This hike started from Tahoe Meadows, near the Mt Rose Summit on NV-431, and included a short section of the Tahoe Rim Trail up to Chickadee Ridge and the upper portion of the Ophir Creek Trail, down to a little past Price Lake Dam. There were great views of Lake Tahoe, the Washoe Valley, the “slide” side of Slide Mountain, and numerous wildflowers and several bird species. The entire hike was within the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada.
The first part of the hike followed the Tahoe Rim Trail across Tahoe Meadows and up to Chickadee Ridge, seen here across the meadow.
There were several types of wildflower in the meadow, including cut-leaf daisies.
After crossing the meadow the trail enters a forested area and climbs gently up to Chickadee Ridge.
Along Chickadee Ridge there are wonderful views of Lake Tahoe, along the East shore all the way to the South Lake area. I believe the prominent shore feature is Deadman Point.
After exploring Chickadee Ridge and enjoying the lake views from a vista point, I returned about halfway to the trailhead, to a junction where the Ophir Creek Trail takes off to the East and literally down the steep East side of the Carson Range.
Before leaving the Tahoe Meadows area completely, however, I was treated to several more types of wildflower, including these distinctive ranger’s buttons, also known as swamp whitehead. The small white flower balls reminded me of satellites tethered to a central structure.
Another pretty wildflower, which I have been unable to identify, was being visited by a bee. (Update: it is fireweed; see comment.)
The lower and main Tahoe Meadow areas were great for birding. I saw and/or heard several species, only a few of which I could identify. Of course there were quite a few mountain chickadees. I also saw juncos, perhaps Oregon Juncos, with distinctive white feathers at the outside edges of their tails. There were numerous white-crowned sparrows, and one small sparrow-size bird that I noticed jumping vertically several inches from the ground where it was too hidden in the grasses for identification. Surprisingly, I also saw what looked like a house wren, which I usually associate with an urban setting.
Once the trail began the descent, it was steep. A sign advised of a 1250-foot elevation drop in 2 miles. The actual distance was only 1.7 miles, for an average grade of 14%. Mountain bikes are not recommended on the Ophir Creek Trail, for good reason! Along the way there were numerous views of the Washoe Valley floor far below, emphasizing the steep eastern slope of the Carson Range.
Perhaps it should not be surprising that some of the decomposed granite mountainsides are unstable, between seismic activity and water-related events (e.g. snowmelt). This is the southeast side of Slide Mountain, where the most recent major slide took place in 1983, almost instantly obliterating a small lake and sliding all the way down to the Washoe Valley floor.
The trail crosses a few small tributary creeks that flow into Ophir Creek. This small creek tumbled down the steep hillside in tiny waterfalls.
When the trail reaches Price Lake Dam, at the bottom of the 1250-foot descent, it turns south and becomes almost flat for ¼ mile or so before continuing downward. (It is still about 2000 feet to the trailhead at Davis Creek Park.) Because the hillside is so steep, some trees that initially grew perpendicular to the soil surface had to make a distinct bend to achieve vertical growth.
I continued past the flat area to a junction with Little Valley Road, about 4.2 miles from the trailhead (6.5 miles on the elevation profile), where I turned around. I also explored a little to the north of the steep part of the trail, to see if I could find Upper Price Lake, but I was unsuccessful. During this exploration I noticed that the sky was getting greyer, and to the east it looked like there might be some rain in the valley.
About 20 minutes after I started climbing back up the hill I was “treated” to a bit of low, rumbling thunder, reminiscent of another hike a couple of weeks earlier. And 15 minutes later I was putting on a jacket to fend off some light rain, which fortunately lasted less than 15 minutes. The wildflowers I saw after that were decorated with raindrops.
I had not hiked the Ophir Creek Trail before, so it was interesting to experience the scenery, flora, and bird fauna. I hope to hike up to the Price Dam area from the lower trailhead some other time.