Nevada Road Trip May 2020

It was the time of self quarantine and Linda and I had just spent a couple of months at home. Needless to say, the daily walks around the neighborhood and the occasional foray to the market just were not all that exciting anymore. We had grown tired of our many projects we had undertaken around the house and desperately needed a change. So plans were made, nothing really set in stone except that it would be a road trip close to home. A few evenings before we were to leave I saw something about the Dixie Valley in Nevada. A ghost town. Perfect, chances of meeting any other people was negligible. So we loaded up the RV and headed off for unknown destinations.

Dixie Valley is a 65 mile drive from Fallon, Nevada along Highway 50 and up Road 121. Salt, potash and borax first brought miners to the area in the 1860’s . Named for the Southern sympathizers that first occupied the valley it really did not get settled until the early 1900’s.  It eventually grew into a full fledged town with a school and a post office. There is abundant ground water springs for the irrigation of crops and the raising of cattle. In 1995 the Navy all but forced out the local residents and bought the land to use for their “Top Gun” pilot training facility at the Fallon Naval Air Station. It became an electronic warfare area littered with Soviet Tanks and other military equipment. It is now simulated hostile territory on American soil. No live ammunition is used so the public is allowed to still access the land but few make the remote journey. On occasion fighter jets still scream overhead, flying low and extremely fast, the resulting sonic booms echoing throughout the valley.

Nevada is wide open territory that still has the wild west feel to it.   Here cow punchers still drive herds of cattle cross country while riding horseback.   Highway 50 follows the Pony Express route of 1860-61 with plenty of historical ruins including Wells Fargo stage stops and telegraph offices.   Linda and I checked out one of the remaining Pony Express stations at Cold Creek.

Not wanting to drive too far, we decided our furthest point would be Spencer Hot Springs 30 miles east of Austin. Spencer Hot Springs are natural springs on BLM land that flow into 4 livestock tubs and are maintained by volunteer hot tub guardians. It is a spectacular setting nestled on the north end of the Big Smokey Valley, perched on the western flank of the Toquima Mountains and over looking the Arc Dome Wilderness to the west. It is also a great base camp for a side trip up to Toquima Caves 12 miles away at the top of Pete’s summit. Toquima Caves are a beautiful example of Shoshone pictograph art dating back 1,500 to 3,000 years ago.

In the spirit of the “Road Trip”, Linda and I decided that rather than drive the 220 miles directly home we would go north from Austin to Battle Mountain on Highway 305. This would take us up the Reese River Valley through 90 miles of Nevada without any inhabitants except for the open range cattle grazing there. It would add an extra 150 miles to our drive, yet discovering a new part of our wonderful state was well worth the extra mileage.

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