Of the thousands of hiking trails in the Sierra montaña, Deadman's Creek is one of the shortest and easiest, with some of the most beautiful views of Washoe Lake. The view of the lake from the wooden gazebo some 200 feet above the trailhead is awesome. Across Washoe Valley is Slide Mountain, which is often snowcapped well into June, as it is this year. The Peanut Mountains to the southwest are towering peaks which often are snow-dappled late into July.
The trailhead is about eight miles north of Carson City on East Lake Boulevard, almost across from the entrance to underutilized-Washoe Lake State Park (it's part of the park). A stark, barkless tree trunk marks the small parking area. The tree was victim of a wildfire that scoured the area in 1999. Signs and a large map are at the trailhead, which notes that the hike is about a mile round trip (although that might have changed when the new trail was built a few years ago).
The trail begins at a wooden bridge, just past a mysterious cross marking some kind of unknown grave. The left branch starts the new trail.
The old trail (to the right) followed the small creek (or trickle, in dry months) and was steep, with steps cut into the hill. It was too close to the newly grown foliage, which served as a refuge for birds and wildlife. So park officials took advantage of an idle firefighting crew to cut most of a new trail away from the creek. The job was finished by an Eagle Boy Scout, using it as his major project.
The new trail keeps its distance from the creek, although it abuts it for perhaps 100 feet. This trail is a long, gradual riser, paralleling a dry stream bed. Traversing here offers good views of the rocks protruding from the gazebo hill.
At a switchback about halfway up the trail, the views open up of Washoe Lake and Slide Mountain. In spring and early summer, wildflowers are common, with phlox creating blankets of white and pink flowers. The trail here is marred by horse hoof prints that dig deep into the mostly dirty trail. Rocks are granitic with conglomerate. The lake is all that's left of a massive ancient lake which once covered much of Nevada.
After about 200 feet of vertical rise, the trail levels out at the wood gazebo. This is a pleasant place to enjoy a snack or picnic lunch, looking out on the lake and the mountain. Sadly, the gazebo is marked by the usual thoughtless initials of those who can't stand to be someplace without leaving their illiterate marks.
For those from the lowlands or not into hiking, this is a good place to get started. They can reach the gazebo, rest and relax, and then return. If they are still game for a bit of adventure, there's a vehicle road leading on up the hill to a crest, which offers a magnificent view of the mountains to the east adorned with many roads and trails. There are also two distant quarries in those hills, producing red and black rock for landscaping.
Birds that have been seen in the area include long-eared and great-horned owls, Cooper's hawks, black-billed magpies, Lazuli buntings, blue-gray gnatcatchers, wrens and sparrows. For birders, the birds are a bonus; for the rest of us, something pleasant to the ear.
Who was the Deadman for whom the creek was named? Nobody seems to know, just as no one seems to know why the cross is at the beginning of the trail. But it's a nice, romantic name for a nice, undemanding but rewarding climb.
For more information, contact Washoe Lake State Park, 4855 East Lake Blvd., Carson City; 687-4319
• Contact Sam Bauman at email@example.com or 881-1236.