Nevada Carabids: Part 5: Death March to Dead Lake and Heading West

See also part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

Day 5 – June 13, 2015 [by Riva Madan]

Another storm brewing on the horizon.

Another storm brewing on the horizon.

         Our last day going out in the field at GBNP. We started off by picking up all the traps we had put out. Unfortunately, with the fairly cool weather and scattered rains, many of our ramp traps weren’t that successful; in some we got nothing, others only a bunch of ants. The only common beetles were more Pterostichus, lots of Calathus and Tenebrionidae.

Ramp traps. Beetle activity wasn't a high as we hoped.

Ramp traps. Beetle activity wasn’t as high as we hoped.

After all our trap samples were picked up we went on an adventurous hike to Dead Lake, a small lake well off the main trails and one that we were told dries up in the summer. Given it had been a dry year it may already not be a lake, rather a dead lake, as it is appropriately named.

Hey, Kip. Are you sure you know where you are going?

Hey, Kip. Are you sure you know where you are going?

The road along Snake Creek toward the lake was not open to the public because they were renovating campgrounds, building new trails, and camp sites. It gave us a feeling of being very remote even though the access was easy. When we got to end of the road at the trailhead parking, there were three possible trails to take instead of the one shown on the topo map. Following Kip, we took the trail to the far left, it went up and up, and opened onto a vista of beautiful scenery, but shortly  Kip told us we had taken the wrong trail and were now heading in the opposite direction from the lake. Back down we go.

A beautiful view from the wrong trail if you want to get to Dead Lake.

A beautiful view from the wrong trail if you want to get to Dead Lake.

Right about that time we started to hear thunder and see rain falling hard on the other side of the mountain ridge. Back at the trailhead, we had two trails left to choose from and Kip decided to take the one to the very right thinking it would split into another trail at a point further up. This ended up being the trail that was shown on the map, but not the one that heads directly to Dead Lake (the path not taken), but our trail came close to the lake. Using Kip’s GPS, when we got about 800 meters from the lake and we decided to head off trail and dead-reckon our way to the lake. It didn’t seem too far based on the straightline distance, but what we didn’t realize was how steep the terrain was going to get. Climbing over and walking on top of huge logs and debris, and breaking brush, it kept getting steeper and steeper. It seemed like we were just walking, at times almost climbing, straight up the side of the mountain. Kip was always about 100 feet ahead making it look easy, I was behind him, not too worried, having done things like this before, and Frank was behind me. It was his first experience of going off-trail and hiking up something this steep. By the look on his face, not an experience he’ll soon forget. The whole time we heard thunder in the distance and were hoping it wouldn’t start pouring on us. A big rain could make getting back down to the truck hellish.

Finally, we made the crest and got to the area where the GPS indicated the lake should be. At first we didn’t see any lake. Kip thought it might have totally dried up, but Frank and I thought the area didn’t look like a dried up lake, but open rocky campsite. Having made the hike up, I didn’t want to just leave without finding the lake, regardless if it was dead or not. Gretchen had told us that a flagged trail led to the lake. I was determined to find the flagged trail so we could avoid climbing back down the side of the mountain through the forest.  We searched around and I did find the small lake and then found the flagged trail to take back down. I admit I was unimpressed with the little pond at the end of the big hike. Dead Lake was almost entirely dried up.

The last bit of this year’s life at the edge of Dead Lake.

The last bit of this year’s life at the edge of Dead Lake.

Luckily, it was worth the effort. We found many additional beetle species here and they were abundant. When we were done collecting around the lake, we picked up the flagged trail that would more easily take us back down and as we guessed, it turned out to be the middle trail at the trailhead, the one we didn’t take going up. Despite what seemed like very threatening weather, with thunder and some moments of rain, we collected on the way back. We made frequent stops to looked under the bark of dead, fallen trees. At one deadfall suddenly Kip was very excited thinking that he may have found the rare “stink beetle,” Nomius pygmaeus, (we have never seen him that excited before). Sadly, when he checked it under the microscope, it was only the common smelly beetle Psydrus piceus. But at least it was another species to add to our list for the GBNP.

Searching for beetles under the bark of the dead fall.

Searching for beetles under the bark of the dead fall.

We wound our way back down the trail and drove back to camp. It had been a long day already, but after a quick dinner, we went back out that night for headlamp collecting at a higher elevation near Wheeler Peak Campground. Even though it was quite cold at that elevation, there were a lot of beetles out walking, mostly Calathus, but we found a few species to add to our list.

Day 6 – June 14, 2015 The finale.  

Packed up and headed home! The trip back to California was uneventful, but our work on the project continues. Samples to sort, specimens to pin and lists to make. Between our trip and, mostly from specimens we have looked at in museum collections, we have easiy more than 60 species to add to the list of carabids of Nevada.  

California. That way...

California. That way…


About Kip Will

I'm an insect systematist with expertise in carabid beetles, who is always happiest in the bush.
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