Monday, December 5, 2016

Wonder Nevada - December 2016

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Since our travel plans for over the Thanksgiving holiday had crumbled in stunning fashion - an episode we will remember as "The Voyage of the Damned" - we were eager to get away on a short trip.  Our addiction to Nevada, its history and landscape, is alive and well so we headed east Friday afternoon into Nevada. An easy stopover - easy, as in easy to find after dark and a sure thing - for us is the campground along the Carson River at Fort Churchill State Park.

We awoke to an overnight low of 18° nestled as we were in these cold bottomlands. We do not run the heat at night. The interior of the camper was 24°. First off this morning I was faced with a science experiment. The Lady had placed my contact lens container in the corner of the camper, just below the sideliner, and tight against the outside wall. A cold spot. Everything inside the container was frozen solid. How do soft contact lens react to being frozen? I was about to find out. I placed the container in warm water while we walked outside with our morning coffee. There appeared to be no damage when I popped them on. Note - we always both have a couple of extra sets along.

Wonder, Nevada was another in Nevada's long list of boom and bust mining towns. The lode was discovered in 1906 and the rush was on and Wonder was born - newspapers, post office, schools, banks, saloons, businesses, sporting houses, assay office, running water system, a pool.

The big producer was the Nevada Wonder Mining Company. Over $6,000,000 in gold and silver was chewed out of the landscape. It was all played out by 1919. Very little remains. It is a remote and lonely place and therefore just the place for us to go on a cold winter weekend.

Wonder lies to the north of highway 50 in a high valley between the Louderback  and the Clan Alpine mountains.

We decided to not take the direct route and did some additional exploring.

A long rough two track climbed up to the mouth of a canyon. Adits lined the hillsides. An old travel trailer with its running gear removed had once served as shelter. The location had a commanding view of Fairview and Dixie valleys. Fairview Peak and Chalk Mountain are the dominate landmarks.

In the above video the Lady is watching a raven and a Northern Harrier and goes to the truck for her 10 x 50 See Mores..

Another long rough two track led up into a canyon to a guzzler.

The high here today was 35°. The water was ice.

The canyon narrowed above. The Lady explored.

In the mid afternoon we intersected with the road to Wonder and headed north. We continued past Wonder and climbed to a highpoint north of Wonder Mountain. The sun set at 4:30 and the shadows were long as we settled into our spectacular location.

We wandered and explored. We walked over to the terraced and ruined slopes of Wonder Mountain, torn asunder in the search for riches. The remains of the huge mill sits on the east facing slope. No buildings remain in the valley that held the town site.

It was perfect. We were completely alone out here, far from any other people. The easing of the day into night was a joy.

The crescent moon and Venus were together above the western horizon.

Dinner was a simple affair and satisfying. We added sauteed chunks of chicken apple brats to chicken soup. We ate out under the night sky. We walked again in the night and returned to our comfortable camper where I was not the winner of our latest round of Scramble. The moon had set when we returned outside. The stars overhead spread across the sky above.

We seek out quiet. Mindless human noise is abhorrent, an unwelcome intruder into the natural soundscape. Silence surrounded us, embraced us as we slept.

The morning light was subdued.

The Lady wanted a long walk before breakfast. The site of the water supply reservoir was her intended destination.

We checked out the remains of Wonder Mountain's northern slopes.

Camp fell away into the distance as we hiked upslope to the east - the little white spot in the following two photos.

We found the reservoir site. One source claims this was also used as a pool. Miners in the old days must have been tough, swimming in their own drinking water. The water system was documented in a mining journal that can be found at this link - The Nevada Wonder Pipe Line

We enjoyed a relaxed morning, we had no reason to hurry. The weather had warmed. The Lady twisted my arm to fix her blueberry pancakes for breakfast. "I whooped you at Scrabble. I get pancakes!"

We packed up and headed south down Wonder Valley.

We took a last look at the ruins of the mill.

According to one source old maps indicate the location of the cemetery. We drove up to the site but found no evidence that this area was used as a cemetery. I don't believe it was.

Pinyon pine nuts here were abundant.

As we dropped in elevation and left Wonder Valley behind we slowly drove down toward Dixie Valley. We were surprised to see another vehicle. It was not moving. We stopped and met John and Steve.

They had been crawling along the old power line road. A deep water eroded trench bordered the climb up out of a wash. The bank collapsed and swallowed their truck. Gravity always wins. We stayed and helped dig and pile rocks for around three hours to fill in the trench downhill from the truck. The truck was high centered in three places, the rear differential, the exhaust cross over pipe, and the frame cross member below the transfer case. We carefully freed these all up. The large rock under the crossover pipe was the biggest challenge. When it finally came free the gentlemen named it in my honor.  Steve was recovering from a recent hernia repair and John was recovering from two broken arms. Although game and right there with us, they needed to watch what they did. Around one pm the fellows three friends returned from sheep hunting in answer to their phone call. We had the truck freed enough that a tug from downhill could likely free it. Marty went to retrieve his 4x4 pickup from camp several miles away and Steve scouted a roundabout route into the wash and onto the road below them. They were in good hands with a plan and able help from their companions. We left them around 1:30. We had a four hour drive home.

The Lady was funny, "You know next year and I'm retired," the Lady said as we drove west on highway 50. "We could just stay out another night so we could have stayed and helped longer. I really want to see that truck out of there!"

It was another wonderful weekend adventure for us. You never know what you'll find around the next corner. Nevada has its wonders.

If you are curious about our aborted Thanksgiving travel plans - "The Voyage of the Dammed" - here's the brief story.

We had great plans in place for a Thanksgiving week trip. We were meeting friends and would explore a new canyon in Death Valley National Park. It was not to be. We were departing Tuesday morning. The alarm was set for 4 am. I woke up with a start around 1:30 am, ran as fast as I could to the bathroom, dropped to my knees and hugged the toilet. Soon it was blowing out of both ends. It was evil. I imagined if I was a christian I would have muttered, "Merciful savior, please take me now," over and over and over. The stark truth was there was nothing to do but to hang on for the ride.  I stopped counting after 7 trips. The last dash was at 5 am. I finally slept and woke around noon. Tuesday afternoon we walked and judged my strength for travel. We thought we could go but I passed out on the couch when we returned from outside and woke at 7 pm. I tried some soup. By midnight it was fighting is way back out. We walked again Wednesday morning. I was better, just exhausted. My rib, shoulder, and neck muscles were in agony from the explosive spasms. We left around noon after chain controls were lifted. Holiday traffic was not horrible., good news. The Lady took over driving before we reached 395.  I rested. I asked the Lady to pull into the South Tufa parking at Mono Lake so I could use the bathroom. My bottom end was knocking. She turned down the gravel road and suddenly said, "I don't feel well!" She bolted from the truck - engine running, door open, middle of road - and emptied out in the sage, in spectacular fashion, both ends. Sudden onset, this was so familiar. We cannot remember one time when we both got the same bug like this, a very unpleasant surprise. This was the flu from hell. The Lady said we should camp. She said she wouldn't mind climbing out of the camper. Foolishness. I knew what was coming. A warm bed right next to a bathroom was needed. After two more cruel evacuation stops, we arrived in Bridgeport and got a motel room around 4 pm. The Lady assumed the classic position with her butt on the toilet and her head in the waste basket . This was revisited over and over until around midnight. One time she climbed into to bed and moaned, "The sixth grade. My life flashed before my eyes and I made it all the way to the sixth grade!" We slept until 7:30 the next morning. We slowly packed up and left around 8:30 am. I held a banana down along with orange juice. The poor Lady curled up on the passenger seat and slept all the way home. We arrived home at noon on Thanksgiving Day and took care of several chores around the house the rest of the weekend. All in all we all have so much to be thankful for, even when plans get knocked a bit off track.


  1. I wondered what happened to you folks over thanksgiving... Wow, a double, double ender! When Julie retires, no more bugs from the students :) .

    Interesting country around the Wonder Mine! Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Mr. Sage, we did get checked on my friends who were concerned they weren't receiving our campsite locations over the Thanksgiving holiday. It is nice to be cared about.

  2. So sorry you got sick on the road. That is never fun. I have wondered what it would be like to have to navigate the cabover bed and portapotty in an event. I am glad to hear that a motel was nearby. Keep traveling.

    1. Could you imagine scurrying down from the overhead bed in a time of need? If you travel, things will happen. Make the best of it, be safe. All of us are much tougher than we know.

  3. Thank you for your blog. Really enjoy your writings. Hope to soon have a similar camping set-up, as my wife does not overly enjoy tent camping. Would you mind someday talking a little bit about your in-camp set-up? With so many options for portable showers and other personal needs, I figure you have tried more than a few different products over the years.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and enjoying our tales of adventure and thank you for the suggestion!

  4. Another informative and entertaining tale. I learn so much from your trips. Please stay healthy so we can hear more amazing adventures. Great job, friend!

    1. SherpaDave, we do all these trip reports to inspire you to take the family on another trip to Death Valley. When are you leaving?

  5. Did you add the line nuts to your trail mix or to your morning oatmeal?

  6. Replies
    1. Of course you did, David! These pine nuts were well past their prime, bitter and awful tasting. Julie's reaction was immediate after popping one in her mouth.

  7. Sorry to hear about the "flu" issue.I thought something had happened to you guys way back when you posted about making an unplanned overnight stop in Bridgeport.
    Sometimes you just have to go with the flow,no pun intended.

    Your Wander trip was a nice ride along.

    1. Frank, thank you for all your kind comments. We are happy to have you ride along!

  8. You capture the miracle of silence better than anyone I've ever seen. Another great trip!

    I'm amazed that there were still pine nuts in December. We soak them in brine overnight and then roast them at 325 for 20 minutes -- really delicious.

    1. "the miracle of silence" worth the effort to seek out. Thank you Dan.

      As I said above, these pine nuts were unusable. Thanks for your tip on processing!

  9. Enjoyed and thanks for posting. I love the solitude and silence one can find out in the remote areas of Nevada. One of my favorite destinations.

    1. Park, thanks! Enjoy your and Petey's travels in search of silence and solitude!