Dirt Road to Unionville


by Gage Smith, “the Picon Guy”

Any long time Nevadan knows that camping on the first weekend in May can be a real crap shoot. The weather can be anything from sweltering hot to frigid and snowing. I had a planned campout with a rather large group of folks who were sick of winter and ready to get outside.

Unionville explorersFor this trip, I chose Unionville in Pershing County. I figured it wasn’t too far to drive and there is a gravel pit close to town where all 11 rigs can park.

With planning in the works, I resorted to calling the National Weather Service in Reno asking them to polish up their crystal ball for the coming weeks. The meteorologists were all friendly and polite but declined to guess. As the day approached, it snowed four inches in Winnemucca . . . but the forecast called for clearing skies and warming temperatures. This was a go.

If you have never been to Unionville, it is worth the trip.

There are two routes from Interstate 80. I prefer taking the Mill City/Unionville Exit from I-80 and then head south and east on SR 400. This is the preferred route if you are in your car.

the Unionville roadOr take the Oreana exit and into the mountains from there.

The road is paved about 14 miles, and when it ends at the Couer Rochester mine, it becomes maintained gravel to the Unionville turn off and becomes 13 miles of dirt. But very good dirt. Any passenger vehicle can traverse the canyon.

Unionville is one of Nevada’s oldest places. Founded during the Civil War, it was originally called Dixie as most of the miners were southerners or southern sympathizers. However, soon, the northern contingent of miners was able to change the name to Unionville. This little canyon has an interesting history.

This is a picturesque place with towering mountains and expansive rocky outcrops. The canyon is fed by a year-round stream and is very green and lush. The canyon is private property with a number of seasonal and full-time residents. They are protective of their canyon and NO Trespassing signs abound.

However, if you are minding your own business and not driving too fast or stirring up dust, they are most friendly, and this is truly one of Nevada’s finest garden spots. Unionville creekThe year-round creek supplies ample water to keep the green meadows and tall poplars in good shape. Residents have planted beautiful yards full of flowering trees including many species of fruit trees. There are ponds with ducks and geese, and it is just a relaxing place.

The Old Pioneer Garden Bed and Breakfast can accommodate several travelers offering a peaceful respite for the night. I have stayed there in the past and it is a dandy.

I was in the canyon with my father many, many years ago. We trailed in there after a dusty day in the desert and the old Wagoneer as white with alkali, as were we. We stopped at the house at the top of the canyon that belonged to friends of my father, Bob and Peggy Trego.

Bob had been the editor of the Nevada State Journal in the 1950s (when it was really a paper) and Peggy was a junior reporter. They had a mutual love of the back country and were soon married and spending off time knocking about the state . . . taking pictures and writing about everything.

They found this beautiful canyon and built a new house — the first one in 80 years. They both retired and moved here. They still spent time exploring and to make ends meet, wrote for publications like ‘True West’ which were popular at the time.

Bob Trego 1905-1983After Bob died, when I have stayed in Buena Vista Canyon I’ve always said my hellos to Peggy. She lived in that house until her death. I can’t help but think about them every time I drive by. It is such a beautiful place.

This early May ride has proven to be spectacular. The Humboldt mountains are cloaked in a heavy snow pack and the drainages are running freely. In the first day, we drove to 7,800 ft above the Arizona mine and on the way, we saw deer and numerous chukar. The range is crisscrossed with old mine roads and was quite interesting.

I guess I should mention wildflowers — and the first day was spectacular. We drove less than 20 miles round trip and it took us over four hours. That gives you an idea how pretty this all was.

Because of the heavy snow pack, this spring and early summer will be spectacular. And later in the year the fuel loads for wildfires will be a worry.

DixieAny of the roads off the main road turn rocky and steep. Passenger cars should think again about attempting some of these. If you have an apropriate vehicle, it’s worth the effort to poke up some of these canyons here on the east side of the Humboldt Range.

With this group of people that numbered 11 machines, I tried to mix things up.

When I organize these things, I am usually a day or so early to make sure everything is set at the site, the camp is chosen and access to the rides secured.

I stopped at one of the big box stores right after Easter and there was this big basket full of Easter stuff at 75% off, so I bought two bags of plastic eggs.

Each was filled with some God-awful candy except the two ‘gold’ eggs which were empty and could contain a ‘special’ prize. Throughout the canyon, we scattered these colored eggs. They were hiding in plain sight. The gold eggs, I purposely left them right at the base of the Historical Marker at the town park.

Throughout the weekend, the group chased around looking for eggs. The gold eggs were soon discovered, and they had to bring them to the big group dinner. For them to get their prize, they had to answer three Nevada history questions — all from the Historical Marker the eggs were sitting under. The looks on their faces!

We had to read it?


This was the old school teacher in me making an appearance . . . get out there and go soon.



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