Surprise, surprise

‘Hidden gems' emerge on local trails

Hikers trek through Wedekind Regional Park in Sparks.

Hikers trek through Wedekind Regional Park in Sparks.

Next month's guided hike is at Tom Cooke and White Fir trails. To learn more about the Truckee Meadows Trails Challenge, visit

Since its launch fewer than two years ago, around 500 people have registered in the Truckee Meadows Trails Challenge. The program isn’t necessarily a brow-wiping, heart-rate-monitoring athletic feat, though that’s an option too, if you’re willing. In short, participants pay an entry fee, set a goal for themselves and/or small teams they’ve formed—five basic trails being the program’s simplest challenge, and 50 miles of trail-walking and hiking being the toughest—and try to finish in a year.

The prize is a whole T-shirt. But that’s not the point.

“All these little gems are tucked away that even residents aren’t aware of,” said North Carolina transplant Kathy Bobseine. One of her hiking buddies has been in the Reno area 35 years, for instance, and still found Lemmon Valley’s Swan Lake Nature Study Area to be a total surprise.

“It’s a great way to get in there and see these things,” said Bobseine, who especially likes Crystal Peak Park, in Verdi. “It gives you the momentum to actually find them and go visit them.”

Monthly guided hikes are an optional part of the program. They’re catching on, too.

“We’re not hiking fast,” said Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation executive director Nathan Daniel, who’s often de facto trail leader.

“The goal is not to really to get your pulse up and get to that aerobic exercise,” he said. “That’s for people to do on their own time. What we’re doing is trying to teach people about what geology is, and the plants, the animals—what the ecological interactions are between all those things, and how the climate affects what’s living where. We’re trying to give people a little more knowledge about that, so that when they go out and hike on their own, they can look at things differently. If you can identify the plants, it’s a more interesting relationship you have with [nature] when you’re hiking. It’s not just a bunch of green stuff.”

Did you know Huffaker Hills are volcanic? Or that there’s a marsh in the middle of Reno?

“Definitely the wetland areas [were surprising],” said hiker and runner Monika Malnowicz. “It’s like, oh my gosh, I didn’t know there were so many birds living here.”

Malnowicz is more of a backpack-toting, all-day hiker, but says she enjoys the mellow guided tours nonetheless. They also help her scope out new running trails to revisit on her own.

“I go and I can breathe,” she said. “It’s like my church. It’s really important to protect it, so if you don’t love it, you don’t really care, and you don’t want to protect it. It’s really important what they’re doing to start these steps and get people into their local parks.”

Daniel echoed her words.

“There’s the health and wellness aspect, which is important to the community, but as far as conservation of resources … when people know and appreciate what’s out there, then they care about it,” he said. “If you don’t know about it, how can you possibly care?”