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Hot Springs, Airway Beacons, and Pronghorn
Early Saturday morning found us in the middle of the Nevada we love. We reached the end of pavement that stretched out into the distance behind us.
Stopping in the road was fine. We were alone. We watched the waterfowl in the bottom of Buena Vista Valley as we took a break. Up and over McKinney Pass took us down into Pleasant Valley.
Two pronghorn bucks, a golden eagle, we expected and enjoyed seeing. The juvenile bald eagle was a surprise. We stopped to study it through the see mores (aka birdoculars) and confirmed our identification.
Our first planned destination had been on our list for a couple of years. It had the kind of western name that jumped out and grabbed us - The Seven Devils Hot Springs. In my research I found an old historical photo.
The photo moved it up the list several spaces.
We found the trace of a road that led into the area. It was immediately blocked by a deep cut. It was a beautiful spring day for a walk anyway, the gps gave an "as the crow flies" distance of only 3.25 miles, so we added food and water to our packs and headed out.
The Lady climbed straight up the hill where the historical photo was shot from. I took the "around the hill" route and received a similar, but lower, first view.
The were seven pools spread out across the raised mound of hot mineral water deposits.
One had breached and drained and now was home to a lone cottonwood tree.
The Lady was approaching the southernmost mound. I was following. A narrow cleft slit the mound and I could see the Lady wanted to explore it. She ducked inside and suddenly moved backwards and tumbled over a large rock onto her pack. "It's not a rattler. I'm okay, I almost stepped on it and I didn't want to hurt it!"
I brushed her off and we both looked down at what we quickly named "The Devil's Serpent", a Great Basin Gopher Snake.
We snacked and relaxed at the high point. Hot water streamed in the bottom of the cauldron and flowed out to a pool below.
Please notice the rosy hue on the mountain slopes in the photos . This is all ripening cheat grass, a destructive invasive species.
The Lady insisted we take a different cross country route back.
After a couple of miles we intersected an old power line road.
Even these simple everyday items speak of history out here in rural Nevada. Electric power reached these areas as a result of FDR's Rural Electrification Act of 1936. The Act was amended in 1949 to establish the Rural Telephone Administration. History is out there if you look for it, even under a raven's nest.
After our quick six and a half or so mile hike to see The Seven Devils, we moved over into Jersey Valley.
Our next stop was Jersey Valley Hot Springs.
The Lady stood in the pool that no longer exists. A Golden Eagle soared above us, alone in the sky.
The hot geothermal waters of Jersey Valley have been tapped as a renewable energy source for electricity production.
Although I may hate to see change in this middle of nowhere paradise, I ought to be thankful it is not an open pit coal mine.
History drew us toward our next destination. In 1923 The US Congress funded a series of lighted beacons along the Transcontinental Airway System.
Construction began in 1928 on the section across Nevada (31 July 1928 Reno Gazette).
Here is a link to General Airway Information from 1931 - Airway Bulletin Number 1.
We have made two previous trips in search of these remnants of our past, an early twentieth century version of the celebrated Pony Express.
My continuing research turned up one airway beacon that was not on any lists. I found no mention of it online. How did I suspect it was out there? I'll evade that question except to say if you have followed our stories and passions, the answer should be obvious.
We turned onto a road that led into the area. Our way was blocked by a deep eroded trench that serpentined back and forth down the road. We backtracked to a highpoint and set up camp for the night. Boots and packs were on by four pm and we started out. We had an "as the crow flies" (should be raven out here) distance of three miles to our target.
We kept running into little ant eaters. The Lady loves her little prehistoric buddies.
We came across a land survey marker, took its information to our map, and reconfirmed our location in our continuing process of "staying found."
As we moved across the undulating landscape.....................................
.....................a group of pronghorn exploded out of the gully below us.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition called them goats in their journals and since they are the world's second fastest land mammal, the nickname "speed goat" fits.
Speed Goats alert each other with their white butts. With the slanting late afternoon light, Jersey Valley below us was filled with brilliant white dots. It was a memorable sight for us.
We continued toward our destination.
Then we saw it, an intact airway beacon tower!
But the terrain can be challenging, two deep gullies lay between us and the beacon tower.
Although the beacon light and acetylene tanks were missing, this tower was in excellent condition.
edit: I received a question about the use of acetylene. This is from the Airway Bulletin -
"Acetylene flashing beacon (blinker).- At some beacon sites, located in mountainous or desert country where it is impossible or impracticable to provide electric current, auxiliary airway beacons in the form of acetylene gas "blinkers" which operate without attendance for a period of several months, are installed. These blinkers exhibit a flashing white light (about 20 flashes per minute) and do not show a color or flashing code characteristic."
The Lady had plans for a different route back to our cozy home away from home.
Back at camp at six-thirty, we showered, ate our simple dinner, and awaited the evening show.
The delightful rituals were repeated Sunday morning.
We connected the broad valleys of central Nevada for our route home. The Lady made me stop for two male feral horses in Jersey Valley.
The northern end of Dixie Valley held inquisitive bands of speed goats.
It was hard to return home - open space, quiet, solitude, history, speed goats, and that intoxicating smell of sage surrounded us out here in the middle of nowhere.