Sam Bauman: Ski season is nearly over; hiking season is next for seniors

When I went skiing at Boulder Base of Heavenly last week, I was surprised to find that the lodge and lift were closed for the season. Many of the seniors I used to see there, most of them season-pass holders, enjoyed Boulder because of the plentiful parking and handy lift for the Boulder green run, just right for seniors not out to run slalom gates.

This is, of course, the beginning of the end of the 2012-13 ski season. So with skiing going away, seniors now can turn to mountain hiking, something even the most hobbled senior can enjoy. I don’t do the really arduous hikes anymore, but there are plenty of trails in the Carson City area ideal for a senior outing. The are River Park, front and back of Prison Hill, the Mexican Ditch at the Silver Saddle Ranch, and for a no-strain outing, try the grounds of the state Capitol Building; there are lots of flowers and plenty of places to sit and watch legislators go by.

One of my favorite senior hikes is Dead Man’s Creek, over by Washoe Lake (itself the site of several hiking trails). To get there, drive out U.S. Highway 395 south, turning off at Eastlake Boulevard. About 7 miles in, you’ll go round a bend and see signs for Washoe Lake on the left; on the right is a small parking lot that is the entrance to Dead Man’s Creek.

There’s a sign at the trailhead describing the creek hike and several others around the lake. It reads that the creek is a moderate-level, about 1-mile round trip with about 250 feet of vertical gain.

About 100 feet up the trail you’ll spot a memorial on the left, always well cared for. No sign explains it. Then a few more steps and there is a wooden bridge over the bed of the creek, in springtime often with flowing water that dries up in summer. Past the bridge the trail ascends sharply for a dozen steps, then levels into a mild uphill slope.

Along the way are many metal markers with information and flora and fauna.

At about this point, about 500 feet in, there’s a crossing over the creek. This used to be the official trail, but the rangers closed it to protect the critters that live in the greenery of the spring that feeds the creek. Continue on the well-groomed trail, which rises slowly before it dips at a fork. Straight ahead takes one to a wildlife viewing area, about a half-mile up a moderate slope.

The right fork leads along the side of the mountain, slowly rising with some nice views of Washoe Lake and Slide Mountain. Near the top the trail heads back toward the lake, but visible ahead is a gazebo, newly built several years ago after a wildfire raked the area.

This is a fine place to stop and enjoy the beauty all around you. And if you’ve been thoughtful, you have brought a lunch. This is a fine place for picture taking, and right about now the wildflowers are blooming and phlox blanket the surrounding area.

Returning to the parking area, you have a choice. The official trail is just a simple return, but if you’re a bit adventurous you can take the old trail. This starts to the left of the main trail through some large rocks and descends much more steeply than the other trail.

This is an easy hike, one I often take flatland visitors on while they are becoming accustomed to the altitude.

Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.


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