Watching the dust devils play over the stunted sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) and abbreviated grasses of OSP's main telescope field, it's hard to imagine that just 1/2 mile away and 150 feet lower things are a lot less arid and a lot less windy.... Here Davin has found a rather extensive area of dry, dusty hillside that is magically transformed by the presence of oozing water just beneath the surface. He has stuck his fingers into the soil beneath, and finds dark, rich, damp mud! And this at the very end of a dry summer, in what was an official drought year!
The short hike down to Indian Trail Springs swiftly brings one to green grass and big trees. Here my son sits upon the massive stump of what was an old-growth ponderosa pine. Our estimate from tree-ring counting was about 250 years old, and you can see that its diameter was over four feet! It's location was alongside the margin of a seasonal stream, and close to where the year-round flow of Indian Trail Springs enters this streambed and disappears. This stump is about 100 vertical feet below where the spring waters exit the bathtub-like watering trough shown below.
Water, green things, mud, big trees, these are certainly some reasons Indian Trail Springs was a favored camping place for many generations of Native Americans.
About 100 yards down from the bathtub, the spring waters widen out into a large expanse of muddy green grasses. Just to the right of the green, the typical dry prarie resumes, although down here in the canyons, there are fewer rocks, very little sagebrush, and overall it looks like great forage for deer and elk-- and, after all, this whole area around the springs is an actual designated elk refuge! And all the more isolated since the early 1990s, when the Forest Service took down the road sign pointing to it, and then allowed trees to fall across it and never removed them!