If you have any interest in the history of the Carson Valley or western agriculture, the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park is a must-see. H.F. Dangberg came here from Germany in 1856, and he and his family built a ranching empire spanning nearly 78 square miles. They also founded the town of Minden and were responsible for the construction of numerous prominent buildings in town, several of which were designed by renowned Nevada architect Fredric DeLongchamps (including part of the Dangberg home itself).
Mark Jensen, the park curator, led us on an excellent tour which weaved intriguing family stories with lessons on local history, industry, and politics. And, he gave us a few good laughs! (“Mark” of a good tour guide … ) The photographs and personal relics gave glimpses into the personalities and heartaches endured by these ranching pioneers, as their concerns morphed from daily survival in the beginning, to boarding schools and gambling trips to San Francisco in successive generations, and finally to sibling squabbles over division of the holdings.
Most touching was the Dwight Dangberg trunk. Dwight, the first child of Fred and Gertrude Dangberg, died at the ranch of scarlet fever in 1905, at the age of 5. Devastated, Fred took all of Dwight’s things and placed them in a trunk, which remained sealed for 100 years. Mark, the curator, gave me the goosebumps when he described being the first person to open the trunk which had been hidden in the home’s attic all these years, revealing little Dwight’s toys, clothing, and even his drawings, which are now on display.
Aside from being rich in history, the Dangberg Ranch is just flat-out scenic. With beautiful fields, old buildings, cottonwoods, and views of Job’s Peak, it is a plein-air painter’s delight! Erik spent several days painting there and at the adjacent Park Ranch. The Dangberg Park also hosts an impressive range of unique events in the warmer months including concerts, historical speakers, and family-friendly activities like kite making and craft demonstrations. See their website for details.
88 Cups and Shelby’s Books
After slogging around the Ranch in the cold, we were craving a hot beverage, so we headed over to 88 Cups. This place turns out to be the hippest coffee shop in the Carson Valley, in the most unexpected location, Minden Village on Lucerne Street. What makes it hip? Local art and funky murals adorn the walls, and there are racks of art cards and handmade crafts for sale. Besides the main shop there is an adjacent room which is essentially an art gallery with comfy tables and chairs, where the owners host speakers (covering topics from world religions to local history) and events. From the café there is a “secret entrance” to a fabulous used book store, Shelby’s Books (see below), and across the street is a yarn store and a sushi restaurant! What more could you ask for? It’s a virtual enclave of hipness.
The original owners of 88 Cups relocated from the California terminus of Hwy 88 to the Nevada end in Minden, and decided to open up an “internet café.” The name derives from their journey and also from the fact that the number 8 is considered auspicious in Chinese culture. When the current owners, Eric Warren and his wife Janine, took over the cafe, they kept the great ambience, boba smoothies, fabulous loose-leaf teas and espresso drinks, added more restaurant equipment, and got rid of the technology. As owner Eric points out, “I’m better at food than I am at computers.” We happily allowed him to demonstrate his skills by feeding us a delicious breakfast sandwich on oat bread. They also serve a variety of pastries and breakfast and lunch menu items.
Back to the aforementioned “secret entrance.” Remember books? Those delightful smelling objects made of paper with printed words on them that could transport you other worlds without the use of flashing lights or emoticons? Those stories that demand more than six seconds of your time? If not, it’s time to make your way into Shelby’s Book Shoppe in Minden Village. Proprietor Linda Finch has been in this location for six years, with an eclectic selection of used and new books, including local titles and guidebooks. After being greeted at the door by Linda’s dog Ellie (successor to the store’s namesake, Shelby), and a brief orientation from Linda, I was free to roam the racks in a relaxed manner. There were so many titles that jumped out at me as favorites that I felt that Linda must have stacked the shelves in my honor! Especially intriguing was the hot-off-the-press local guidebook, “Eastern Sierra and Death Valley Camping with Privacy,” by Kimberly and Patrick Wilkes, featuring many of my favorite destinations.
And best of all? I got out with the Guidebook ($22) and three delicious used books for around 40 bucks.
— Amy Meeks