Alpine Horses in the Toquimas
Cresting a gentle rise on the summit plateau of Mount Jefferson, the highest massif in central Nevada, I was looking for wildlife. We (Greg Russell and I) had already seen three bighorn rams and an assortment of raptors, so I had high hopes, but to peek over the hill and look a group of wild horses in the eye was not what I saw expecting on alpine tundra 11,600 feet above sea level.
The horses watched us warily as we circled and slowly approached them. We were certainly very eager not to appear threatening, but the country was open, and they certainly didn’t feel cornered. Their pasture was a broad swale sloping easily to the headwaters of a small creek, which flowed gently west until its valley plunged into the precipitous canyons of Mount Jefferson’s massive west face. Green grass and aspens were visible, though thunderstorms the previous day had left a dusting of August snow over the tundra. The horses tolerated us with good grace for almost an hour before they ambled away north to their business, and we walked south to ours.
Only a few minutes later, as we made our way down a steeper outcrop, Greg spotted a beautiful arrowhead of white chert lying among the tundra flowers. The Toquima Range is know for its prehistoric high-elevation habitation, but to stumble across such tangible and splendid evidence was a thrill. Later we would find flakes of the same material (possibly chalcedony, if this page is to be believed) down at the base of the range. I’d love to know where the stone was sourced – I assume it would be somewhere conveniently local if it was used in lieu of trading for Mono obsidian.