Nevada Correspondence – February 2017

In this edition:

Baker, Boulder City, Elko, Ely, Las Vegas, Laughlin, Lincoln County, Mesquite, Mineral County, Mount Rose, South Lake Tahoe



Lehman Caves Lint and Restoration Camp

                                                                   A Lint Camp volunteer dusting a shield in Lehman Caves

It’s winter, which means visitation is low, despite a record-breaking 130,000 visitors to Great Basin National Park last year. That makes it an ideal time for the annual Lehman Caves Lint and Restoration Camp. For three days, people come and help clean and restore the cave.

  Volunteers cleaning the Cypress Swamp in Lehman Caves

Over 30,000 people a year tour the cave, each of them leaving behind a little unintentional something: a hair or two, some debris falling off shoes, bits of lint floating off clothes, or trash coming out of pockets. This detritus is often found near the cave trail, but sometimes there is so much it drifts on air currents to other parts of the cave. The lint and debris provide an artificial food source for cave biota, ares unsightly, and can even alter the geologic processes by which speleothems grow.

From January 10 through 12, thirteen participants participated in the Lehman Caves Lint and Restoration Camp. Participants came  from as close as the local community and from as far away as Southern California. Some found “antique” lint high above the Music Room, clinging to stalactites and making them look wooly. Cave shields were dusted in the Tom Tom Room, each shield providing a dust pan a quarter full with dust and lint. Four staircases were cleaned, providing a great amount of debris, even though they were just cleaned last year. Dry pools in the Cypress Swamp were cleaned, with rocks taken out and scrubbed and the original bottoms found.

Stalactite before & after dust and lint removal. The horn-like formations on the right side and base of this stalactite are a type of helictites.

In many cases, bits of the old wooden trail were found scattered on the cave floor. In return for this cleaning, participants felt a deep sense of satisfaction for helping improve the cave. Participants also were treated to trips to off-trail sections of the cave that are seldom visited.

Because of the great amount of interest, a second lint camp will be held February 10-12 to clean even more of the cave. Lint camps are expected to continue into the future. They are usually held in the winter because there are fewer cave tours, some park housing is available, and the cave feels very pleasant at 50 degrees F.

To be added to the mailing list, email Also, check out the Park’s Facebook page for the latest news and photos.

And you can check out the progress of the Lint and Restoration Camps on any tour of Lehman Caves. Tours are held year round, and in winter they rarely fill up.

— Gretchen Baker

(Check out Gretchen’s outdoor adventure blog, The Desert Survivor.)


Boulder City

Keyhole Canyon

If Zion Canyon in Utah is a cathedral where one feels the overwhelming glory of nature, then Keyhole Canyon, just south of Boulder City, is a splendid sanctuary where your soul can talk to the spirits of nature one on one.

Used for manhood rituals by the Anasazi for countless moons and by Boulder City Cub Scout Troops within this century, Keyhole Canyon is situated in the Eldorado Mountains. How could you resist an adventure in mountains within an hour of Boulder City? It’s also known as The Keyhole Canyon Archeological Site.

If you stand at the entry of the canyon, just look carefully, like you mean it, and you’ll will be rewarded by petroglyphs of great variety and almost obvious meaning (sort of). Also look for the rarer pigment-applied pictographs that lurk in overhangs and caves formed by fallen boulders. Actually, archeologists have been debating the true significance of these images ever since there were archeologists. A group of coders noted for their great perception and general genius tried to figure out the meanings, but they couldn’t figure it out, either. As one of them said later, “We don’t even know what they were smoking, so it’s kinda hard to figure out.”

This is a canyon for all seasons and reasons, like rock climbing and canyoneering. Most people go into the mouth of mountain canyon and stop at the first waterfall. It is usually dry, but for brief violent moments when a high capacity flood of tremendous force rushes down — which is the answer to the question, “How did that huge boulder get there?” Actually, there are five waterfalls along this particular waterway.  It is a canyoneering experience that’s similar to what you’d find in Zion National Park, but with a lot less people and rules. Please be safe and, you know, pack it out.

The time of year to visit favored by this local is spring, with its flowers, birds and cool winds, which are rare in Southern Nevada. The ravens of Keyhole Canyon are wise birds that watch over the canyon and protect it with a spell  that makes those that despoil anything near or in the canyon impotent for the rest of their lives.

— Alan Goya

(All photos by GOYAphotography)



Old West Murals in Downtown Elko

In November and December, eleven photo murals were installed in downtown Elko. These photo murals, taken by Deon and Trish Reynolds of Eureka, showcase life in rural Nevada. The photo murals pictured here are in the alley behind the Western Folklife Center. Deon and Trish will give a walking tour of the murals on Friday Feb 3rd from 9:30 – 10 am and on Saturday Feb 4th from 8:30 – 9 am. They will also have a pop-up gallery at 225 Silver Street Suite #105 across from the Star Restaurant during the Cowboy Poetry Gathering (see below). A big thanks to the Western Folklife Center for organizing the murals, and NV Energy and ArtPlace America for providing funding.

Real Stories, Straight Up

The 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is underway as this edition of the NevadaGram comes out, and there is still time to get tickets and enjoy the week-long celebration of Western Life. The Gathering

features a week of varied events — poetry, music, art, discussions, dances, and workshops. This year’s theme is ” Real Stories, Straight Up,” and the storytellers and poets that are lined up are bound to please. Visit the Western Folklife Center  to see the whole Cowboy Poetry Gathering schedule and to buy tickets online. There are many other “satellite” events and shows around town hosted by other groups and businesses that are also worth checking out. These include the Wild Women Show at the Duncan Little Creek Gallery, the Native American Market at the Girl Scout House, and a Western Art and Gear Show at the Stockmen’s Hotel.

Time to Ski the SnoBowl

Winter Skiing and Snowboarding at the Elko SnoBowl has been underway since New Years. The recent storms have put down some good snow and the skiing is fun. This small ski hill is located 5 miles north of Elko on North 5th Street. There is one chairlift and a rope tow on the bunny Check out the Elko Snobowl Facebook page. Before you head up the hill, call (775) 777-7707 for Roche’s Report. He will give you the latest and greatest regarding days and hours of operation, and a summary of the conditions at SnoBowl.

— Doug Clarke



Ely’s Nevada Northern Railway Photo Shoot

The whistle from the steam engine echoes across the valley as the white, puffy cloud of steam rises in the early morning chill. Snow covers the ground and the sun is just coming up. The clear, crisp mountain air shimmers, highlighting the frost on the trees. Activity at the depot stirs with passengers hearing the “All Aboard!” shout from the conductor. Bags are grabbed, equipment is put in place, and then the train pulls out of the station.

This first took place over 100 years ago, but it happens again every February with the annual Winter Steam Photo Shoot Spectacular in Ely at the Nevada Northern Railway, held this year on February 10-12 and 17-19, Friday through Sunday.

Each year photographers from all over the world gather in Ely to participate in the great steam railroad photo shoot.  Historic steam engines over 100 years old and original passenger cars and other equipment are brought out to form trains that have been running on these tracks over the past century.

These trains were used to haul ore from the copper mine, bring in freight and ship out livestock, keeping this community and its residents both employed and supplied with everything needed to live in this isolated community in the Great Basin of eastern Nevada.

Today, these same trains carry passengers throughout the year on rides through the high mountain desert mining district. Specialty trains include the Wild West train, Geology train, Haunted train and the Polar Express. A full schedule can be found at

The Winter Photo Shoot is a special time for photographers to get shots of trains put together against the backdrop of snow covered hills, with no traffic, crowds or other distractions.  Discussions on light settings, angles and other aspects of getting the perfect photo are shared among the participants. Tours through the engine house, access to the entire railway complex, and volunteers in period-appropriate dress add to the experience. The night shoots add yet another dimension to the memorable weekend.

For more information, call 1866-40STEAM (866-407-8362 or 775-289-2085, or

— Lorraine Clark


Las Vegas

Las Vegas Romance?  Maybe not!

                                                                                             The Springs Preserve

It’s heart month, and what could be more warming then getting together with your significant other and going to the Divine Café at the Springs Preserve? On February 10th, they are having their Couples in the Kitchen event which is the first event of their Friday Night Date Nights. This is an evening class from 6:30 until 9:30 where you will prepare a four course meal by direction of trained chefs. The non-refundable price is $89.00 for non-members; $80.10 for Springs Preserve members and includes cocktail and wine pairings for each course. You will prepare salads, risotto, Spanish Tapas, and your creation of a Portuguese dessert.

Call for reservations since this is not a walk-in event.

So, maybe you want to just let your special someone enjoy fun with her girlfriends. You might suggest that she attend the Divas’ Day Out held on February 25th at the World Market Center on Grand Central Parkway & Bonneville. This is a large convention for women with everything geared towards women. They will have entertainment, beauty, fashion, fitness, health, jewelry, clothing, shopping … Need I say more? The event begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. This is usually a free event to enter; however, check the website linked above for final confirmation of the free event.

Since your other half was allowed to do a girls-day-out, the least they can do is to send you to the first WWE Monday Night Raw live at T-Mobile Arena on February 13th. (It’s the day before Valentine’s Day so you will not have any excuse for missing the special day with them!) The events start at 4:30 p.m. with tickets $30, $45, $55, and $65. The participants scheduled as of press time are TJ Perkins, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Chris Jericho, Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Sami Zayn and several others.

If the romance has not started in your life yet, and you are into MAJOR exercise, you can always go to the 9th annual Scale the Strat event on February 26th. This event is for the physically fit, since you must climb all 108 floors (which includes 1,455 steps, not counting the steps it will take you to get there) of the Stratosphere Tower. It begins at 7 a.m., which is another reason you must be physically and mentally fit to begin any grueling exercise at this unreal hour in Las Vegas. This is all for a good cause, since the money goes to the American Lung Association. If you contact the Stratosphere before February 17th you can get a discounted rate.

And how about getting together with some Brits to enjoy their High Roller Scooter Rally, which will have its official gathering at the Downtown Grand from February 23rd through 27th. This brings together US & UK scooter connoisseurs to have nonstop entertainment together with scooter outings. (Yes, the ones that are always holding up traffic!) There will be a poker walk, DJ’s & bands, food events, a custom scooter show, and trade events.

By the way, this might not be a good time to scold them about their driving habits.

— Pauline Cimoch


More Reasons to Love Las Vegas

                                                 The Sky Lobby Tea Room on the 23rd Floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel

Here’s another reason to love Las Vegas. Diamond Jack and Mrs. Jack welcomed 2017 by venturing from one Strip party to another. Sometime during the night (or early morning), we found ourselves on the 23rd floor Sky Lobby of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. There, to my surprise, I discovered a vending machine dispensing 187-millimeter splits of Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne — the same champagne served at the Golden Globe Awards. This is how you retrieve a bottle: purchase a $20 golden coin at the hotel registration desk, drop that coin into the machine, and then push the button for either a brut or rose mini bottle. Out comes the bottle with a champagne flute bottle topper so you can drink it now or on the go. The only other version of this unique vending machine is found in New York City. Happy New Year! (For more information on the Mandarin Oriental Hotel go to

And speaking of New Year – well, Chinese New Year – the Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino has opened just in time to celebrate the Year of the Rooster. Located at the north end of the Strip at Sahara, the Lucky Dragon is an authentic Asian cultural and gaming experience featuring 203-rooms, an indoor-outdoor Tea Garden, five Asian-inspired restaurants, and staff and signage to accommodate guests from throughout Asia. While touring the property, Diamond Jack discovered the 24-hour Bao Now restaurant, adjacent to the main gaming floor. The eatery features dim sum, soups, rice, noodles, congee, Boba tea, and other delicious dishes. Gung Hoy Fat Chow! For information go to or call 702-889-7109.

The early years of Las Vegas can be seen through its iconic signs and marquees. The Neon Museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting those signs for educational, historic and cultural enrichment. The two-acre campus includes the outdoor exhibition space known as the Neon Boneyard and a visitors’ center housed inside the former La Concha Motel lobby. This is a family experience that tells the Las Vegas story of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. 770 Las Vegas Blvd. North. 702-387-6366.

— Diamond Jack Bulavsky


              Photo credit: Erik Kabik

Carlos Santana Continues into Fifth Year at the House of Blues

Carlos Santana has announced additional 2017 performance dates in May, September and November of his “An Intimate Evening with Santana: Greatest Hits Live” show at House of Blues at Mandalay Bay solidifying the guitar legend’s fifth year at the intimate venue. Santana has sold more than 100 million records and won 10 Grammy® Awards and three Latin Grammy® awards over a more than 40-year dynamic music career. His upcoming dates are Feb. 1-4.

Tickets for Santana’s 8 p.m. shows start at $99.50. A portion of all tickets sold are donated to The Milagro Foundation created in 1998 by Santana and his family to benefit children worldwide.

The Mob Museum Celebrates Fifth Anniversary with Events

The Mob Museum downtown will mark the occasion of its Fifth Anniversary with a series of celebratory public events planned Friday through Tuesday, Feb. 10-14. Also each day, the first 10 Museum guests will receive a commemorative chocolate package from Ethel M Chocolates. One out of the 10 will contain a special “golden ticket” redeemable for a grand prize.

On Friday at 10 a.m. the museum will unveil a collection of St. Valentine’s Day Massacre artifacts that will go on permanent display. From 11 a.m.-2 p.m., there will be a United Blood Services Blood Drive.
On Saturday, there will be two presentations at 11 a.m.-noon and 1-2 p.m. by author Chriss Lyon who wrote “A Killing in Al Capone’s Playground: The True Story of the Hunt for the Most Dangerous Man Alive” about gangster Fred “Killer” Burke.

    From 1-2 p.m. on Sunday, there will be a Panel Discussion: History of The Mob Museum Building featuring panelists including Robert Chattel, founder, Chattel, Inc., the historic preservation consulting firm which advised on the restoration of the historic federal building and post office occupied by the Museum.
    Monday from 7 – 9 p.m. will be the screening of the film “Capone.”
    All day Tuesday from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. will be free admission for Nevada residents and buy-one, get-one admission for non-locals. There will be two St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Evidence Presentations 11 a.m.-noon and 1-2 p.m. Chriss Lyon will do book signings again from noon-12:30 and 2-2:30 p.m. From noon–8 p.m. there will be a celebration at The Commissary at Downtown Grand across the street.
During the five years, the museum greeted more than 1.3 million visitors from all 50 states and 36 countries.

Jazz Hitmakers The Rippingtons Come to Access Showroom

Grammy Award-nominated jazz musicians The Rippingtons are booked at Aliante in the Access Showroom Saturday, Feb. 18. Tickets start at $39.50 for their 8 p.m. show.
Formed in 1986 by the group’s only original member, Russ Freeman, who still helms the group, The Rippingtons have been performing jazz music for more than 30 years and released nearly 20 albums. Their most recent album is “True Stories” released in June 2016.
In the early 1990s, the group revealed its first No. 1 album, “Welcome to the St. James’ Club.” The group’s 15th album, “Modern Art,” was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009 for Best Pop Instrumental Album.

Engelbert  Brings 50th Anniversary Tour to the Orleans

Engelbert Humperdinck, who has sold 140 million records worldwide, will make a stop with his 50th Anniversary Tour at The Orleans Showroom Feb. 25-26 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $54.95.

Humperdinck found early success in Europe in the mid-1960s with the hit single “Release Me,” which spent 56 weeks in the Top 50 of the U.K. charts and reached No. 1 in 11 countries. Humperdinck continued producing hits in the 1970s including “After the Lovin’,” which became a Top-10 single in the United States and earned Gold. His album of the same name was a Double-Platinum success.

— Jackie Brett



Shooter Jennings Headlines at the Riverside

with Waymore’s Outlaws will perform in Don’s Celebrity Theatre at the Riverside Resort Feb. 2-4 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30.

Jennings, the only son of country legends Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, literally spent his childhood on a tour bus. Jennings was playing drums by the time he was 5 years old and discovered guitar at age 14. By age 16 he embraced Rock ‘n’ Roll,  particularly Southern rock and the loose-limbed hard rock of Guns N’ Roses. In early 2014, Jennings teamed up with Waymore’s Outlaws, his father’s original recording and touring band, and began touring performing country classics, plus both his dad’s and his own material. The tour became an instant success and even landed a headlining spot at the 2014 CMA Fest. Jennings continues to tour with his father’s band while also producing material through his own record label, Black Country Rock.

The Oak Ridge Boys Make Tour Stop at the Riverside

The Oak Ridge Boys with their recognizable four-part harmonies and upbeat songs     will visit the Riverside Resort Feb. 6-12 at 7 p.m. plus with 3 p.m. matinees on Feb. 7-9 and 11. Tickets are $38.50.

The Oak Ridge Boys have spawned dozens of country hits and a No. 1

Pop smash tune “Elvira,” which earned them Grammy, Dove, CMA, and ACM awards. The vocal quartet brings four decades of charted singles, and 50 years of tradition, to a stage show each time. The group is known for singing about love – not cheating or drinking – because their songs are meant to last.

Crystal Gayle Will Sing at the Riverside

Award-winning American Country music singer Crystal Gayle will appear in concert at the Riverside Resort Feb.16-19 with 7 p.m. performances. Tickets are $30.

Over the years, Gayle has accumulated 20 No. 1 country hits with six certified Gold records. She was the first female country artist in history to reach Platinum sales with her album “We Must Believe in Magic,” which included her most recognizable smash hit “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”

Actually born Brenda Gail Webb, it was her older sister, Loretta Lynn, who suggested the name “Crystal” at a time when Brenda Lee was already a big music industry star. In the late 70s, Gayle was the star of her own hour prime time specials on CBS television.

Gayle’s list of platinum and gold records was matched only by her awards and accolades. She was CMA’s “Female Vocalist of the Year,” and for two consecutive years became a Grammy Award Winner for “Best Female Vocal Performance.” Gayle is the recipient of three “American Music Awards,” voted by the nation as America’s “Favorite Female Artist.” She also received a star on the fabled Hollywood Walk of Fame in October 2009.

Country Superstar Alan Jackson Visits Laughlin

A giant in country music, Alan Jackson will headline the Laughlin Event Center, an outdoor concert venue the whole town shares, on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $40 to $200.

The singer-songwriter from rural Newnan, Ga., has sold nearly 60-million albums worldwide, ranks as one of the 10 best-selling male vocalists of all-time in all genres, and was listed as one of the Top 10 Country Artists of All-Time by Billboard. Jackson is in the elite company of Paul McCartney and John Lennon among songwriters who’ve written more than 20 songs that they’ve recorded and taken to the top of the charts. Jackson’s 20th studio album, “Angels and Alcohol,” released in mid-2015 topped the country album charts with seven of the 10 tracks written by him.

Jackson has released more than 60 singles – registering 50 Top Ten hits and 35 No. 1s. He has earned more than 150 music industry awards – including 18 Academy of Country Music Awards, 16 Country Music Association Awards, a pair of Grammys and ASCAP’s Founders and Golden Note Awards. Jackson received the first-ever ASCAP Heritage Award in 2014 having earned the title of most-performed country music songwriter-artist of ASCAP’s first 100 years. He is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry.

— Jackie Brett


Lincoln County

Free Roaming Burros and a Remarkable Mule in 1930s Pioche

                                                                       A pair of Nevada wild burros (BLM-Nevada photo)

Pioche, Nevada, in the days of the Great Depression and even before, had a group of burros that roamed free after some of the mines had closed down.

The late Judge Roscoe

Wilkes tells of one story about him and his buddies catching and riding the burros in one of the chapters in his book, “High Desert Tales.” But this story is not that one, it is a different one.

Wilkes was born in 1918, and moved to Pioche in 1927. He would go on to be a WWII veteran, prisoner of war, earn his law degree at USC, eventually serve as Lincoln County District Attorney, District Judge and administrative law judge with the U.S. Coast Guard. However, it was as a boy during the Great Depression he writes many of his reminiscences.

Of the Depression era he writes, “Polite media writers are calling it a recession, but when people are being tossed out of their jobs by the millions and many losing their homes in the process, and when starving fathers are striving to keep food on the family table, the situation calls for a stronger name, perhaps disaster…”

  Wild burros at the Marietta Wild Burro Range in Mineral County, Nevada (BLM-Nevada photo)

When the mines closed down in Pioche, some because of the Depression, several of the burros that had pulled the ore cars out of the tunnels to the dump site for the bins that took the ore to the processing plant, were simply turned loose to roam and graze in the hills around the town. There were about eight of them Wilkes recalls.

In the very early 1930’s a sport enjoyed by the boys was catching and riding one or more of them. “Those burros may have belonged to someone, but we never knew or cared who that might be. If you caught one, it was yours for the day, until dusk when the unwritten rule was that it must be turned loose to graze – ‘they have to eat, you know.’” The burros were always to be treated with respect, not mistreated.

However, Wilkes recalls one burro named “Maggie,” probably a name the boys gave to it, was one they would catch and ride often. One boy one day, another boy the next. He notes, “But when Maggie had enough of some inconsiderate kid banging her with a stick or otherwise harassing her, she would simply lie down where she was and stay there, until in her own mind, she was ready to get up.”

The burros were around the town of Pioche for many years, and it is believed that sometime during World War Two they finally died out.

     Mule pulling a train of one-ton ore cars out of a mine, around 1910 (photo credit: Bisbee Museum)

There were other four-legged animals that worked in the mines also, and those were mules. One, which Wilkes tells of, the boys called the “Burke Tunnel Mule.” “This mule could count,” Wilkes claimed.

A few of the mines were still open in the early ’30s, as was the one where this mule worked. “There were no electric motors or winches to pull the loaded ore cars out of the mine on the tracks,” Wilkes notes.

“Instead, there was a smallish black mule with a carbide lamp affixed to its headstall. Back in the tunnel the mule would listen as the one-ton mine cars were being coupled together. Three cars and the mule would pull them out.” However, “If she heard a fourth car being coupled to the others, she wouldn’t move.”

Right after high school in 1936, Wilkes worked for a time in the mines around Pioche, and he said, “I saw this mule many times. The lesson we learned, mules can count.”

— Dave Maxwell



Mesquite is home to all things spherical during the month of February.  Soccer, baseball, and golf dominate the emerald green sports fields and courses around town.   If you haven’t played a round of golf on Mesquite’s super courses, you have missed out on some of the best golfing in the USA.  Pickleball and tennis have made a comeback in town, with courts available at city parks.  Get into the swing of it all!  Check out the youth soccer and baseball/softball schedules at

                                                                                                   Yucca in bloom

Nearby Gold Butte is not just a remote place anymore.  Declared Gold Butte National Monument by President Obama on Dec. 28, it now joins its adjacent Arizona landmass, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, as wide open space that is protected from commercial development, mining and other commercial enterprises.  This popular hideaway can be accessed by taking I-15 Exit 112 and heading south across the Virgin River.  Be sure to drive a sturdy vehicle with a full gas tank.  Turn right on Gold Butte Road after you cross the river and be prepared for adventure. No improvements are yet planned for the new monument, so services are non-existent.  No gas, no water and no restrooms.  The one thing in abundance is exquisite natural beauty, and this is a place where wonderment will never cease.

                                                             Bearpaw Poppy

February is generally the start of desert flower season, and Gold Butte shows off its bloom In a glorious array of colors.  The rare bear paw poppy is one of the endangered species that thrives in the gypsum soil of Gold Butte. Yuccas and Joshua Trees are abundant on the bajada of the Virgin Mountains as it slopes down to the shore of Lake Mead.  Don’t be too disappointed if you miss the unpredictable spring bloom, as there is lots more to explore and enjoy.

Gold Butte was home to Native Americans for thousands of years, and signs of their habitation are still in evidence in petroglyphs and other subtle signs of residency that are revealed to those who have studied the early cultures of the region. Regardless of politics, and there are lots of opinions about the creation of this monument, all will conclude that this is a special, significant area that leaves its imprint on one’s soul.

                                                                                          Blooming Hedgehog Cactus

— Linda Faas


Mineral County

Finding Hidden Jewels in Schurz

The town advertises fireworks sold at several locations, a gas station with a mini market and some out buildings, laid out among a valley of residential homes within the vast fields on the northern edge of Mineral County’s Indian Reservation known as Schurz. Yet amidst this rural scene sits a treasure trove that is easily passed by unnoticed among these few Highway 95 sites.

The Rock Chuck Gem and Mineral Gallery may give a first impression of being a dusty old roadside vendor — as if it once was a hub for grubby rock hunters to meet, or a stop for those seeking a stone mason. The sturdy, handmade rock pillars lined up outside give an aged appearance of a tradesman’s shop long gone, but this is contrary to the fact that the young man inside still carries on the family tradition by mining, gathering and making custom monuments, rock displays and creative pieces by request — hidden jewels of a refined talent.

The large cinder-block building, with the bold block lettering of ROCK CHUCK hand-painted under the roof, draws a brief wonderment, with most drivers questioning the mysterious location when slowing down to enter the tiny township. Surprisingly, inside this highway-side corner lurks a stunning gallery of gems, art and minerals to inspire any visitor.

Once the Keady family business, the sons were raised in the rock and mason’s trade. A tribute to the Keady’s parents is apparent within the large, garage-style business.  As the roll up doors open, one is greeted by the smiles of John and Chelsea, the young couple running the business today. Surrounded by endless gems that are presented in all phases, custom jewelry pieces are encased in their own unique designs, while one-of-a-kind items are found throughout the store. Within the rural districts of Nevada there is an old and rich lore which surrounds mining, and John and Chelsea welcome questions from visitors, share their knowledge and tell of their own adventures. They still practice mining throughout the week, digging at their own local mines.

Not a couple to shy away from the nitty-gritty experience of actually digging the minerals and gems they find, this is not your standard jeweler. Although Chelsea once worked as a trained, GIA-certified diamond expert in a San Diego jewelry store, she always wanted to work at the raw stage of rocks — that is, to become a “rock chucker.” The couple goes exploring, hiking into secluded areas carrying equipment and heavy backpacks, spending hours chipping away at potential finds. With a wealth of information, they are eager to meet with any miner or geologist to share facts, stories and surprises. They have been accepted by a network of experts, which enhances the merchandise their store offers, as others trade gems and rocks that are on display. Representing Nevada’s small independent miners, John and Chelsea recently located an unusual agate cut in their mine, which they are trademarking as Pearly Gates and Hells Fire.

The Rock Chuck is a place of surprising beauty, with an inside waterfall which houses golden fish in a small pond and rough hewn benches that allow you the privilege of relaxing within the atmosphere of rocks of various colors and shapes, many in their primitive forms. Their local turquoise on display comes in a wide range of colors. Children can take a free polished rock from the treasure chest, and parents can enjoy the precious stones and amazing mineral specimens housed throughout the shop. The Rock Chuck encourages a touchy-feely experience.

Check out The Rock Chuck on Facebook or call 760-978-4567 in advance for store hours.

— Sheri Samson


Mount Rose

2017 Tahoe Blizzard: A Postmortem

It’s snowing again today in the Tahoe Sierra — as the first in a series of 3 storms this week moves onshore.

These systems will impact the region with more snow. Cumulative storm totals may reach or exceed 5 feet in the upper elevations near the Sierra Crest by next Monday, but with any luck we won’t see anywhere near that at lake level. Hopefully no one will fault me for wanting a break from shoveling massive amounts of heavy snow. Plus, after experiencing 4 days without electricity last week, I can tell you that no one in my neighborhood wants to see more falling trees taking down power lines.

Snow removal crews worked non-stop during last week’s storms so that when the crowds of people enjoying the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday took to the roads this past weekend, our regional highway system was in good shape to handle the heavy traffic.

The snow was significantly deeper than this during the Top 10 winter of 2011, but we’re off to a good start this year. At 8,911 feet in elevation, the Mt. Rose Summit on Highway 431 is the highest year-round pass in the Sierra.

Mount Rose is an extinct volcano and both the highest (10,776′) and most topographically prominent peak of the Sierra Nevada range within the state of Nevada. Despite its name, Mount Rose Ski Tahoe is located on nearby Slide Mountain. The ski resort has the highest base elevation in the Tahoe Sierra at 8,260 feet, which means that the slopes there get snow when it rains at other resorts, especially during Atmospheric River events. The resort has picked up 380 inches of snow so far this winter (31.6 feet).

The east side of the Mt. Rose Summit is a heavy snow deposition zone and prone to avalanches. Highway crews use explosives to try and control devastating slides.

This January has been very productive when it comes to snowfall in the Tahoe Sierra region.

Nearly 59 inches of precipitation (rain and melted snow) have fallen at the Central Sierra Snow Laboratory near Donner Pass so far this winter. That is about 4 inches more than the Lab receives over the course of an entire water year (Oct. 1 –  Sept 30). The cumulative snowfall tally of 20 feet is impressive, but to make it into the Top 10 biggest winters you need a minimum of 50 feet. Check out my new book Snowbound! Legendary Winters of the Tahoe Sierra to read all about the Top 10.

(This article originally appeared in Tahoe Nuggets #273, January 18, 2017)

— Mark McLaughlin


South Lake Tahoe

Snow, snow and more snow!

That’s what we wanted, and that’s exactly what we got.  A good old fashioned Sierra dump.  The type of snowfall that makes people move out of town;  the type of storm that has longtime locals remembering the big ones from years past and remarking to one another that this might be a “real Tahoe winter.”

It snowed four feet in one day at lake level and double that in the upper elevations.  Up on top at Kingsbury Village, one resident measured ten feet in just a day and had trouble locating his truck.  The extremely wet Pineapple Express weather system out of the South Pacific joined forces with an Arctic blast and gave us the “Sierra cement,” which sticks to everything and accumulates so fast it’s hard to keep up with.  And it’s not just one storm: they keep on coming and coming. The storm door has blown open, and it may not close until summer.

The storms came, and now the people will come, and the town will turn into a crowded winter wonderland.  Making the trip over a mountain pass during or after such big storms can be harrowing, but once here you can see how happy snow can make people — and they’re glad they made the trip.  Getting to Lake Tahoe is a struggle when the snow hits this hard, so a big shout out of thank-you’s for the non-stop efforts of NDOT and CalTrans and the private snow removal people is called for. The crews keep the roads driveable so that the town’s restaurants, hotels and other businesses can stay open and so the economy thrives.

Skiing is on the itinerary for most who travel to the mountains in winter. The weekends at South Lake Tahoe are a large zoo of people packed into a small town, overwhelmed with mounds of snow in parking lots and streets, making space limited. So try to keep calm, take it easy and be patient; things inevitably slow down, so don’t be in

a rush. Good things come to those who wait, and while waiting in the sometimes quarter mile long line at the Heavenly Resort Gondola, just know that unlimited snow is waiting for you to carve it up.  But thankfully, the whole of Heavenly Mountain is open in both Nevada and California.  Stagecoach, at the top of Kingsbury Grade (Hwy 207), is open with its high-speed quad chairlift, which whisks people to the top of the mountain and to miles and miles of good skiing.  On the California side, Gunbarrell Express and The Tram are open and ready for business, too.  The parking is always an issue on weekends, so go early.  The Gondola at Heavenly Village has paid parking in the garage, but next door at Harrah’s Casino they allow skiers to park in their lot free.   And after the day’s over you can pop in to Harrah’s and get a drink or a bite to eat.  The Heavenly shuttle buses may be a good bet, running all day and drop off right at the lift on the Nevada side of Heavenly.

One stop the Heavenly shuttle makes is in front of Lakeside Inn and Casino, a locals favorite, a little bit down from the casino corridor at Stateline.  The rooms are nice, restaurants have really good food and the bars serve drinks 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Located at the bottom of Kingsbury Grade, Lakeside is a great spot to kick off your day of wintry fun.  Grab breakfast at The Timbers Restaurant with an Eggs Benedict and a Bloody Mary, or maybe have Huevos Rancheros and a Bloody Maria at the Latin Soul Restaurant on the bottom floor of Lakeside Inn. Then, grab your skis or board and head up the hill.  Or you may want to take a stroll through Rabe Meadow located next to the casino and take in the wonder of Lake Tahoe in the winter. Especially on a calm day, the Lake is like glass and the silence is deafening. Very peaceful.  Snowshoe rentals are available at the Shoreline Sports Shop, also located next to Lakeside Inn on Kahle Drive and Hwy 50.  If the indoors is more your fancy, Lakeside is the place to be; friendly employees make you feel right at home, and you can smoke and drink if you like, too.  Super Bowl LI is on February 5, and the sports book is ready to take your bet on everything from the outcome of the game to how long the national anthem will take.  It’s a great sports bar, with drink deals, good bar food and lively conversation with fellow patrons enjoying the big game.

Another lively place to enjoy the Super Bowl or any other sporting event is Audible’s Sports Bar and Gaming, up the hill a bit on Kingsbury. The friendly people at this establishment are celebrating a one year anniversary on February 21 with all sorts of fun and games: food and drinks specials, prizes and a raffle for a Super Sport Chevy Camaro.  Audible’s has become a local favorite for lunch and dinner, with great food specials every day.  Chef Ron is coming up with great food ideas all the time.  Last time I had lunch here, it was a pot-roast sandwich on the specials menu: delish.  Live music on some nights and poker machines at the bar make it fun place to go.

On a sad note, the Tahoe Queen sternwheeler is no more.  In the fall, the ship caught fire while workers were doing some welding work on the top deck, according to news reports.   Owners first thought they might be able to salvage the vessel, but it was recently determined that was not the case.  In January, crews pulled the boat from its mooring at Zephyr Cove up to the parking lot and began dismantling it.  The engines were salvaged because the Queen had recently been refurbished.  But a number of running-aground episodes had them in hot water with the Coast Guard, so the boat had sat unused for some time before the fire.  Now, what remains is just the hull, sitting on the pavement,  filled with debris  and waiting to be hauled off the dump.  So, bon voyage, Tahoe Queen. A lot of good times were had aboard her. The M.S. Dixie II remains and will continue offering cruises in the winter, and on a crisp, clear day the Lake is absolutely beautiful.

A historical winter is in the making, maybe, so get on up here to the Lake and be part of it.  Years later you can tell people you were at Lake Tahoe for the winter of 2017.

— Brendan Packer



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