In this NevadaGram we debut a new section of Correspondence from around the state on matters of interest to Nevada-lovers, both residents and visitors. Please try a taste, and add your comments in the box at the bottom.
Driving the Bodie Road We’d decided to aim the new car in a new direction, and explore far western Nevada, which includes what some outsiders call eastern California. To be clear, far western Nevada includes everything east of the ridgeline of the Sierra Nevada (except Trona) and takes in the entirety of Death Valley National Park.
Thus the State Line markers at Topaz Lake are harmless fictions, but helpful when using maps.
We headed out on a Friday afternoon with no fixed agenda, just the vague intention to get up into the Sweetwaters, a powerful upthrust mountain range along this immaterial borderland
We had decided on Bridgeport as a base, and It turns out that the best way to get to Bridgeport from Gold Hill is to drive south on US 395 to Topaz Lake, and make a left turn onto Topaz Lane.
The pavement ends in less than a mile; we turned left on Eastside Lane and then right on Risue Canyon Road which we followed all the way up into the summits and down the other side. It’s an easy road that meanders here and there without actually getting anywhere, just snaking up, down and around toward a destination that never actually appears. Perfect.
What does appear is a band of sheep sequestered close to the road, and its big white guardian dog came over to see us on our way.
A mile or two farther along we paused at an inviting spot, had a snack and a beer, and played frisbee with Jones. All this out in the middle of nowhere, without a care in the world. This is public land, and all citizens are welcome here, kings and queens of all we survey.
There was considerable evidence of the rains that had fallen earlier, even standing pools in the road here and there, and repairs had already erased the damage that had been done by runoff. There was evidence of fire too: a forest of sticks near the summit. Lightning strike? More question marks.
This blissful experience ended when we struck pavement again (Nevada 338), just north of Sweetwater summit. This road becomes California 182 as it continues south to Bridgeport, the tidy little town that has been the Mono County seat since 1862 when Aurora, the original County seat, was found to be in Nevada. Bridgeport offers good accommodations and dining choices, and lots of ways into the mountains.
Our fondest memories are of Nugent’s High Sierra Bakery, for its excellent 6 am lattes and croissant breakfast, and for allowing us to sit outside in the morning sun and to meet a friendly and highly knowledgeable couple from Fallon who helped us map our journey for the day. We took Aurora Canyon Road east from California 182 a short distance out of town and began a pleasant day’s meander through the natural world.
Interestingly, the departure from Bridgeport is from a small suburban enclave and offers a visit to the cemetery before departing civilization.
This is not wilderness, though there’s wilderness nearby. But it’s only the road that suggests a wider world with clutter and congestion and pavement out there somewhere.
Yesterday we had the road completely to ourselves, but on this Saturday a planned event brought out a couple of dozen dirt bikes that appeared out of nowhere and spurted past us in noisy clusters, swirling dust. We met a few ATVers and automobilists like ourselves as well.
On a drive like this into new country there is no discernible meaning to anything you see. It is what it is, and beyond that are only question marks. Around the next corner, up the next grade, into the next canyon: more question marks. We were in no hurry — that was the whole idea after all — so we welcomed opportunities to stop. Even without a pronghorn to slow us down we paused here and there as we pleased, for a snack, for a photo, for a walk with the dog.
At the top of what’s called the Aldrich Grade we noticed what appears to be a solitary grave a few feet from the road.
Really? Or did some cosmic joker arrange the rocks like that and then drive away laughing?
Either way there was a pile of quarters at the head of the grave, four or five dollars worth in front of the lichen-covered ‘headstone’ standing on edge.
Big bagful of question marks added to our collection and on we go.
And on. Unlike yesterday, when we just wanted to see what was on the other side of the mountain on our way to Bridgeport, today we had a destination, or rather two destinations: Bodie and Aurora.
We reached Bodie at midafternoon, skirted past it and continued east toward Aurora via the Bodie Road through beautiful Del Monte Canyon. It’s a ten mile drive and it took most of an hour because we still weren’t in a hurry.
Aurora is a disappointment. To be fair, it has been a disappointment since the summer of 1946 when its brick buildings, built in the heyday of the early 1860s and standing empty, were knocked down and hauled away. Since then it had been looted and scavenged until there was very little left, and almost nothing standing.
Now it has been obliterated completely. A modern mining company has fenced off access to the old townsite and created an eyesore of industrial buildings, leachpads and catchbasins. There is a sign pointing to the cemetery on the hill to the north, but we took a wrong turn somehow and failed to find it. The cemetery is the only part of the old city left intact; the other relics that still persist here and there merely hint at what was once a metropolis approaching 10,000 people.
The strike was made in August 1860, and by the time a townsite was platted the next year there were 600 people in camp. Hundreds of claims were recorded in the Esmeralda District, and speculators, including the Clemens brothers of Carson City, bought and sold shares.
The older brother, Orion, was the Secretary of Nevada Territory and tied to his desk, but the younger brother, Sam, who had tried the Unionville mines without success, set out for Aurora in February, 1862. He stayed through the summer into September, working the claims he and Orion had bought into, working for wages in a quartz mill, and sending occasional correspondence (signed Josh) to the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City.
Crossing Bodie Creek in Del Monte Canyon; the one lane bridge is wreckage.
When he was offered $25 a week to serve as City Editor of the Enterprise, he threw down his shovel for good and hitched a horseback ride with Frank Fuller, former Governor of the Utah Territory, from which the Nevada Territory had recently been lopped off. He may have walked the last 12 miles from Carson City, although it’s likely he rode the whole way.
So I think it’s fair to say that Sam’s literary career took seed and flowered in Aurora, even though he didn’t become Mark Twain until he got to Virginia City.
My first visit to Aurora was as a boy of 10 in 1946, when the brick buildings were still intact. When I was last here in August 2006 we could still walk the old streets, then just tracks in the sagebrush. Now there’s no access.
Bodie is a triumph of the California State Park System. The gift of the Cain family of Bodie and Bridgeport, it was dedicated a state park in 1962, the desiccated ghost of a once-booming city kept intact at 9,000 feet by Jim Cain until his death in 1938, and by his heirs after that.
We arrived at a few minutes before 5 pm, giving us an hour to wander the old city and photograph it. I think the best way to visit is to put in some hours on research first (you can start here) so you know enough to make sense of what you’re seeing before you arrive. But maybe that’s not necessary, maybe just walking the streets of a lifeless city is enough.
Five Years Ago in the NevadaGram
Highway art installation on [location deleted in case the folks at Headquarters don’t appreciate impromptu public art as much as I do]. “Such brilliant technique!” exclaimed a tourist who had stopped to see the exhibit. “It looks almost real!” In fact it was real: the coyote had been hit by a car a few days before and was still in a nearby ditch as the highway crew came slowly applying the white line along the shoulder of the road. The resulting art work — road-kill elevated to street art — may turn out to be the best thing the State did all summer long, and I give that crew a standing ovation. (Photo by a foreign tourist)
Comstock Mining Update — Photos taken at the recent Comstock Mining Inc Annual Meeting in Virginia City explain why no-one in Storey County government wants an investigation into the collapse of the highway:.Since his election, Storey County Commissioner McBride, left, consistently refuses to meet with his constituents in Gold Hill to discuss our concerns about the mine. At first he said he was “studying the situation”; now he simply ignores our invitations to discuss what’s happening in the district he represents. He is firmly uninterested in discovering the cause of the highway’s collapse.
Congressman Mark Amodie’s role in this farce may have something to do with campaign contributions, not unheard of and not illegal, but not pretty either.
Storey County Commissioner Jack McGuffey (right) seemed delighted to have a place at the trough and quite untroubled about what what caused the closing of the road.
What They’re Saying About Us
Politico has published its close look at Las Vegas Water Witch: Pat Mulroy.
At the NYSE things had not been going as well for CMI. Its stock had fallen to 65¢ a few days before Christmas, surged back up to $1.11 on January 16 and hung around above a dollar until it started down again on February 5, plunging to 72¢ and getting all the way down to 60¢ by the end of March..
Ten Years Ago in the NevadaGram
Any travel website can reserve rooms for people, but we’ve gone beyond that. Not long ago this message from a Winnemucca man appeared in the daily torrent: “I’m looking for a place to park my motorhome and two mules in Hawthorne on my way to Ridgecrest. Got any ideas?” A series of emails resulted in the desired information (There are corrals at the north-east end of Hawthorne, and feed can be arranged if needed).
The following week this message appeared: “I wanted to thank you again, I found the facility and everything was great. Somebody even filled the water trough with water.” Of course I am proud to help passing mules find a corral for the night, even though it`was the folks in Hawthorne who did all the work.
Since then it hasn’t climbed above 63¢ and on Friday June 26 the stock took a sudden fall to an all-time low of 53¢.
Brief Notes from Beyond the Mountains — North Lake Tahoe offers a weekend full of Independence Day events and activities to fit the entire family For more information visit www.GoTahoeNorth.com. North Lake Tahoe events range from concerts and barbeques to vintage car shows. However, an Independence Day trip to North Lake Tahoe is not complete without
enjoying one of North Tahoe’s award-winning fireworks shows from a balcony, beach or boat . . . Incline Village comes to life July 2 – 4 during the much-anticipated Red, White and Tahoe Blue festival. The three-day patriotic event includes several parades, face painting, flag raising and lowering ceremonies, live music, a Tahoe Firecracker Trail Trek, Rubber Duck Race and more. Signature Red, White and Tahoe Blue events begin with Wine and Cheese tasting at Aspen Grove Thursday. They then continue Friday with the Day on the Village Green music festival featuring bands like Grand Funk Railroad. The festival concludes Saturday with the award-winning Red, White and Tahoe Blue Fireworks
Show, paired with a live performance by the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra on the Village Green, beginning at 6 p.m. . . . Celebrate Independence Day Eve, July 3rd, from 4 – 10 p.m. at the Kings Beach Fireworks and Beach Party. Throughout the evening entertainment includes patriotic contests, games, music, food vendors as well as a beer, wine and mixed drink garden. The night sky lights up with the signature fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. Admission is free and preferred fireworks seating is available for $15 . . . Tahoe City Beach Bash & Fireworks At Common’s Beach, July 4. Spend Independence Day at Common’s beach in Tahoe City at the Bell Bottom Beach Bash. There will be activities for all ages, including hula-hoops, beach balls and cornhole, as well as several food vendors and merchandise vendors. Throughout the day, Penney the Clown, Kid Yager and DJ Chapin light up the stage with a variety of talents . . . Join the Hyatt Regency, Lake Tahoe for its annual 4th of July Cottage Green BBQ and Fireworks Celebration. Admission includes an outdoor buffet dinner and two drink tickets for adults 21+. The Cottage Green is the perfect venue to watch the Incline Village’s fireworks display, voted one of the best in the country . . . . In Reno, the graceful twin-arched, Beaux Arts style Virginia Street Bridge, built 110 years ago in 1905, a testament to the quality of its design and construction, has finally been demolished. Several videos of the destruction are available on line, but this one’s our first pick: . . . For those wishing to make the trip to Virginia City something especially memorable there’s an excursion train pulled by an antique V&T steam locomotive, the “4th of July Special,” departing from Carson City. For information and tickets Click Here . . . In the know, locals in Reno are heaping praise on Feed the Camel, a fun en plein air festival of art, entertainment and a lavish variety of delicious foods and drinks supplied by local food trucks at very reasonable prices. July 8, 15, 22 and 29 — every Wednesday evening, that is — on the lovely tree-shaded lawns of the old Mission-revival style McKinley Arts Center at 925 Riverside Drive. For more information visit Feed The Camel’s Facebook page . . . The Silver State Stampede, the oldest rodeo in Nevada, brings its unique brand of old-fashioned, rough-riding buckaroo excitement to Elko, Thursday July 9 through Saturday July 11. First held in 1913, the Stampede features real working cowboys who ride in the stock saddles they work in every day, to simulate actual working conditions of real modern-day buckaroos.
For more information Click Here . . . Lovely old Lovelock, Nevada is celebrating its 90th birthday with Lovelock Frontier Days, Friday July 17 to Sunday July 19. Enjoy a parade, vendor booths, entertainment, and plenty of fun events for the whole family — or just part of it. Call 775-273-7213 for further information . . .
Fifties Fever, Winnemucca’s celebration of those fabulous ’50s, rumbles, roars, rocks, and rolls from July 31st to August 2nd. This year’s event features free concerts, a parade, street dances, a $500 poker run, and the ever-popular show ‘n shine Classic Car Show of hundreds of classic autos guaranteed to make nostalgia buffs Twist and Shout — or Bop and Stroll, maybe. Peruse the Fifties Fever website for further particulars . . . The Nevada Fair in Carson City starts on July 30 and runs through Aug 2. A great way to tour Lake Tahoe is standing on a Canoe, a week after the Independence Day festivals die down,on July 11, Lake Tahoe will host the Jam From The Dam. The 2015 Tahoe Cup Paddle Racing Series starts at 9:00am. In the evening on July 11, see Music in the Castle at Vikingsholm in Lake Tahoe. At 5:00PM Violinist Mr. John Metros will join Concert Pianist Dr. David Nelson with an assortment of guest musicians. . . Also in Lake Tahoe on July 19 from 4:00PM to 7:00PM is the Joy and Madness music festival. A jam-filled event where local and internationally known artists jazz the air together among the serene vistas of Lake Tahoe. A local favorite, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival Opens on July 10 in Sand Harbor. . . Not to be missed, on July 26th, Reno hosts the Biggest Little Music Festival. A fun packed event full of local music, local food and local brews.
Parting Shots— Silver City town photo 2015, taken by Theo McCormick from the top of a fire truck to continue a tradition begun in 1976 as a part of the BiCentennial Celebration. The Highway was still closed as a consequence of mining.