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Meet Charley Parkhurst Hike!

Charley Parkhurst

Come hike with “Charley Parkhurst” and hear “his” and other stage coach drivers stories. Meet on Saturday, August 31 at 8:00 AM at River Fork Ranch for a flat 3-5 mile hike. It’s a fascinating story not to be missed!

To sign up email Sponsored by CVTA.

“Charley Parkhurst” Known as one of the premiere “whips” of all stage drivers, One-Eyed Charley Parkhurst came to the West from Rhode Island during the Gold Rush era of the 1850s. At times Charley worked with famous local stage driver Hank Monk who was known as the “Jehu of the Sierras”. Charley’s route was at one time through Carson Valley between the California gold fields and the Comstock.


Charley Parkhurst will be represented by Kim Harris, an accomplished Chautauquan who has portrayed living history characters at various venues including Genoa Cowboy Festival, Pipers Opera House, the Gold Hill Hotel and The Lake Tahoe Chautauqua Festival. Harris currently serves as president of the Friends of Snowshoe Thompson organization in Genoa. She is also the events manager at Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park and is the owner and operator of Western History ALIVE! where she portrays several Chautauqua characters that helped to shape Northern California and Nevada’s early days, as well as the West. Harris was born and raised at Donner Lake, CA growing up immersed in the history of our West. She enjoys not only sharing what she has learned about our history, but continuously learning from those that have lived it themselves.

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Rattlesnake Safety on the Trails

I have been hiking for many years and in that time have seen only a few rattlesnakes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t keep an eye and an ear out for them at all times. Your chances of dying from a rattlesnake bite are quite low-there are 7,000-8,000 venomous snake bites in the US every year and only about five of them are fatal. But it is definitely better to avoid that altogether, as treatment requires immediate medical attention and great expense. So here are some safety tips for snake encounters.

Nevada is home to five species of venomous snakes. Four of them live in southern Nevada-the Sidewinder, the Mohave, Speckled and Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes. The one that is found in our area of Northern Nevada is a subspecies of the Western Rattlesnake called the Great Basin Rattlesnake, seen in the photo below.

Great Basin Rattlesnake. Note the triangular head, a characteristic of venomous snakes.

They can be found on most if not all of our trails, as their habitat is rocky hillsides, barren flats, sagebrush, grassy plains, and agricultural areas. They eat small mammals, including ground squirrels, mice, rats, rabbits and hares, birds, lizards, snakes, frogs, and insects.

Adults of this species range from 15 – 65 inches long but typically the adults seen are 3  to 4 feet long. Their newborns are around 10 inches long. Their markings are quite distinctive, but they do look similar to the nonvenomous Gopher Snake, seen here below.

A nonvenomous Gopher Snake, also common in our area. Note the slender head.

There are several ways to tell them apart-Gopher snakes are much longer and more slender than rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes have slit-like pupils, spade-shaped heads and heat-sensing “pits” near their nostrils. Gopher snakes have round pupils, narrow heads, and no pits. They do not have rattles on the ends of their tails but when they feel threatened, they will vibrate the end of their tails to imitate a rattlesnake.

Luckily for us, rattlesnakes that are found in the US are generally not aggressive. They will try to avoid encounters by remaining motionless and hope they will be camouflaged and not seen. If that doesn’t work, they will slither away as quickly as possible. That is why it is important to never corner a rattlesnake.

If they feel threatened, they will rattle their tails and make their famous sound. If you’ve never heard it, you can hear one here.

As a last resort, a rattlesnake will strike, usually at your hands, feet or ankles. Most bites occur when people accidentally touch one while walking or climbing. Even if they do bite however, 25-50% of their bites are “dry”, meaning they won’t use their venom. They would much rather save it for killing and digesting their prey.

So it’s important to be vigilant as you hike.  They are typically active at twilight (crepuscular) or nocturnal, so during the day they will be resting often in the shade beside a trail. They like to sun themselves near cover.

It is safest to wear hiking boots rather than sandals, and loose-fitting long pants. Stay on the trail, as you will have better visibility, and avoid heavy brush or tall grass, where they may be hiding during the day.

Do not put your hands or feet where you cannot see. Be extremely careful while scrambling up rocks or ledges, and inspect stumps, crevices and logs before sitting down.

If you are bitten, here is what the Nevada Department of Wildlife says to do:

  • The primary goal is to seek emergency medical treatment immediately. If you believe you have been bitten by a venomous reptile do not wait for symptoms to show.
  • Immobilize the victim and keep the wound below heart level. Gravity can quicken the spread of the venom if the wound is above the heart.
  • Do not use tourniquet, cut and suction, electro-shock, or put ice on the wound.
  • Calm the victim. A rapid pulse from panic or anxiety circulates venom more quickly.
  • Watch the victim for any unusual reactions. Remove all jewelry in anticipation of swelling.
  • Identify the snake if possible. This helps the caregiver give the correct medical treatment.
  • Transport the victim to a medical facility immediately. If it is necessary to walk, do so slowly and rest frequently.
  • Remember that a venomous bite does not mean certain death: annually only 1/10 of 1 percent of venomous bites result in death nationwide. Timely medical treatment simplifies recovery.

This also applies to pets but for more information on rattlesnake bites in dogs, check out this article.


Photos courtesy of Gary Nafis at the A Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of California website, which is a great source of info on reptiles and amphibians.

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Wildlife on the Trails

If you have hiked the Fay-Luther Trail System, the Genoa Trail system or the upper part of the Clear Creek Trail where the habitat is montane coniferous forests dominated by pines, here is a beautiful and interesting bird you may see…

This bird is called a White-headed Woodpecker, and they are about the size of a Robin. The one pictured here is a male, which you can tell by the red patch on the back of his head. The female looks the same, just without the red patch. They are the only woodpecker in North America with a white head and a black body.

I have seen these birds in Yosemite, but the first one I saw here was on the Clear Creek trail near Knob Point, doing what White-headed Woodpeckers do, which is pecking and flaking the bark of the tree for insects. They also like to open up pine cones to get at the seeds, but rarely hammer deep into the wood like other woodpeckers. These birds don’t migrate, so you will see them year-round. They prefer to nest in holes in dead trees, snags and stumps, and both the male and female incubate the eggs.

Their call is a sharp high-pitched, two- or three-noted “pit-it” or “pit-it-it”, so if you are out hiking in the pine forest and you hear that sound, look around as there is one nearby. I love seeing these birds.

A couple of weeks ago I was hiking on the Lonesome Trail when I came upon one of these, stretched out across the sandy trail.

It’s a Rubber Boa, and I think their name is apt as they do look rubbery, don’t they? The one I saw was about 13 inches long but they can get as big as 2.75 feet long. What I found unusual about this snake was its stubby tail that looks the same shape as its head.

These non-poisonous snakes cover a large portion of the western United States, and are known to be one of the most docile species of boa. They are known to never bite or even strike at a human but they will release a potent musk if they feel threatened. If you’ve never had a snake release this musk onto you, consider yourself lucky-it smells really bad!

They are quite adaptable, living in many different habitats, from grasslands to meadows to coniferous and deciduous forests, and they are found at elevations as high as 10,000 feet! Even though like all snakes they are cold-blooded, meaning their body temperature varies with that of their environment, they can live in areas that are surprisingly cold for a snake.

They primarily feed on young mammals such as mice, and also sometimes eat snake and lizard eggs and young birds and bats. Their only defense mechanism when threatened is to curl up in a ball, bury their head inside and expose their blunt tail to mimic their head. Needless to say, this is not a very effective defense, which is why they are usually quite secretive. I feel lucky that I got to see one!


Our Spring/Summer 2019 Newsletter is now available, it’s a wonderful read packed full of interesting info and you can find it here.

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Trail Etiquette

trail courtesy

Welcome to the Carson Valley Trails Association Blog! Our trails are getting more and more popular as time goes by, which is great but with all the hikers, bikers, dogs and horses having to share them, I thought it was a good time to talk about Trail Etiquette. This is usually a matter of common sense and courtesy but here are some good rules to go by.


Hikers going uphill have the right of way, even though an uphill hiker may let others come down while they take a rest. If you are about to pass another hiker from behind, calling out a friendly greeting is helpful to avoid startling them. When passing, stay on the trail to reduce erosion.

If you are hiking in a group, always hike single-file as to allow space for other trail users.


Mountain bikers should yield to hikers on the trail, being as bikes are faster and more maneuverable. However, as both a mountain biker and a hiker, if I hear or see a biker coming, I generally find it easier to stand to the side and let them pass, especially if they are going uphill. I know what it’s like to lose momentum up a tough incline! And most of the hikers I have encountered while biking do the same. However, a mountain biker should always slow down and be prepared to stop for hikers and should never expect them to yield. Hikers should always be aware of their surroundings, especially around blind corners, and bikers should call out their presence and let you know if anyone is behind them also. Bikers need to control their speed, especially around blind turns and always be prepared to encounter someone else on the trail.


Horses are large and can be very unpredictable, therefore they get the right of way from both bikers and hikers. If hikers see a horse approaching, they should give them as wide a berth as possible and alert the rider of their presence in a friendly, relaxed tone. Try not to make any abrupt moves or loud noises that could startle the animal. Try to get off the trail on the downhill side, as horses and mules are more likely to run uphill when spooked and you do not want to be in the path of a spooked horse!

A few riders on our trail have reported that some people are moving aside and literally hiding behind a bush, then stepping out as the horse is passing, and scaring him half to death! Please do not do this, make sure the horse and rider can see you as they approach, as one rider was thrown from her horse from this kind of behavior.

When mountain bikers see horseback riders on the trail, they should stop at a safe distance away and move off the trail on the downhill side if possible. If the rider appears to not have seen you, calling out a calm friendly greeting to alert your presence is helpful. I like to ask the equestrian how they want to proceed and  if I am giving them enough room to pass, in case their horse is nervous or flighty.


Our trails are very popular with dog owners, as they are great places to take your pup for an enjoyable walk. However, to avoid problems here are a few simple rules about taking your dog out on the trails…

First, please pick up your dog’s poop. Doggie poop bags are available at many of our trailheads, although you should always try to pack your own. No one wants to step in or smell your dog’s excrement. Also, please do not put the poop in the bag, and then leave the bag on the side of the trail. I know many people do this intending to pick it up on their way back out, but by the number of them I see on the side of the trail, many people forget. Double bag if you must but please pack it out.

Have your dog on a leash or if you are in an area where dogs are allowed off leash, have them under very strict voice command at all times. Strict voice command means your dog comes immediately when called, stays with you and does not bark at other trail users. If your dog is off-leash, keep them in your sight at all times.

Make sure your dog is not in the way when mountain bikers are approaching, as your dog being run over by a bike will be very bad for both your dog and the mountain biker! You should not allow your dog to approach or make contact with other trail users or dogs unless they indicate that it is OK. Some people are afraid of dogs, friendly or not, or their dog may not be friendly with other dogs, so always ask. When encountering horses on the trail, make sure your dog does not bark or move towards the horse, as horses are easily spooked by strange dogs.

Please do not let your dog chase or disturb wildlife. This is not only safer for you and the dog, but also prevents the animal from the stress of having to flee.

Did I mention you need to pick up your dog’s poop? It’s the right thing to do.

Happy Trails!



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President’s Message

By Norah Gastelum

Several events this past year helped solidify our commitment to a key line in CVTA’s Mission Statement: “… a recreational trail system for future generations to enjoy.” In completing the Strategic Plan Update, we reflected on how to continue our work toward this goal. Then, at the same time, we were approached by two amazing young people who represent this new generation of trail users.

First, Audry Keasling, a student from Douglas High School in Minden, began volunteering regularly to build trail with us on the new section of the Clear Creek Trail connecting to Spooner Summit. Her enthusiasm and interest led her to become the Carson Valley Trails Association’s first Youth Board Member. She hopes to bring opportunities to the next generation of trail users and help the board to have a fresh perspective while developing the next generation of organizational leaders. In addition to her volunteer work with CVTA, Audry continues to be an outstanding mountain biker, trail runner and community member.

Additional inspiration came when we were surprised and honored with a $1,000 donation from another teen, Jared Marchegger. Jared, a cross-country runner and graduate of Sierra Lutheran High School, earned the title of Gatorade Player of the Year for Nevada in 2018. Gatorade gave him the opportunity to give back to his community by providing money for a local nonprofit of his choice. With his donation Jared said, “The trails your group has built have been a large part of my life, and have inspired me to keep running in the beautiful Carson Valley area. I run Clear Creek Trail all the time and it is one of my favorite trails ever!”

When we think of Jared and Audry, or when we meet a family hiking out on the trails, we are further encouraged to continue the work of the Carson Valley Trails Association. Having youth who are connected to the trails and the experiences they offer will help protect and ensure public access to these amazing places.

Norah Gastelum
Carson Valley Trails Association, President