If you’ve ever visited the Carson Valley in your lifetime, you can probably still see it clearly in your memory.
The broad green valley, speckled with grazing cattle, made lush by rivulets from mighty granite cliffs shoved up into the western sky, craggy summits white with snow. That’s in the spring or the fall; in summer the snow is gone from the peaks, and in winter the snow descends to the valley floor from time to time.
In any season it is surprisingly, unforgettably beautiful.
The first person to say so to the world was Horace Greeley, of all people. He came early on, riding a mail wagon west from Salt Lake City in 1859 — before Sam Clemens even — and sent a dispatch back to his newspaper, the New York Tribune, when he arrived in Placerville.
“I had previously seen some beautiful valleys,” he wrote, “but I place none of these ahead of Carson. I judge that portion of it already in good part under cultivation, about thirty miles long by ten to fifteen wide. . . . This valley, originally a grand meadow, the home of the deer and the antelope, is nearly enclosed by high mountains, down which, especially from the north and west, come innumerable rivulets,
leaping and dancing on their way to form or join the Carson. Easily arrested and controlled, because of the extreme shallowness of their beds, these streams have been made to irrigate a large portion of the upper valley, producing an abundance of the sweetest grass, and insuring bounteous harvests also of vegetables, barley, oats, etc.”
This was the first part of Nevada to be settled. Brigham Young was aware of the region since John Reese established Mormon Station at what became Genoa, and he sent settlers to establish farms. A few years later he called them home to Salt Lake City to protect Deseret from federal invasion, and though a few stayed put, most of them returned, abandoning their farms which were then taken by ‘gentiles’.
Greeley happened through just as these newcomers were meeting to establish local government at this far edge of Carson County, Utah Territory. Nevada Territory was formed in 1861 with Carson City as its capital and when Nevada was made a state in 1864 Genoa was continued as the seat of Douglas County government.
Gardnerville was established in 1879 at a more centrally convenient location for the farmers in the valley. Next-door neighbor Minden was created when the V&T Railroad extended its rails south from Carson City, and became Douglas County seat six years after a disastrous fire at the county poor farm spread to take much of Genoa in 1910.
When travel was by wagon, each crossroad had a name and a saloon, but at 45 mph we tend to think of the Valley as a single entity, with neighborhoods called Genoa, Gardnerville and Minden.
The early history of this far western corner of Nevada is now one of its principal attractions. Genoa especially dotes on its past and so we began our visit there. Coming from Lake Tahoe, take the Kingsbury Grade over the spine of the Sierra and swoop down into the valley on an easy descent offering spectacular views. This was once a steep, rocky stagecoach road — the very road that Horace Greeley took to the lake on his way to Placerville (“Keep your seat, Horace, I’ll get you there on time!”). Turn north (left) on Foothill Road.
From Carson City go south on US 395 and take Jack’s Valley Road to the west (right) at the top of the hill. This is the old stagecoach road too, built for wagon traffic, and it seems to meander on account of the rolling hills as it leaves the highway behind and even though we drive Priuses and Mercedes nowadays it still seems like horse-and-buggy country.
On summer weekends local volunteers man an information kiosk at the central intersection and are happy to help you find what you’re looking for. On other days and at other seasons you must rely on the internet, not nearly as informative.
Genoa’s historical attractions are the Mormon Station State Park, the Historic Court House Museum and the cemetery, all of them on the north side of town, and the Genoa Bar & Saloon, Nevada’s oldest
such social center (est. 1853), a few steps south of Genoa’s central intersection.
There is shopping too, an interesting collection of small shops, heavy on gifts and antiques, and three quite different places to eat. The Country Store at the heart of town offers a deli with home made ice cream, a full bar and tables outside where Shorty is welcome. The Genoa Station Bar & Grill is popular (hint: the fried tomato BLT) all day long (also outside seating), and La Ferme is a regionally famous and classically French dinner house that draws customers from Lake Tahoe and Carson City as well as from around the valley.
If you decide to stay overnight in Genoa you have three options: the Genoa Country Inn and two B&Bs, the Wild Rose Inn and the White House Inn, all maintained to the highest standard; advance booking recommended. And then there is David Walley’s Hot Springs Resort just a mile or so south of town which combines all of Genoa’s attractions — food, lodgings and history in one — having been established in 1862 as a resort for the nabobs and wannabes of the Comstock Lode who came to loll about in the hot springs just as we still do today.
But it’s not all lolling around. There are bicyclists everywhere on the network of sparsely traveled two-lane roads, and hikers using the trails that have been developed in and around the valley. As for bicycling, that’s easy, just bring your bike, point it any way you like and go.
For hiking, consult the Carson Valley Trails Association for the details about the valley as a whole, or just the spectacular Genoa Trail System. And we can hardly overlook golf, which has brought visitors to Carson Valley for a generation now.
offers two spectacular courses off Jack’s Valley Road just north of Genoa. It’s hard to imagine a more magnificent 36 holes anywhere in the world.
And so you can hardly avoid enjoying yourself in Genoa, which is why some visitors to the valley get no farther than this. Those who do get farther in find even more to like. Rather quietly the Carson Valley has become a cool place to visit, and we’ll come back for more before the snow falls.
A Postcard from Shorty: I went on the ramble to Genoa and had a nice time. I always have a nice time on our outings.
A lady from the state tourism office took my picture and asked a bunch of questions so she could write an article about me. Here it is. I can’t tell you how boring it is to be a celebrity. I want to yawn just thinking about it.
But we went to a real cool place for lunch! The Genoa Bar & Grill serves lunch outside, and that means I can find a spot under the table or near enough to nab any spills, and I always do well when I can use my pleading gaze to good advantage.
Also I’d give thumbs up to the Mormon Station State Park (if I had any thumbs) for its soft and yielding lawns. Always looking freshly preened and pretty, and so easy on the feet! Dogs are welcome as long as we’re properly leashed and picked up after. And I liked our stroll in the cemetery. I could smell dead people.
FIVE YEARS AGO IN THE NEVADAGRAM
After booting up his laptop and using the hotel’s free WiFi, Jack locks his room behind him and takes the elevator down to the lobby. “I walked through the gaming hall and into a bar by the dollar slots. I ordered a beer and a steak sandwich and sat at a corner table with a view of the mechanical money takers.
“Looking around, I saw that the place had an aura of second-rate desperation, and the idea of another 12 hours there depressed me. But I wasn’t looking at a lot of choices. I was stuck and was going to stay stuck until the morning.”
Hold it right there, bucko. Everything in Ely is first-rate, including the desperation. This guy has just been laid off his job at the L.A. Times, had his credit cards revoked, can’t access his e-mail, drove for hours to find his prison interview postponed, and he’s laying the blame for his malaise on Ely. You have to wonder if he’s ever going to catch the serial killer.
— Read the whole thing here
Overheard at an outdoor table at the Country Store in Genoa: Education is not like filling up a pail for a kid, Ernie, it’s like lighting a fire under his ass.
Quick Notes from Beyond the Mountains: In July and August Fallon’s Lattin Farms will be hosting a Flea Market/Craft Fair as a fundraiser for the Cantaloupe Festival. Dates for the Flea Market/Craft Fair are July 11th & 12th and August 1st & 2nd. The Festival itself will take place on Labor Day weekend, August 29-31, at the Churchill County Fairgrounds . . .
A new copy of Gold Point
Gleamings has just landed on my electronic front porch.
Sheriff Stone and Red Dog Lil have just returned from a serious vacation in the east (“We arrived back at our front door with 6,211 miles and 21 days behind us”), but before they left they welcomed a crew from Ghost Town Operations to track down the elusive spirits of Gold Point.
They looked for spirits in the Post Office after being served a delicious New York Center Cut Steak, Herb rubbed potatoes, fancy veggies, chicken tortilla soup, a Summer field of Greens salad and finished off with a slice of chocolate decadent delight cheesecake. Don’t know how many spirits were found over the weekend but everyone had a good time and loved the food prepared by Chef Dan.
Now while Chef Dan’s meal was a great one, I would have chosen a different menu for the evening. Here is my idea of a paranormal meal: Shrouded lettuce salad, Clammy Chowder, Medium Rare Ghost Beef in its own
supernatural juices, Genuine Liverhearse with baked stiffed potato, Chicken in a casket.
The above served with our famous Mummy’s hair-raising biscuits and home-groan vegetables. For dessert— Ice Screams and spookies or Apparition Pudding. Let me know which you prefer next year. . . .
If you’d like a copy of Sheriff Stone’s newsy letter about the great vacation (excerpt below), ask him for one and get on his list.
“With sightseeing behind us we hit the road early to drive 656 miles to Amarillo, Texas to stay the night a mile from the Big Texan restaurant. We (I) decided that we should go there for dinner.
TEN YEARS AGO IN THE NEVADAGRAM
Pahrump looks more like a young Las Vegas every day. It is hard to find the distinctive blue-roofed tower of the Pahrump Winery among the roofs of the new homes that surround it now. The winery that Jack Sanders built has new owners. They have added a major RV Park with the winery as its centerpiece. Meanwhile Jack is building a new Sanders Winery at the Villa Teresana. What will be a green and gracious Tuscan-style vineyard and winery is now a large tract of bare dirt bristling with survey stakes, enclosed by a formal iron fence. When Kellogg Street is extended, it will be the first exit from Highway 160 on the Las Vegas side.
— Read the whole thing here
Two weeks prior to our getting there a small 125 pound 34 year old mother of 4 set the world record by eating their 72 oz. steak along with a big baked potato, 3 shrimp, a dinner roll and salad in 4 minutes and 58 seconds.
Guess what she had for desert!!! Another 72 oz. steak meal. She took her time and ate it in about 9 minutes.
Yes, both meals in less than 15 minutes. That’s 9 lbs. of steak, 3 lbs. of potatoes, 6 shrimps, two dinner rolls and two plates of salad. Hard to believe?? Just go the their website and you can click on the you tube video and watch her. It’s unbelievable!!” (They were probably the smaller shrimps) . . . Nevada has an oar in the nation’s first Water Trail in Black Canyon . . . Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell has designated a portion of the Lower Colorado River that flows through Lake Mead National Recreation Area as a National Water Trail, one of 16 in the USA. It is the first water trail in America’s Southwest and the first through a desert . . .
Bottling the Sun at Tonopah
SolarReserve, the company producing energy from the sun just north of Tonopah, is releasing a series of 7 short videos called “Bottling the Sun”, about the construction of its first-of-its-kind Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant. Each week a new episode is being released via the social media — so if you have not already liked their Facebook page or followed SolarReserve on Twitter (@SolarReserve), now is the time to do it! Here is Episode 1:
It was a good day hangin’ out with the wild ones… in the Pinenuts east of Gardnerville. Out of the blue, Shorty, a handsome liver colored stallion, drove his band to a gallop not a few hundred feet from where we were standing. What a thrill to be so close to the action that you can feel their pounding hooves shake the ground beneath your feet. They put on quite a show for two very grateful photographers. These wild horses are descendants of the many horses that were the backbone for development of mines and towns in Nevada. Those of us who love the wild horses continue to make every effort to work with the BLM and state agencies across the country to help protect them for future generations, so Nevadans and tourists from around the world can continue to enjoy the thrill of seeing them running wild and free. Did you know they are the symbol on our state quarter, one of the most collected of the state quarters?
— Sandi Whitteker, Carson City