“April showers bring May flowers”
We’re hoping for more rain in April, as it’s been a dry February and March in eastern Nevada. Fortunately, we already have some spring flowers appearing at the lower elevations, including purple milkvetch (Astragulus species), spreading fleabane (Erigeron divergens), and plantainleaf buttercup (Rannculus alismifolius).
The upper elevations still remain snow covered, and the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive will slowly open as conditions allow. In the winter it is closed at 7,600 feet at the Upper Lehman Campground.
Then it will open to the Osceola Ditch trailhead, at about 8,500 feet. A short spur trail from the parking area leads through ponderosa pines, mountain mahogany, and aspens to a meadow, through which the Osceola Ditch runs. You can then continue hiking 4.5 miles to the east to Strawberry Creek, only dropping 400 feet in elevation as you follow the ditch. This ditch was built in 1889-90 from Lehman Creek to the mining town of Osceola, a distance of 18 miles. The ditch provided water for gold mining, but because of low water years and leaks, was only used until 1899. Now it’s a very pleasant hike that is seldom traveled.
With snow melting, the cave pools in Lehman Caves are filling, reflecting the stalactites and stalagmites and making the cave especially pretty. Cave tours are offered at least four times a day, at 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm. You can purchase tickets in advance at Recreation.gov. Astronomy programs will be held on Saturday nights at 7:30 pm starting on April 2. Be sure to bring a warm coat and a lawn chair while you check out the night skies in one of the darkest spots around. For more information, call 775-234-7500.
With flowers brightening the landscape, birds adding their mating songs to the sweet air, and hibernating animals like marmots reappearing, Baker is awakening from its winter slumber.
The Lehman Caves Café and Gift Shop opens April 15, and owner Susan Geary announced that the shake machine is back in operation. The Magic Bean coffee cart on main street is also reported to be opening mid-April. And a catering business, Salt & Sucre, has recently opened in the valley, offering baked goods and a variety of other foods. The Border Inn is hosting the Home and Garden Show on April 30 starting at 11 am, and various vendors will have items for sale.
— Gretchen Baker
(Read more at Gretchen’s fascinating outdoor adventure blog, Desert Survivor)