Monday, May 31, 2010

Wandering in Nevada - Memorial Day Weekend 2010

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We were inspired by a comment a friend made about our last getaway into Nevada, "All adventures should start with a killer breakfast and include hot springs..............."

An early launch from home, breakfast at the Roadrunner Café in Dayton, top off with gas in Austin, and then the big surprise, finding our second favorite hot springs cattle tank in the middle of Nevada empty and waiting for us. We had lunch and two long soaks with a wonderful view of storm clouds spilling over the Toiyabe Range.

Mid afternoon we headed down the Big Smokey Valley and found the road up Ophir Canyon to the ghost town of Ophir. Friends had told us of visiting Ophir about 18 years ago and walking up the road, commenting, “Maybe you can make in up in your truck?"

At the mouth of the canyon the clouds enveloped us; graupel and wind. After the second creek crossing we elected to scout the road up higher on foot. Overgrown, narrow, steep, and rough but we deemed doable in 4 low. A great flat spot for camping was directly across from the mansion. We set up, had dinner, and a sunset walk in the storm looking out at the clear Big Smokey Valley to the east. The remains of the huge 20 stamp mill is in the center, incredible what 200,000 bucks could buy you in 1864.

Ophir is, honestly, one of the neatest ghost towns we have visited. All the remaining ruins of rock cabins show great construction, solid roof beams with rock and dirt roofs. The fireplaces are the best, no cast iron wood stoves here. The remains of the mill are huge with incredible rock work. The mansion ruins just make you wonder how grand this was when new. And, all the way out in the middle of nowhere up this rugged canyon.

A great place to camp with exquisite solitude.

Examples of the rock cabins. Remarkable that they date to the 1860's.

I'm not a mining history buff, but I suspect this is the remains of the Stetefeldt furnace. With the abundance of red bricks up slope, I believe there may have been a large chimney.

Up country from Ophir on this late spring day with clearing weather just could not have been more beautiful.

Of course, the Lady's preferred direction of travel is up.
"Might as well climb to the crest of the Toiyabe Range, it's just right there!” The Lady started up.

Life is always better above 10,000 feet.

Coming down from Ophir we stopped at the cemetery at the bottom of the canyon, and then headed south down the Big Smokey Valley.

Keep this in mind. The small town of Carvers has gas at the Shoshone Market. Gas was $3.25 a gallon in Austin; $2.84 in Carvers. You might have to be a little patient finding someone to operate the cash register.

We headed over the south end of the Toquima Range through Manhattan - ATV festival going on, we didn't stop - and continued through Belmont to find a spot to spend the night to the north.

Just north of Belmont on the Monitor Valley Road is the Black Buttes. The Lady said, "Wow they look like the Alabama Hills, let's look for a spot for the night there!" We turned off on an unsigned two track and had the place all to ourselves. This was Memorial Day weekend. We love rural Nevada!

Cozy and warm in our pop-up, the Lady always wakes with the first hint of dawn.
"I'll start the coffee. You go take pictures. I'll bring out the coffee and find you."
 Yes, I do know how lucky I am.

We made a morning stop in Belmont, a living ghost town. Belmont has to be the wood fired hot tub capital of Nevada. Drive through early evening as they're heating 'em up for the night soak. Hot tubs with stovepipes, it's great! Attractions are the huge mill ruins just north of town and the old Nye County Courthouse. I bet you folks who have a beer or two could have a great time in Belmont.

The old Nye County Courthouse.

More of the atmosphere of Belmont, it is worth a visit longer than our quick stop.

We headed west to check out a spot we'd heard about, Fish Lake Hot Springs. Actually it is a Hot Well. The story is they were drilling for a possible geothermal energy source. The water they hit was not quite hot enough, but good for soaking. The area was improved just a bit with a concrete tub and a CXT toilet by Esmeralda County . Signage suggests that there have been problems here. This may be a nice spot, but not on a weekend, especially a holiday weekend. Two big encampments of RV's with ATV's and motorcycles and loud music. Not our cup of tea, but at least we know where this is now. Fish Lake Valley is on the east side of the White Mountains south of Highway 6. The springs are north of Dyer and then seven miles east out Hot Springs Road.

We do love the neat out of the way places we can find in Nevada. This was another great trip.

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