass. At a little over 10,000 feet in elevation you have a great view, once you reach the pass. Down below the pass, you

Liberty Lake -- one of over two dozen lakes in the Ruby Mountains of Elko County.

Liberty Lake — one of over two dozen lakes in the Ruby Mountains of Elko County.

could see Liberty Lake shimmering and, in the distance, the spine of the Ruby Mountains snaking both northward and southward. Off to Liberty Lake we headed for a short lunch break and a rest. Marg and Colin decided to go on further towards Favre Lake, while my feet were telling me it was time to head back. On the way out, we met back up on the stock trail for the last mile and a half. Along this stretch of trail the wildflowers were putting on quite the show, with columbine, Indian paint brush, lupine, sunflowers, and many others blooming. Magnificent views, terrific scenery and good company made for a perfect day. I hope you add this trail to your list of summer hikes and experience the Ruby Mountains close up, too. Happy hiking!

— Doug Clarke

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