Ely Correspondence – November 2017


Scenic Fall Drive

Aspen leaves (Populous tremuloides) rattle in the wind along scenic Success Loop. The trees’ bark was historically harvested as a quinine substitute. (Photo by Alexa Mergen)

Before winter sets in, take a drive along 38-mile Success Loop to glimpse the last of the autumn aspen leaves. Along the road are numerous places to pull over to bask in the warming sun and admire the mountains of the Schell Creek Range.

Pick up the paved road for Success Loop five miles north of McGill. After passing through a cluster of homes, the road turns to gravel, easily navigable in clear weather in a two-wheel-drive vehicle with decent clearance.

A cluster of golden-leaved aspens (*Populous tremuloides) *stand out\against the High Schells Wilderness. Trees growing in colonies are considered one organism connected underground by root sprouts. (Photo by Matt Weiser)

Take a break at Success Summit to view Steptoe Valley. Travel along the sparkling waters of Steptoe Creek toward Cave Lake State Park. There, the paved road resumes and connects with Highway 93, south of Ely.

Great Basin National Heritage Area Welcomes Visitors

About 30 delegates from national heritage areas throughout the United States disembarked at the Ely Renaissance Village on October 10 after a Nevada Northern Railway train ride.

The National Park Service designates unique cultural landscapes, generally places that are lived in, as heritage areas to facilitate their preservation. Delegates from national heritage areas gather annually at sites to share ideas on how to preserve and promote their regions’ features. This year, they convened in Ely.

Delegates from around the United States pause to admire Ely as they disembark from the Nevada Northern Railway before exploring the living history of Renaissance Village (Photo by Alexa Mergen)

They toured the village’s restored houses and shared an evening meal outside. The Ely Renaissance Society partners with the Great Basin National Heritage Area to keep cultural traditions alive, and to attract, educate and entertain visitors.

Established in 2006, the Great Basin National Heritage Area spans White Pine County in Nevada and Millard County in Utah. It is the largest heritage area in the country, offering visitors access to art, historic sites, hiking, fishing, dark skies and more.

“Fantastic,” Alan Spears of the National Parks Conservation Association said in describing the region. “It’s a confluence of the historical, cultural and natural.”

Elissa Garofalo of Pennsylvania’s Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor was struck by Ely’s beauty. “There’s a certain quiet,” she said. “And standing at the train yard, the big blue sky and the hills and the geometry of the buildings left an impression on me.”

“We don’t want any more ghost towns,” said Brandi Roberts, executive director of the Great Basin Heritage Area Partnership in Baker. The group receives $300,000 annually in federal grants and re-grants about half of those monies to partnering organizations. “We want to help them do what they want to do.”

“We’re here to communicate more,” said partnership board member Delaine Spilsbury of the Ely Shoshone Tribe. Delaine grew up in Ely’s Seventh Street Canyon, in the hills above the current Renaissance Village.

Glenn Terry of Renaissance Village welcomes delegates who traveled from as far away as Alaska to visit Ely and the Great Basin National Heritage Area, the largest such area in the United States (Photo by Alexa Mergen)

The Village is a cluster of mini-museums nestled along the railroad tracks in downtown Ely. Each house showcases a country-of-origin of the town’s European and Asian immigrants, who arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to work on the railroad and in mining, ranching, sheep herding, and business.

“I’m surprised at how ethnically diverse it is here,” said Steven Fullen of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area in Louisiana. “But it makes sense being a mining area.” Fuller particularly enjoyed the McGill Drugstore Museum, unchanged since its closure in 1979. “To see everything in place, that snapshot is amazing. You can’t recreate that,” he said.

Certainly, there’s much for visitors to explore in the Great Basin National Heritage Area, a Nevada treasure, with Ely as their base.

All Aboard the Polar Express

Do you believe you can travel from Ely to the North Pole in an evening?

It’s possible for 22 days in November and December on the Nevada Northern Railway’s Polar Express. The 90-minute excursion brings to life Chris Van Allsburg’s 1986 Caldecott Medal-winning children’s book by the same name.

“The train was filled with other children, all in their pajamas and nightgowns….We drank hot cocoa as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars.” As in the story, in real life, passengers on this special historic train get to listen to the story read aloud and sing carols. Santa Claus — of course! — greets travelers at journey’s end.

This annual event is a tradition for many families and the railway staff encourages reservations. The special train runs at 1 pm, 4:30 pm, 6:30 pm and 7:00 pm, depending on the day.

— Alexa Mergen