Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring Break - Into the Western Great Basin - April 2017 - Part One

please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version

No plans and the list -

It snowed all morning Saturday here at home, a continuance of our drought busting winter weather. Other plans for a long spring break trip had to be put on hold. Maybe we could get away for a couple nights but the storm continued. Mid afternoon the sun broke through the snow flurries.

"Let's make a break for it. Let's just go." I said to the Lady. She was beside me, glued to the window.

"Okay! Let's load the camper. I want to get away."

"The few things we need, we'll stop at Smiths in Gardnerville and pick up" I suggested.

Twenty minutes later and we were on the road. Headed south on 395 from Gardnerville after the stop at Smiths we talked about where to go.

"Let's go find Pine Grove," I suggested. "We can make it there before dark."

Pine Grove, you see, was on the list. The list is of places we had heard about in times past. Places we will someday visit. Several years ago while traveling with friends out in Nevada we stopped at a intersection of two dirt roads. "Pine Grove is up that road," Jim said and pointed. That was all it took. Pine Grove was added to the list.

We were settled just as the evening sky turned pink above Pine Grove.

Pine Grove is an old mining ghost town dating from 1866. It had a bit of a rebirth in the early 1900's but then faded away like so many other small boom towns.

A bit more history on Pine Grove can be found here - Searching for Pine Grove.

We each guesstimated what the overnight low would be. My prediction was 32°, the Lady's 29°. We awoke to 22°.

We had parked and set up camp on the flat alongside an old stamp mill with massive timbers.

A few years ago when we visited Ophir, Nevada with our friend Aaron who has the Western Mining History website, he pointed out one way to date structures was the type of material added to concrete. If it was easy to get unsorted local material, it was an older construction.

The school house was nearby.

Aaron has a wonderful old photo of the school house in use on his website that can be found - Here

We spent Sunday morning exploring Pine Grove.

The old two story bunkhouse is the largest remaining building.

The small cemetery sits on the ridge top above the canyon.

This headstone had blank spaces for a loved one who did not return here for final rest.

We walked the ridge line to the crest of the Pine Grove Hills and then returned back down and broke camp.

We drove down canyon past the remains of stone buildings.

I should point out most of the tailing piles had evidence of recent sampling, each group of three closely spaced holes was marked with a stake.

Many new survey markers are in place.

Research reveals that Pine Grove will soon be gone, replaced by an open pit gold mine. Information is found here - Lincoln Mining Corporation, Pine Grove Property.

We are lucky we checked Pine Grove off the list before it is gone.

We reached that intersection of dirt roads where Jim had pointed from, and pondered our next destination.

"How about a soak in a hot spring?" I asked the Lady. "It's been several years since we've been down there."

We headed south. Along the way we passed the runway where Steve Fossett took off from on his final flight.

We connected the series of dirt roads that led to our destination. The Lady was delighted to spot a speed goat across the sage.

We were last down to this hot spring four years ago and judged the road as the worst we had ever driven. It was steep, narrow, and rough. Time, hard rains, erosion has taken its toll. It is now officially awful.

We arrived at the river mid afternoon on Sunday.

Signs of flood damage was everywhere.

The hot spring was a fifteen minute walk from camp. We skirted a quagmire of wetlands by staying high. We found the tub warm, not hot. Supplies are nearby, a garden hose, a five gallon bucket, scrub brushes. We went to work - cleaned out the inlet pipe from the source, drained and bailed out the tub, and scrubbed it down. It would take a few hours to refill. The evening light was wonderful as we returned to camp.

Sleep was not easy this night. The river was loud, running high enough to move rocks with repeated dull "thunks" as they banged against each other. There was also the lingering anxiety about the torturous drive back up the road. We awoke to 27°. With the solitude, a private hot spring, and a glorious sunrise, this was a wonderful place to wake up.

With our morning coffee we wandered back to the hot spring for a long soak and to enjoy the fruits of our labors.

A pair of killdeer were our companions throughout our stay here.

It was indeed a very special morning.

I am not exaggerating the condition of this road. On the descent we walked three sections twice to scout it out and decide how and if we could get the truck through. The climb out would be more difficult. The Lady was nervous. My job was to be solid, calm, and reassuring. We crawled up and up. After the steepest section we stopped and took a break and relaxed.

"Want to drive the last half out?" I asked the Lady.

"NO!" was her instant response. I understood. We stood in the warm sun in each other's arms.

"I should drive it," the Lady calmly said. "I'll drive."

"You'll do fine," I added as I climbed into the passenger seat. "You know if anything happened to me you could drive up out of there. You may be scared darn near out of your wits, but you could do it. I trust you. If I didn't, we wouldn't go to many places we visit."

If you check our blog, we have driven many of the roads folks like to talk about traveling, maybe even brag about doing. We have driven many far worst than those in the course of getting to where we want to explore, but none as dangerous as this road. This was our last trip down to this hot spring. We will not drive this road again.

The Lady drove all the way out to the main road. Groups of mule deer were gathering to start the annual migration up country. Speed goats were all over in the morning sun.

Which way would we turn at the next intersection? What item on the list would pop into our minds?

Our adventure continues in Part Two. Please click - Here


  1. Thanks Monte. Hope your family issues are OK.
    I know you mentioned once about your father I think.
    The Sierra mining towns are fun to explore.

    1. We are so lucky so many interesting areas to explore are so close!