Category Archives: History

Does Dune Horsebrush Occur in the Bodie Hills?

Tetradymia tetrameres isn’t normally a hill-dwelling plant. As the common name suggests, it’s found most often in deep sands and old, stabilized sand dunes (foreground and center, in the photo above). Deep sand and old dunes usually occur in valleys and basins, not hills, though sometimes deep sandy soils can be found in canyons or ravines that penetrate hilly uplands.

Dune horsebrush near the mouth of a canyon entering Adobe Valley.

In California this plant found in the north and northeastern Mono Basin, in Adobe Valley (southeast of Mono Basin), and perhaps in Deep Springs Valley (south of the White Mountains). The CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants ranks it as “fairly endangered in California, common elsewhere” but globally it’s “apparently secure, considering populations outside California”.

Outside of California, the “global” range of dune horsebrush encompasses just a handfull of counties in northwest and central Nevada — again, mostly in “sand dunes,” “sandy desert,” “dunes of compacted sand,” “sand in and around small, rather stable dunes,” etc.

Persistent phyllaries and lingering papus bristles give dune horsebrush
a bright appearance during September and October.

But does it occur in the Bodie Hills? Well, there’s an unnumbered collection by the Mariposa-based lawyer/botanist Joseph Whipple Congdon dated Aug 17, 1898. The location is given as “Bodie. Desert road.” Berkeley Mapper places the collection site near Bodie, which is logical based on the label information, but unlikely because there are no deep sands or dunes near Bodie. Having not seen this ancient specimen (DS1815), I thought it might be misidentified, but the specimen bears no annotation labels changing the determination, and Congdon had previously collected Tetradymia canescens, again without subsequent corrections.

His other collection locations on August 17  (“Mono Lake,” and “Desert Road”) shed no further light on the location of the Tetradymia. But on the 13th he was at Mono Pass and Bloody Canyon. On the 14th he was at Walker Lake. On the 15th and 16th he was at “Walker Lake to Mono Lake,” “Below Walker Lake,” and “Near Mono Lake.” So this was the smaller Walker Lake east of Mono Pass, not the larger Walker Lake near Hawthorne in Nevada. I think he may have spent a night or two at Goat Ranch on the south edge of the Bodie Hills, because he collected there on the 18th, then on the 19th he was on his way to Bridgeport. I doubt he even went to Bodie on this trip.

So where did Congdon collect his Tetradymia tetrameres, and was it “in the Bodie Hills”? I think he encountered it in the stabilized dunes he would have passed through if he had traveled the road from the DeChambeau Creek area, past DeChambeau Ranch (on today’s Cemetery Road) to Goat Ranch. Today, these dunes are also crossed by Highway 167, and the practiced eye will easily recognize dune horsebrush there on both sides of the highway north of Black Point. But this is clearly in the Mono Basin, not in the Bodie Hills, and some 9 to 11 air miles from the town of Bodie.

Part of the 1911 USGS 1:125,000 Bridgeport quadrangle, showing
the many roads between Black Point and Goat Ranch.

Dune horsebrush along Highway 167, north of Black Point.

There are, however, at least a few individuals of T. tetrameres actually in the Bodie Hills, just barely, along Cottonwood Canyon Road, near the mouth of Cottonwood Canyon, in sandy soil, but uncharacteristically in pinyon pine woodland. Having also seen dune horsebrush on sandy flats and slopes in a canyon of the southern Adobe Hills, at the northwest end of Adobe Valley, I would not be surprised to see more of it along the southeast edge of the Bodie Hills, where sandy deposits of the northeastern Mono Basin climb into some of the little valleys and canyons west and northeast of Cedar Hill.

Dune horsebrush in marginal habitat at the edge of the Bodie Hills.

Dune horsebrush has a very limited range in California. It has a wider range in Nevada, but is still endemic to the western and central Great Basin. It is easily overlooked and partial to remote, dry, dusty places, so I think a lot more of it could be found with some deliberate searching.

•     •     •

Speaking of “horsebrushes,” what other Tetradymia species occur in the Bodie Hills? Tetradymia canescens, “gray horsebrush,” is common (but rarely if ever abundant) on dry slopes among sagebrush through much of the range. Tetradymia glabrata, “little leaf horsebrush,” was collected somewhere on Rough Creek by Clare Hardham in 1969, and near lower Cottonwood Canyon by Frank Vasek in 1975. I’ve seen it on a low ridge at the west end of Fletcher Valley. Tetradymia spinosa, the (visiously) “spiny horsebrush,” is found in the northern and eastern foothills of the Bodie Hills.

Tetradymia canescens

Tetradymia spinosa

 


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Effects of the Earthquake near Bodie

I was in Bodie the first week it was open to the public since the magnitude 5.7 earthquakes near Nine Mile Ranch in Fletcher Valley that caused some damage here and startled people through much of the Eastern Sierra region on December 28, 2016. There is visible damage to the walls or contents of several buildings. There’s also an issue with the water system.

Perhaps most serious is damage to the back wall of the DeChambeau Hotel. Some bricks fell away from the top of the wall and other cracks are visible lower in the wall.

DeChambeau Hotel

Brick Wall


Inside the DeChambeau Hotel, bottles on the bar fell over.

Bar

Next door in the IOOF building, many of the old bottles that were neatly stacked in a display case fell to the floor and broke.

Bottles


In the morgue, an open coffin toppled off the back of the table on which it was resting. The lid came off another one standing to its left.

Morgue

May 2017

Morgue, 2007

October 2007


The Boone Store lost one of the large front windows, now temporarily covered with plywood. Inside, the hat-wearing dress form looks a little worse for her exposure to the elements.

Boone Store

Boone Store

May 2017

Boone Store

June 2013


In the Cain House, bottles toppled from the display shelves inside the front windows.


Over on the northeast side of the Bodie Hills, in Fletcher Valley, the stone walls the historic building at Nine Mile Ranch (the oldest intact building in Mineral County!) were severely damaged. This building is only a mile from the epicenters of the largest quakes.

Nine Mile Nine Mile

 


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Fletcher

Fletcher from the east

Fletcher from the east. East slopes of the Bodie Hills behind.

Fletcher has never been more than a dot on maps of Mineral County (Nevada), but in the late 1860s, when Aurora was a busy mining camp, this little spring-fed oasis at the northern tip of the Aurora Crater lava field became a welcome rest stop on the rough wagon roads from Hawthorne to the east and Carson City to the north.

Fletcher from the west

Fletcher from the west. Corey Peak in the Wassuk Range in the distance.

A plaque in the shade of a tall willow reads: “FLETCHER: Formerly known as Six Mile Station, this stage stop and way station provided service between some of the smaller mining camps and Aurora and Bodie, CA during the late 1860s. The area became of greater importance with the arrival of the Carson and Colorado Railroad in 1881. With increased passenger and freight traffic between Hawthorne, Aurora, and Bodie and the expanding local population, a post office was established on October 24, 1883 and named for H. D. Fletcher, the first postmaster. The post office was removed on November 10, 1918, when Hawthorne became the mailing address for area patrons.”

Plaque at Fletcher

There isn’t much on the internet about the history of Fletcher. You can read a little more here and here.

The spring here is one of the few perennial sources of potable water in the eastern Bodie Hills and in all of Fletcher Valley. It also supports a few acres of wetland and riparian vegetation, so it’s attractive to wildlife. It has probably been attractive to all inhabitants of the region for thousands of years.

The spring at Fletcher.

The spring at Fletcher.

Fletcher

The only remaining structure.

Trees here include four species of Populus: Fremont cottonwood (P. fremontii), black cottonwood (P. trichocarpa), quaking aspen (P. tremuloides), and the non-native Lombardy poplar (P. nigra ‘Italica’). At least two, probably three willows are here, but I need to return for flowering material to key them reliably.

Fletcher

Populus trichocarpa

Fletcher

Populus tremuloides

Fletcher

Meadow and emergent marsh fed by the spring at Fletcher.

Fletcher

Cattails (Typha) at Fletcher.

Fletcher on 1873 Hoffman CalifGeolSurv CentralCA Sheet_II

Fletcher (black dot in yellow circle) on a portion of the 1873 “Topographical Map of Central California Together with a Part of Nevada” [Sheet IV], by Charles F. Hoffman of the California Geological Survey (link to Sheet IV in the David Rumsey Map Collection).

Fletcher on a Nevada DoT highway map

Fletcher (black dot at yellow arrow) on a portion of the 2014 Nevada Department of Transportation “General Highway Map”, Quadrangle 8-10.


Copyright © Tim Messick 2016. All rights reserved.
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