I first visited Wonderstone Mountain (or Rainbow Mountain as it is sometimes called) 40 years ago when my husband and I lived in Fallon, Nevada. Back for a visit today, we were pleasantly surprised that not much had changed in the intervening time (except for a lot of ATV trails through the area).
Wonderstone is a rock that is hydrothermally altered by volcanic fluids so that minerals like iron and manganese impregnate the rock forming colorful bands of white, yellow, red, orange, and purple. The mountain is basically a huge pile of fractured wonderstone exposing a variety of colorful patterns.
Where the rock washes downhill and onto the desert floor, it can form a colorful “pavement”, in which the sand is hard packed between the rocks, almost as if it was roadbed.
Horned Lizards and Fence Lizards blend into this background quite well, and usually aren’t seen until they move. When they first emerge in the morning and temperatures are cool, they bask on dark colored rocks and melanin pigment granules dispersed in their skin cells absorb heat. Later in the day when it is hotter, the pigment granules condense together in the skin cells and the lizards appear grayer and lighter in color, reflecting more of the light and heat that hits them.
This is as desolate an area as you are likely to come across, even for Nevada. At this point in the summer, even the insects have quit trying to eke out a living here.
The only evidence of life I saw at Wonderstone Mountain today was the recent burrow excavations of the local Kangaroo Rats, and even they are probably hunkered down in their burrows waiting for cooler days.