Friday, July 30, 2010

Clyde Holiday State Park, Oregon

Steve has been wanting to stay in Clyde Holiday State Park for a long time. We made an attempt a couple of years ago the park was too crowded, so we tried again and had success!

The park is beautiful. It's full of trees and there's a really nice nature walk right along the John Day river.
The beds between spaces are full of nice trees, and the most perfect Oregon grape shrugs I've ever seen.

Rather than the yurts that most Oregon parks have, this one has a couple of tepees, fun for kids! The tepees have to be reserved, but there are no reservations for the campsites, so you have to get here early in the day.

We pulled in around 11:00 A.M. on a Thursday and had several spaces to choose from that were long enough to accommodate our rig. By 2:00 P.M. it was pretty much full.

This park is a great home base if you want to explore the John Day area. The river, as well as the town, are named for John Day, an old time trapper best known, along with Ramsay Crooks, for being robbed and stripped naked by Indians on the Columbia River near the mouth of the river than now bears his name.

The next morning we made quick trip back into the town of John Day for last minute groceries, then headed west for Tailgate Training Camp, in Ochoco Forest Camp. 'Don't know whether we'll have Internet access there or not. If we do I'll upload the pictures from Clyde Holiday, if not, we'll update later.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The good, the bad and the indifferent

If you've followed this blog for very long you know we've stayed in some really scenic places, some that have full services and are carefully maintained, others that are picturesque but very rustic, and then there's this one.

Last night we stopped in Fruitland, Idaho, to catch up on laundry and shop for groceries. The place we'd intended to stay turned out to be right on the railroad tracks. Been there, done that, didn't like it, so we kept looking. There are very few RV parks or campgrounds in this area, so we opted for the "bare bones" approach.

The Exit-3 RV Park (ing lot), behind the Fruitland Produce Barn, served our purposes, and you can't beat $15 for the night, with water and power. The "park" is fully graveled, full of maple trees, so there's lots of shade, and right on the edge of vegetable fields that supply the produce market in front. Even though the park is near the freeway it was not particularly noisy, as the freeway is elevated and noise seems to travel up. It was hot, so we left the bedroom door open a bit, and drifted off to sleep to the aroma of mint and lemon balm. There are worse things!

Today we are moving west, toward John Day, Oregon. As we leave the Great Basin area I have to say, it's been heartwarming to see all the small (by industry standards) farms and ranches that are well maintained and producing crops of corn, wheat, alfalfa, and salad crops. I've seen more ranchers than I can count on horseback, or on the ground mending fence with their horse waiting patiently to the side, fat, sleek (and presumably happy) cattle and horses, teenagers running large farm machinery, and small rural communities that still pull together no matter what the economy is doing. THIS is America, and yes, this way of life still exists. I do need to set the record straight on one thing - in the Great Basin they aren't "cowboys", they are "buckaroos". If you'd like to see more of what this life is like, check out this link Kurt Markus then click on "western archive". Kurt Markus has a feel for the lifestyle that most authors and photographers just can't equal. Click on the link for his book "Buckaroos", to see what that offers. He captures this area with a sensitivity unmatched by other photographers.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rodents!@#@#!! and Payette Lake, Idaho

Not only have we had to battle the mouse issue, but now we have squirrels to contend with!

We're staying here at Payette Lake in Idaho, in Ponderosa State Park. It's a nice campground, with large spaces and lots of trees, shrubs and wildflowers, and we have water and power so we can get the batteries all recharged. It was a sign of things to come however, that while we were backing into our space we got a royal chewing out.

The Douglas squirrel who lives here in space 100 does not like visitors, and he's proceeded to remind us of that every time we go out the door. I've never heard such screeching and screaming from a critter, and now he's trying to carve himself a home in the underside of the RV! There are chunks of underliner all over the place, and he's still screaming at us! Local wildlife seems to be the highlight of this campground.

This morning a young red fox (coyote?) was basking in the sun in the vacant camp site across the road. He up and left when everyone started looking at him, but he didn't seem to be in too much of a hurry. In the afternoon we drove the "scenic loop" to get a different perspective on the lake. This is a natural lake, not a man-made reservoir, and very pretty.

Other than wildlife-watching, we've been pretty busy hanging out with Dale's friends and family, who are renting a condo on the other side of the lake. The kids are all having a great time with the jet skis. Payette Lake isn't crowded at all, compared to other lakes we've been to, so it's a lot safer for the jet skis and boats towing skiers.

In the evening we enjoyed a couple of our host's super PiƱa Coladas, then went out for a leisurely boat ride just at sunset last night. The evening light reflecting off the boat's wake was lovely, as was the peach colored sunset.What an enjoyable evening!

Chris shared his recipe with us, so check it out on our recipe blog. 
His wife Maria also shared her recipe for the wonderful eggplant Parmesan she made. That's on the Cookhouse blog too.

The closest town is McCall, which is clearly a tourist town - lots of galleries, boutiques and ice cream shops.The most outstanding feature we noticed was their pedestrian safety system. There are racks of bright  red flags at each corner and pedestrians are supposed to pick one up and wave it as they cross the street.

Leave it to my rabble-rousing husband to lean out the truck window and comment to three young men carrying flags "Where I come from we get five extra points for everyone we take out who's carrying a flag!". Sheesh - I can't take him anywhere!

We woke up this morning to rain, and the above mentioned rodent attacking our rig, so dealing with that is the next challenge. There's some helpful info in this article, Tips from eHow for protecting your RV from rodents. We've looked into repellent systems that require power but not only are they not particularly effective, we don't really need another drain on the power system, so we'll try all the tips in the article and see if we can prevent future problems.
Follow this link to see more photos from the lake.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lake Cascade State Park, Idaho

We've been here in the Crown Point campground at Lake Cascade for four days. We're getting to like this slower pace!
We were worried about getting a site at first, as the reservation sites were all booked up, and the campground appeared pretty full, and the spaces small. As we worked our way through the loops however we found a perfect spot. We have a view of the lake, and it's fairly private due to the large granite boulders, shrubs, and the way the sites are staggered.

We're spending the days enjoying the lake and working on little projects. One of which is keeping our new little frig lit. We bought a portable three-way (12 volt, 120 and LP) and it keeps blowing out with only the slightest breeze. We'll get it figured out eventually! We're also catching up on our recreational reading. Neither of us had been able to do much of that for a long time.

Saturday we took a short drive north to the little old town of Roseberry. Our route takes us through what is generally known as Treasure Valley, and it is a treasure indeed. The rich soil and abundant moisture support farms that produce a variety of crops and grazing for livestock. There are no tract homes along our way, just carefully tended farms, some with log or bat-and-board cabins that have been here for generations. The scene is one postcard-perfect view after another, and quite a contrast to the heat and bustle of Boise, just a few miles away.

We finally arrived at Roseberry, just a couple of miles east of Donnelly. Actually, Roseberry was settled first, but when the railroad arrived and put in a stop at Donnelly, folks picked up their skirts and moved there, across the creek, where their businesses would convenient to the more modern mode of transportation. The consolidation is understandable, as this area gets a LOT of snow in the winter, so in those days traveling even a couple of miles to get to the train would have been a challenge.

The remains of the old town have been lovingly cared for.
The old general store is now a combination museum and gift shop. Shelves to the ceiling are "stocked" with antique canned and dry goods, and a talking mannequin dressed like the original owner (shown in a photo they have displayed) tells visitors the history of the store and the town. In between original antiques are replicas and other gift items for sale.

The old school, across the street, is also a museum but wasn't open while we were there.

The town was originally settled by primarily Finnish immigrants, and many of the little cabins are still standing and in good repair.

They are filled with furnishings, as if the owners just left, and can be enjoyed through the windows. The town has several live music events coming up, but our schedule unfortunately won't include any of them.

Leaving Roseberry, we went back to Donnelly for lunch. After hearing the story about how vigilantes ruled the valley in the old days, busting up pool tables and preventing dancing and the like, we just had to have lunch at Vigilantes Dance Hall & Eatery. 'Best burgers we've had in a long time, and not only the best fries and coleslaw, but very generous portions. The interior was fun too - great western decor, and a lot of quirky items, about which the owner was happy to provide "the rest of the story" when we asked about them. If you're in the area it's definitely worth stopping for a meal.

If you'd like to see more photos from this trip follow this link to the album .

Next stop, McCall, staying at Ponderosa State park, on Payette Lake, to meet Steve's brother and his family. We'll visit with them for a couple of days and then head for training camp.

Friday, July 23, 2010

De Lamar and Silver City, Idaho

We liked the Snake River RV campground so well we decided to stay another night. We're so close to Silver City, a ghost town we'd visited in the early '70's, that we thought we go back and see how it's weathered the years.

We took the route east from highway 95 turning east on Cow Creek Road we passed a couple of old but still working ranches and a lot of very well fed cattle. A few miles in we came to the site of De Lamar. This silver mining town was build by a retired ship's captain, and he named it after himself. He obtained several mining claims, built a school, hotel, stores and other buildings. The town pretty much folded up many years ago, though with the rise in metals prices there is an open pit operation opened up nearby.
As far as the town, there are only the tumbled down remnants of the mill and a few cabins in various stages of decay scattered along both sides of Jordan Creek. The two cabins we peeked in to are luxuriously furnished with large pack rat nests, made of the stuffing from mattresses left behind by the last human residents and large sticks the rats have collected. In front of one cabin remnants of a lady's garden, a lilac bush and small patch of rhubarb, are nearly overrun by wild roses and sagebrush.

They say all that glitters is not gold, and that's definitely true here. A short distance east of De Lamar the road sparkles like diamonds in the morning sun. The gem-like sparkles are actually only bits of eroded mica and quartz. The effect is a stark contrast to the other travelers we met on the road . . . we arrived at the peak of the annual Mormon cricket migration! The road was covered for miles with thousands of red and black crickets, all heading west! It's a little creepy to see so many insects move with such organized purpose!

Silver City is just east of the summit. The buildings are all privately owned, some serving as full-time residences, some as weekend cabins. Many are in various stages of restoration. The hotel and a gift shop are the only businesses in town, and they are open primarily on the weekend. There's a lot of snow in the winter, up there at over 6,000 ft., from 4-6 feet, so their season is May-October. Most residents leave town for warmer climes in the winter, leaving a solitary watchman in charge. The town hasn't had electricity for several years, so most of the buildings have solar panels and propane as their power sources. Understandably, they are very careful in their use of power.

We stopped in the hotel to chat with the owner and have a beer at the antique bar, and it was dark! 'Makes sense considering the limited power supply, and I'm sure the old timer's didn't have "lights on" during the day either. Whether one used candles or lamps, why would you use up fuel in the middle of the day?  As we sipped our beer we wandered around the edges of the dining room/bar enjoying the photos and antiques in display cases. We also invested in a book, "Ghost Towns of Idaho -  The Search of El Dorado", by Bruce Raisch. We won't have time this trip to explore very many of the towns he writes about but the book will be a great resource for planning future trips, and good reading. The author's website has info on ghost towns in other states too.

We drove around town, took a lot of photos as the old buildings are just too picturesque to resist, and then had lunch in the campground. So many of the old mining towns are disappearing due to vandalism, It was nice to see that the town's been so well taken care of.

Here's the slide show of the trip. Click on it to go to the larger version and get the captions.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Look

We have a new look!  Leave us a comment (below this entry, click "comments") and tell us what you think!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Heading north

Yesterday we went on another expedition - up into the mountains to DeLamar and Silver City. These two sites are both "ghost towns" though Silver City still has several residents. We'll post pictures and description soon.

Today we're up and on the road early, heading north toward Cascade Lake and will pick out a campground when we get there.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Map Feature

Here's an experiment.... a map of the sites we've visited over the last few days. Follow this link. It will take you to a Google map with markers for Homedale, where we're staying, and the various points mentioned in the last couple of posts. You can click on any of the locations in the list on the left and it will open up a text box on the map to show you the location.
If you click on the little blue map pins you'll get a text box that tells you were they are placed.
Close the text box with the little blue X at top right of the box.

You can collapse the column on the left by clicking the little arrows just to the right of "my maps" in the blue bar. Then click on "satellite" at the top right of the map and you can see the topographical picture of the area.
Use the controls on the left side of the map to zoom in or out, or move right or left.

Leave us a comment to let us know how the map works for you.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Succor Creek and Leslie Gulch, Oregon

Although the Succor Creek area is close as the crow flies to our campsite on Lake Owyhee, we couldn't get here from there due to the rough road. So, we are staying in Homedale, Idaho. We took off early with a picnic lunch and headed for Succor Creek, well known as an area of dramatic geologic beauty. There are ranches and farms along the way, situated on the rolling hills that are covered this time of year with golden grasses. As we went deeper into the canyon the hillsides took on fantastic shapes, one area reminding me of an ice cream sundae. In some areas splashes of color are due to lichens, in others, the mineral content of the rock. Some of the rock is compressed layers of volcanic ash, in others, volcanic lava. When we had completed the Succor Creek route we decided it was early enough we'd go on to the Leslie Gulch area, which is connected. Leslie Gulch was named for a local rancher who was killed there by a lightening strike. We weren't disappointed in the scenery, as you'll see by the photos. I've uploaded them in a larger size than usual so you get better detail. As with some of the other places we've visited, photos really don't do it justice, but we did the best we could! Click or double click on the slide show to go to the larger version, then select "full screen" at the top left.

One of the little settlements we passed as we left the Succor Creek-Leslie Gulch area included Rockville School, one of the few remaining schools where one teacher teaches all grades. Here's an article about it. It includes a photo of the school, which is a good thing as we neglected to take one.

On to Birch Creek Historic Ranch.....The road in is rather exciting..... in 6.7 miles of rock and gravel we dropped 2,000 feet, right down to the river, at an historic ranch. The ranch consists of several buildings and corrals of varying ages, all spread out along the river. We talked with Jim, the host/caretaker, and friend Louise and learned a little about the original owners of the ranch, and how they maintain it so far from public utilities. They have propane and diesel, solar panels, and other methods for keeping the place comfy. Many of the buildings (all managed now by the BLM) are fitted out like cabins and can be rented, and there are campsites right along the edge of the river. While we were chatting we noticed a herd of bighorns off in the distance, so spent a while watching them graze. It was 104 when we got back in the truck for the climb back up to the top, 94 when we arrived at the top, and then it dropped a few more degrees as we headed for Coffeepot Crater, part of the Jordan Valley Craters area.

Jordan Valley Craters area is a massive black lava flow, primarily frothy glass-like material that would cause serious injury if one fell on it. We walked gingerly around the edges of the flow but didn't venture out too far.

Experts estimate the original flow is between 4,000 and 9,000 million years old, based on the growth of lichens and othe plant life. There is a small area that is estimated to be only 100 years old, based on the fact that there's absolutely no plant life in that area at all.
This was the last stop. It was late, we'd traveled about 150 miles on rough gravel roads, and temperatures were still in the 90's so we headed for home, where an air conditioned RV, an cold beer and a view of the river awaited!

Snake River RV Resort

We don't usually say too much about any of the private campgrounds we've stayed in because, frankly, there isn't much to say about most of them, and there are other blogs that do rate campgrounds and RV parks. This one is different! Right on the Snake River, near Homedale (just south of Boise) the Snake River RV Resort is more like a park.

All the spaces are grass, with huge trees that are kept trimmed just right for an RV to pull in to the space with no problems, but lots of shade. There are laundry facilities, a group shelter with BBQ right down by the river, benches everywhere, and the permanent residents (in mobile homes) all have nicely landscaped yards and are very friendly to us short-timers. Best of all, the park is quiet.

Most RV parks are near an interstate so you have to deal with a lot of traffic noise, none here! You can hear the birds sing, and as it's right on the river, there are a lot of them. We watched a quail family scoot around on the lawn yesterday, and pelicans were fishing in the river last night. If you happen to be in the vicinity stop in!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Lake Owyhee State Park, Oregon

After a 22 mile drive on a very curvy, narrow, but very picturesque road we arrived at Lake Owyhee. We got settled in our site in Indian Creek campground in time for lunch, which we enjoyed while gazing at the lake. We  had the last site on the end of the row, above the other sites, with a nice patch of grass, and all the water and electric we could use. What more could you ask for! The sites in this campground are bigger than those in the McCormack campground. The camp host sells ice, and there's fuel available, but no other services. The park brochure lists a store, but we never saw one! We spent the day relaxing and admiring the changing shadows on the cliffs as the sun moved across the valley, then got up early the next day (Thursday) and headed for the visitor's center.

The signage isn't especially good, but you park in front of the sign that says "official vehicles only" and walk back to a collection of small office buildings. The visitor's center wasn't open - more budget cuts - but the Dam Master who was on duty in the office let us in and provided a wealth of information about the construction and operation of the dam. Having recently visited Boulder dam, we had some background, and he pointed out that this dam was built first, so many of the construction techniques developed here, such as the concrete delivery system, were used on the Boulder project. This was, for a while, the highest dam in the country, but lost that honor when Boulder was built. The visitors center has a nice collection of photos of the construction, as well as some Native American artifacts. They didn't have any information on the geology of the area, which was a little disappointing as this is clearly an area where dramatic geologic activities have had an impact. (And I left my Oregon Roadside Geology book at home!!)

It was HOT, and getting hotter, so once it got too hot to set outside we decided to take advantage of our air conditioning and holed up inside. I good time to read and work on some sewing projects.

Friday was predicted to be even hotter, so we decided to take an early walk up Fisherman's Road. This is the road that goes east, over the mountains to Succor Creek. The road hasn't receive much maintenance and according to the rangers is really too rough to traverse with anything other than an ORV, so we'll be going around to the other side and take a different route into Succor Creek. Indian Creek crosses the road a couple of times at the bottom and the birds and butterflies congregate there.... what a collection! There were more species of butterflies here than I've seen for a long time.... probably attracted by the very lush thistles. The afternoon was spent sorting maps and working again on my sewing projects. We hit a high of 104 - which inspired me to invent a new recipe. It was too hot to  bake, so I made banana bread in the slow cooker. It was still 104 after dinner, at 7 o'clock, so we went down to the lake for a dip which helped. It had dropped to a more tolerable mid 90's by the time we got back to the trailer.

Tomorrow we'll move over the border into Idaho so we have easier access to the Succor Creek area we want to explore.

Bee houses

The drive from Antelope Reservoir to Owyhee State Park was fairly short, and pleasant as we wandered through lush fields of alfalfa and other crops. In one area in particular we noticed these strange contraptions situated very systematically in the fields. They look like small wooden boxcars, mounted on a flat bed. Some fields had a lot of them and some didn't have any - and I can't tell you what all we came up with as we tried to logic out what they were for.  Later, as we toured the visitor's center at the Owyhee dam, we asked our host, who had grown up in the area.

The little buildings are bee houses! (That was NOT one of our guesses.) It seems one of the major crops in the area is alfalfa seed, and honey bees aren't very good at pollinating alfalfa. Several years ago leaf-cutter bees were imported from Asia specifically for this purpose. Also called solitary bees, these little guys don't live in a hive, like like to drill holes in wood (trees, your house, they aren't picky) to lay their eggs. As it's pretty expensive to buy new bees annually, the local farmers use these little houses, which are full of wood slabs or other lumber, full of holes that are just the right size, to entice the little guys to lay their eggs in a contained space. In the spring the houses are opened up and, voila! More bees. Mystery solved!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Antelope Reservoir, Oregon

We left Winnemucca late (due to yours truly sleeping in) and headed north through the Quinn River Valley, headed for Antelope Reservoir in Oregon. The Quinn River Valley is wide and flat, with a bit of rimrock on each side, and fairly green (compared to the rest of the desert). The foothills are dotted here and there with ranches, all set several miles back from the highway. Cue any old cowboy song including the word "lonesome" and you'd have a proper music score for the trip.

We pulled in to Antelope Reservoir around 2 in the afternoon. It's not really an organized campground, though there are picnic tables. It's really geared more for fishing and hunting groups. Typical of desert reservoirs, there are no trees, just sagebrush right down to the water's edge.
The lake was pretty high, which was nice to see. We spent the afternoon admiring the colored hills in the distance and watching the birds. Pelicans, red winged blackbirds, shore birds, seagulls, and killdeer. 

 The wind came up in the evening and by dusk there were whitecaps on the lake. 'Glad we weren't out in the canoe!

Our next stop is Owyhee State Park. We'll be there for several days, taking side trips when the mood strikes. Watch for updates!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Winnemucca, Nevada

We pulled into the Winnemucca RV park around noon on Sunday. After lunch we moseyed into town to see what was happening..... not much on a Sunday! The one museum that was scheduled to be open on Sunday is in the convention center, but it was closed for a wedding reception. So, we went grocery shopping and drove around town a bit. There's evidence here of the town's age. It's been occupied continuously since 1830, and many of the store fronts and frame houses are from those early years. Murals on the walls downtown also capture the historic mood.

As a shipping and ranching center Winnemucca was at the center of a lot of activity over the years, not to mention it's importance in supporting the early settlers, and it's role now as headquarters for the Winnemucca Indian (Paiute) Colony.

There have been a few lively events over the years.
One of the most notorious was on Sept. 19, 1900. Butch Cassidy's gang pulled one of their last successful robberies, galloping out of town in a hail of bullets with $2,000 in gold. The story varies with the telling, but there's no evidence that Butch was actually present at the time. This photo, at the right, was discovered by a law enforcement officer in the window of a photographer, and shown to the bank manager. He itentified several of the individuals, so it is certain that many of the other gang members were involved, but he didn't itendify Butch as one of those present in the holdup.

 You'll find a saloon across from the convention center commemorating this event.

Our excursions Monday included the Humboldt County Museum and the Buckaroo Hall of Fame. Both, sad to say, were somewhat disappointing. The Humboldt County Museum is nicely done, what there is of it. They jumped over much of the local history and important events. It felt more like some families had donated some nice things and they figured out how to display them, not like they were trying to convey a picture of the history of the area. I'm not saying don't visit if you're here, 'just saying don't count on it to fill in any of the information you might want. The Humboldt County Museum page at the Travel Nevada website has more info, though it's out of date. The museum is no longer in the old church. The church is still on the property, but the museum is now housed in a new building behind the church.

The Buckaroo Hall of Fame is located inside the Winnemucca Convention Center, in a series of display windows around the perimeter of the hall. It shares the space with a mineral collection, and a collection of large antlered critters. It's a somewhat odd arrangement in the first place, which wasn't helped a bit by the fact there'd been a wedding reception in the hall the day before and all the display windows were covered with white drapes. We had to lift them all up in order to see the displays, so not knowing what was under each curtain we sort of started in the middle and worked both directions. There was no curator, just the office girl who waved her had and said "it's back there", in response to our query as to where the exhibit was.  The Buckaroo collection includes saddles and other memorabilia from those who've been inducted into the hall of fame, paintings, and some other miscellaneous items related to ranching. Unfortunately there was little information tying it all together, or explaining the importance of ranching to Winnemucca. A visit to the Buckaroo Hall of Fame website is actually a more informative experience. The website does a nice job of explaining the history and terminology, and has an index of inductees.

This area has been home to Basque sheep herders for many years, so it's one of the few places in the country where you can get authentic Basque food. The consensus after reading reviews was that Martin Hotel was the best place for dinner, so that's where we went. It was an excellent meal, as one would expect. If you've never eaten in a Basque restaurant, it's a different experience. First the soup, then the salad, then the side dishes (four or five, including some very tender, nicely seasoned tongue) then the entree. If you haven't carefully budgeted you're out of room by now! We did save a tiny bit of space for dessert.... their bread pudding is the best we've ever eaten! Very spicy and tender.  The restaurant itself was established  1898, and some of the original architecture and decor are still visible. Embossed tin ceiling and wall panels, and knotty pine wall paneling, give the dining room a cozy feeling. Some of the other diners were locals, others in town for the junior rodeo, all decked out in their finest, which means big hats, big buckles, and in one case, spurs!

Next stop, somewhere in south eastern Oregon........

Monday, July 12, 2010

Unionville, Nevada

The Humboldt Mountains in Nevada at one time supported a multitude of mining towns. I have an old map with the locations of many of them, so we set out to see what we could find. First along the route we came to a state historic marker for Star City. We didn't drive up into the canyon where the town site was, as my research had indicated there wasn't much there. Most of the towns are gone now, but one in this area is still home to several residents. Nestled in  Buena Vista Canyon on the east side of the Humboldt Range Unionville is classed as a "living ghost town". There were about 20 residents at the last official count.

In many ways the history of Unionville parallels that of the state as a whole. The town original name was Dixie, as it was settled by southern sympathizers. Later, as more Union sympathizers moved in, the town's name was changed to Unionville. [Nevada's state motto is "Battle Born" because the state was brought into the union during the civil war, in part because of the wealth of gold and silver, but largely because it would be a non-slave state and enhance the Union's strength]

In the ten years of Unionville's greatest activity about three million in silver was taken from the mines. One of the largest mines is still visible near the main road.  Now, the town is home to several families (and a lot of cows and horses!) but there's little active mining, and the only business is an inn. Some of the homes are new, others are older buildings that have been restored and added on to. One ranch clearly maintains a connection to the history of the town, it's called "Dixie Ranch". There's a nice little park at the upper end of town, named for a local woman who used to arrange Easter egg hunts for the children. We had lunch there, waving at motorists who passed by, exploring the old buildings in the park. The little dugout in back was home to Sam Clemens for about 3 weeks, just long enough for him to learn that mining was hard work! He decided to go to work as a newspaper reporter to make the grocery bill. We also hiked up to the end of town and crossed the creek. With a nice supply of water it's no surprise the town has continued to this day.

After lunch we traveled on down Lovelock-Unionville Rd ., which turns to gravel right after Unionville, to explore the sites where other mining camps were once established. Little remains, as once a camp was abandoned any wood was usually taken to build at other sites, and once the roof is gone adobe doesn't hold up for long. We did find a bit of a stone foundation where the town of Spring Valley once stood. There's been a lot of more recent reworking of the old tailings, as one can tell by the deep trenches and old pipes laying around. After Spring Valley, which is pretty much at the pass, we were at about 5,500 feet, and suddenly there were small juniper trees where we'd had only sagebrush before. It was also about 10 degrees cooler! Those old boys knew what they were doing when they built up there in the hills.

There's still gold in them there hills! The old mining camp of Rochester is now a large, modern mine, part of the Rochester Group, Cour d'alene Mining Corporation. From here on out the road is paved, and a smooth ride back to camp.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Rye Patch State Recreation Area, Nevada

Ah, the price of "civilization". We've stayed at Rye Patch at least twice before and had the place pretty much to ourselves. It was a rustic campground below the dam, with the Humboldt River trickling by the birdwatching was great. Our last visit was 2005.

Since then the sites have been paved, there's water available, including showers. We can't say exactly if the crowd this year (every space was full, and the group site overflowing) was due to the improvements or the weather, but it was quite a shock. Here's a view of the campground from the top of the dam.

We arrived here on Friday and as soon as camp was set up we went into hibernation mode, still recovering from the stomach flu (Noro virus) that we picked up over the 4th. We promised ourselves we'd spend Saturday hibernating too, which we did. (Sorry, hibernating makes for boring blog posts!) We weren't able to get our favorite spot, right on the river, but when it was vacated I went down and took a photo. It's a nice birdwatching location.

We did expend a little energy researching and planning a trip for Sunday however. It turned out to be a really enjoyable drive.

Starting with an old map of historic mining towns in the state we researched those in the immediate area to see if any were still in existence.... ruins, etc. In most cases there's nothing left but a notation on a map, as any lumber was usually cannibalized for use in other communities once mines were abandoned in the original one, and once a roof is gone adobe doesn't hold up very well.  Our research suggested Unionville, just over the mountains from our campsite, would be a good destination, so off we went. I'll post photos and description in the next entry. Today we are headed for Winnemucca, where we'll visit a couple of museums and bask in the luxury of city electricity and water service.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Gardnerville, Nevada

Our first few days here at Fish Springs have been pretty busy helping our hosts get ready for their Happy Birthday America BBQ.

We took a day off yesterday and headed for the mountains around Lake Tahoe. We packed a gourmet picnic, complete with wine and beer, and enjoyed an easy hike along a trail our hostess had helped to build. It was a community project her company was supporting. The trail affords a great view of the lake.... photos to come! We had a great time visiting along the way and munching on the goodies at a premier view site.

On the way home we stopped at the Genoa Bar.
Genoa is the oldest established community in Nevada, and the bar, established in 1853, is the state's "oldest established thirst parlor". It's quite picturesque. . . filled with deer heads, old time photos, signs of all types, a few pool tables, and a little bit of floor space for dancing - which some of us did! The bar has been used in shooting a number of movies, including John Wayne's "The Shootist" , Clint Eastwood's "Misery" and several others. Follow this link for more information about this historic building.

Once back at home we launched into additional preparations - hanging lights and other decorations, planning the food and all that's required for the BBQ. Unfortunately, about 2 AM Steve was hit with the stomach flu, so he's missed out on the folks that showed up this evening for dinner. We're hoping he recovers enough to at least sit upright tomorrow. He also missed out on the wedding..... John's daughter decided (on 24 hours notice) to get married in Las Vegas. Since he was already in Nevada, couldn't he just drive down??? So he hopped on a plane Saturday morning, attended the wedding in Las Vegas in the afternoon, and will fly back tomorrow morning to attend the BBQ. The wedding chapel in which the event was held publishes the weddings via live feed, so we were all able to attend too, without having to buy a plane ticket!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fort Churchill, Nevada

We've been so busy since we arrived here at our friends' place in Gardnerville that I haven't gotten the last update posted...... so here it is!

We stayed two nights in the Fort Churchill campground, tucked away beneath cottonwood and Russian olive trees, swatting mosquitoes. It was a great place to relax, as we could stay in the RV and admire the scenery bug-free! The cottonwood trees were shedding their seeds so rapidly that at times it looked like it was snowing.

(Double click on the slide show for a larger version.)
Fort Churchill came into being in 1860, with the two-fold purpose of protecting the pony express route and protecting settlers from the native Indians. In actuality, the Paiutes who lived in this region really weren't a problem, but one rumor led to another and soon there was what has come to be known as the Paiute War or Pyramid Lake War, and this fort is the result.

This was not a bad post, as desert assignments go. The fort is on the Walker river, which supports a variety of wildlife. Hunting must have been pretty good back then. There would also have been the ready availability of water for the kitchens and laundry facilities at the fort. The fort was built with the idea of being a permanent facility, but as such things go, it was abandoned in 1869. A private buyer obtained rights to all the wood - doors and windows mostly - and dismantled it. The remaining adobe brick walls had pretty much melted due to neglect, as adobe buildings are known to do, until the CCC restored it in the 1930's. Some of their efforts have also returned to their original state, but thanks to a light coat of stucco there remains enough of the restored walls to fuel the vision of what the fort was like originally.