Leaving Las Vegas (again)
April 12th, 2021
We hit the road northwest after getting our second vaccination at Walmart and shutting down camp at Kings Row, Las Vegas. It was yet another gorgeous sunny day but we were happy to hopefully be heading towards cooler pastures for the next while.
We drove the US 95 into Indian Springs and drove past the Creech Air Force Base – didn’t see a single plane! This base is where training for unmanned flights takes place.
Today’s main destination was north of Pahrump: Ash Meadow National Refuge.
Interesting facts about this refuge:
- It’s the largest remaining oasis in the Mojave Desert. There are 30 seeps and springs through the area.
- Nearly 30 species of plants and animals that don’t exist anyplace else on earth(referred to as endemic species).
- Ash Meadows has the highest concentration of endemic species in the United States.
- You can see relict species of desert fish that have existed here since mammoths drank from these very springs. These include the three species of pupfish: Devil’s Hole pupfish, Ash Meadow Amargosa pupfish and Warm Springs pupfish. (Three other species live in Death Valley.)
- The water here is known as fossil water because it comes from melted ice from the last ice age.
- The mysterious Devils Hole over 500 feet deep and the bottom has never been found. According to geologists, the caves were formed over 500,000 years ago.
- Devils Hole is the only natural habitat of the Devils Hole pupfish, which thrives despite the hot, oxygen-poor water. Devils Hole “may be the smallest habitat in the world containing the entire population of a vertebrate species”. The pupfish are considered critically endangered. The pupfish has been described as the world’s rarest fish, with a population of less than 200 since 2005. Genetic information indicates that the pupfish species is as old as the Hole itself, which opened to the surface about 60,000 years ago. These fish have been isolated in this water system for between 10 and 20,000 years.
We arrived at the park and got a needed map and info from the sign boards at the entrance and made our way to the Devil’s Hole path. The “hole” is surrounded by fence and you cannot go down into it but there is a covered walkway on which you can see it from. There was a ranger down there when we arrived and she told us there were fish but they were too far away to see.
Next stop was Point of Rocks; here there was a very nice boardwalk and we got to see some of the pupfish – two or three different kinds.
Near the Visitor’s Centre which was closed, there is a third boardwalk almost a mile long and about a third of it borders the Crystal Springs and its creek. The water is, you guessed it, crystal clear and we saw a few more pup fish.
AT the springs themselves, the pond is quite beautiful and the sign claims that 2800 gallons of water a minute pour out of it but we had our doubts….
We left the park and found a large pullout just outside on the BLM land where we made camp for the night. By this time, Fran was feeling quite fatigued (from the shot this morning?) and didn’t have much appetite. We both had tender arms near the vaccination site.
We had a super quiet night; since the Refuge is only open from dawn to dusk, no traffic is on the road overnight.
We went to bed a little early, 9:30 and neither of us slept well. Fran couldn’t get comfy and was experiencing muscle aches and Doug was feeling feverish and had a headache. In the morning Doug took a Tylenol and Fran made him a tea and he began feeling better. By late afternoon we were pretty much back to normal.
We did a few chores and resumed our journey to a few stops:
- Goldfield Open Air Museum near Beatty
- Rhyolite – we’d been here before so we didn’t really stop
- Beatty (for free wifi at the Stagecoach Casino & Hotel from outside)
- The International Car Forest Museum of the Last Church outside Goldfield
- A Pioneer cemetery
- Goldfield – a mining town. The town of Goldfield came to be and almost vanished in a decade. The town exploded in 1902 when small mining claims were made. Five years later it was the largest city in the state! At this time it had a population of 20,000. There were 49 saloons, 27 restaurants, 14 cigar stores, 21 grocers, 22 hotels, 17 laundries, 40 doctors, 2 undertakes, 4 schools, 3 railroads, 2 daily newspapers and 3 weekly ones. More than $90 million in gold was produced here from 1901 to 1940 – in today’s dollars that’s: $2 billion! By 1913 production was down and a flood struck. Ten years later a fire leveled 25 blocks of town. Goldfield didn’t disappear but the population is less than 300 nowadays.Around 3 pm we parked up at the Visitor’s Centre where RV’s are allowed overnight according to iOverlander. There are washrooms here and free Wi-Fi but although we could connect it wasn’t working. Dang!So we went for a windy walk through town to check out the historical buildings.
It was super windy here and rather on the chilly side for us. (Even Fran had to put on shoes AND socks – and if you know Fran at all, you know that she hates socks and shoes!) We spent a quiet night and it was hovering just above freezing when we got up. Doug went for a run after a while and before he left we decided that tonight might be a good night for a hotel; it would be warmer, we’d get hot showers and Wi-Fi. We found a hotel, not quite as far down the road as we’d like but it was good points value and they let us check in early – noon.
Before arriving there in Tonopah, we stopped in to visit the Central Nevada Museum which was pretty impressive and free (by donation).
Then checked out two historic hotels:
Upon arriving at the hotel, we made our lunch before going up to the room; we packed up drinks and odds and ends for dinner and warmed up in the room. Fran went for a walk in the wind to get her steps but was glad to return to the warmth of our room. While we wanted cooler weather, this was a tad too cool for us.
Thursday, we had a driving day. We left the 2000 m / 6000’ altitude of Tonopah and made our 260 km / 160 mi northwest towards Reno to just outside of Yerrington where after getting some gas we parked at an abandoned drive in and caught up on our steps for the day. We were down at 1300 m / 4100’ and it was much less windy and warmer.
Today we had another longish driving day with a few stops.
First was at historic Buckland Station.
Samuel Buckland had a cattle ranch here in 1858. Here he also built a toll bridge across the river. When nearby Fort Churchill was abandoned in 1869, he purchased many of the fort’s buildings and used the materials to construct the large building you see today. It was a remount stop along the Pony Express back in the day as well.
Then we tried to find the headwall of the Suturo Tunnel – no luck. And we kinda struck out trying to reach the ghost town near it. Gold Hill is on a very steep road which we probably shouldn’t have gone up as there was no place to park. We did take a photo of a few buildings on the fly.
We pushed on towards Carson City where we stopped at the public library for awhile to use the free Wi-Fi before heading a bit south to the tiny town of Genoa right next to the mountains. Here there is the Mormon Station National Historic Park but more importantly: the oldest bar in Nevada.
We enjoyed a drink at one of the few tables inside.
There is a lovely Pink House which has historical status and once a young lady named Lillian lived there. At one time the town needed funds so she began the tradition of the Candy Dance and it continues annually to this day.
Now we drove to Reno around 3:30 in the afternoon to a wild camp on BLM land on the edge of the southeast part of the city. The site itself is not pretty but the views are lovely and a bonus is all the wild horses roaming around (it’s their droppings that make the place not pretty).
So we met up with Serena after she finished work at her place: a second floor apartment in a huge complex of two storey buildings with amenities like pools, a fitness centre and sports courts – none of which are open at present due to the pandemic. We had a zoom call set up with Joshua for that evening so after that we picked up pizza and beer for dinner so we could stay at her place and chat.
Saturday, Serena worked again but we spent the day at her apartment using her Wi-Fi, taking showers and doing laundry. That night we took her out for dinner to Olive Garden.
Sunday morning we went back to Serena’s again, Doug helped her with her investment accounts while we waited for Kurt to arrive.
We took her shopping for patio furniture as our house warming gift.
Since he decided to spend the night in Twin Falls, ID, Kurt and Heidi, were going to arrive later than expected so we took Serena for a drive; first to show her our new “home” and then out to check out a park she was interested in: Mayberry Park on the Truckee River.
The weather here has been quite cool at night but not reaching freezing and the days are sunny and pleasant around 20C / 70F.
Kurt and Heidi (our third grandchild; a dog!) arrived safe and sound around 3:15 and we all caught up with him before heading to a dog park for some exercise.
Heidi was SO excited to be back with Serena:
We then went into the city and met up with Kurt’s older sister, Nicki and her family (hubby Jacob and kids Piper and Colton). We enjoyed a nice outdoor dinner at a local brewery.
Monday, we all piled into Serena’s car and took a day trip to Lake Tahoe. Kurt has applied for a few jobs in this area (has received one firm offer but it’s only a contract). There are about 20 ski resorts here! We drove the entire scenic route around the lake – 72 miles and stopped for scenic views and a picnic lunch. We wanted to go to the beach but no dogs allowed.
We said out good byes that evening and spent another quiet night amoungst the horses on BLM land before leaving Reno on Tuesday morning.
It was a long driving day as planned and we made over 500 km / 300 mi and landed in Ely by around 3:30 pm. There is a large Chevron station with a small RV park and a huge free parking area (guess which we picked!) and spent the night there. We had a few sprinkles during the afternoon that didn’t even last a minute each.
Fun fact: we crossed SEVENTEEN mountain passes driving along the US50 – the lonliest highway in America. The highest pass is the Connors Pass at 2355 m / 7729’. As much as we went up and down the temperature changed just as often.
We made a few stops:
- In Fallon we gassed up and bought groceries
- We stopped at one of 45 “Shoe Trees” in the US
- Stopped for a roadside view of Stokes Castle
- In Eureka we checked out the “old town”
That night we stayed behind a Chevron after filling up with gas and propane:
Next day we wanted to check out Great Basin NP but upon arriving at the Visitor’s Centre which was closed, we found out from a passing ranger that we’d have to unhook the trailer to travel the roads as we were too long and half were closed due to snow so we passed and continued on towards Utah.
Note: we heard on Friday that Kurt was offered the other job he wanted and starts next week!