by Gage T. Smith, “the Picon Guy”
To most folks, driving to Las Vegas on Highway 95, Goldfield is just a minor irritant. First of all, you have to slow down to 25 and after driving at 70+ mph for the past several hours, 25 is indeed a challenge but a challenge that must be met. Goldfield has a reputation for writing speeding tickets here. There is not much going on in Esmeralda County these days so ticket revenue is an important fiscal source for this sparsely populated area.
But for me, Goldfield has always held a special allure. The old Goldfield Hotel sits in brooding silence along Crook Street.
There are many old buildings here that tell a story of the meteoric rise and fall of this mining heavyweight.
In a nutshell, Goldfield began in the very early 1900s and its wealth allowed for explosive growth. Fortunes were made and lost and several pivotal events in Nevada History happened here including the famed Gans-Nelson prize fight. The longest fight in history, this donnybrook lasted 42 rounds — talk about getting your money’s worth!
By 1920, it was all pretty much over. The fabulous wealth had petered out and miners moved on to other diggings. A couple of disastrous fires and floods seemed to seal the fate of this one-time juggernaut of mining activity.
In early August I and my group of cohorts spent nearly a week in Goldfield. What does one do for six days here? There was plenty.
We decided to take our rigs to Tonopah
, have lunch at the Mizpah and then head back on a different route. Let me say that Esmeralda County has some of the best dirt roads in the state.
Probably the hardest part was trying to find the way out of town through the myriad of dirt roads going in every direction.
Finding the main road , we found a freshly graded virtual dirt highway heading north out of town. After motoring along this route, we realized that our noon arrival in Tonopah looked more like a 10:30 arrival. We digressed.
Taking some back roads we were able to extend the trip and in doing that, we skirted the old Tonopah Airbase and had some spectacular views of “Mud Lake”. a huge playa south of the old airbase.
Since several of the group had never seen the Mizpah, the lunch was special. The food was really good and freshly made and the opportunity to walk around the lobby and bar area is always a treat.
We soon saddled up and headed back to Goldfield. This time taking a route along Paymaster Canyon and west of US 95. Basically we were making a huge loop. The road climbs up a grade then drops into a small dry lake bed near Alkali Hot Springs. The lake bed proved fun for my group and the day and sparse cloud cover made for some great photo opportunities. This worked well as each day, I gave everybody a ‘fonefoto’ assignment and the topic for that day was to take a picture of “The Big Empty”.
sent us south to Gold Point
. This was an enjoyable day and once again . . . great dirt roads. Gold Point is a near-ghost town with lots to see and explore. There is a lot of ‘stuff’ laying around and there is a saloon that we were lucky enough to patronize. That, along with the museum, made it a fun stop.
We made our way to Lida Junction, crossed 95 and headed north along the old railroad grade. We strayed off that railroad grade and were traveling up this big wash. It was getting narrower and narrower and I was beginning to think that it was going to lead us into a box canyon and stop. Luckily, it went through and emptied just outside of town. Another enjoyable day in the outback.
found us headed to Silver Peak
, home of the Albemarle Lithium Mine. This is the largest lithium producer in the US.
I’ve always called this place “Mars” and it didn’t disappoint. Our return brought us by the Clayton Valley dunes and over Railroad Springs Pass. Again . . . high speed but it was welcome. The thermometer on my rig (of questionable accuracy) was registering 105 degrees. It felt like it. Fonefoto assignment that day; weird.
was Saturday and the main reason for the trip. It was Goldfield Days and we were in the parade.
This was my third time in this particular parade and the second parade this year. There were quite a few entrants and the day was filled with various activities mostly based on mining activities.
I fear that this will be the last year of Goldfield as we know it. There are plans in the works to open a new mine. In fact, they are rerouting US 95 west of town to accommodate this new huge open pit mine. For the most part, the 300 or so residents are looking forward to some economic prosperity but they growing pains that they will experience will be huge.
Still, if you want to do some dirt roads, Goldfield and Esmeralda County are a great choice.