Trip Report #33 May 2004
1400 miles through the sagebrush, Part Two|
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In the 1870s Pioche was so remote, violent and bloody that it was reknowned as the toughest town in the west. More than 60% of the 1871-1872 homicides in Nevada happened in and around Pioche. Silver mines operated here from the 1860s through the 1960s, with ups from 1869-1876, 1912-1930 and 1937-1957, and downs the rest of the time. The Number 1 Mine was the last to operate, closing for good in 1969.
Maybe Las Vegas is a jealous mistress, and won't allow fond thoughts of other places. And Las Vegas is ever so much tougher and more violent than old Pioche ever was, so maybe there's just no appeal on that level.
There's a mountain near Pioche called Highland Peak, and I'm told that on a clear day you can stand at its summit and see Mt. Charleston far to the southwest, and Wheeler Peak far to the northeast. Essentially you're seeing from California to Utah. I will see it for myself next trip.
The drive from Pioche to Baker is only a couple of hours, plenty of time to fall into a reverie as you slowly transit the valley at the western foot of the Snake Range. Great Basin National Park is centered on those mountain summits, but the entrance is around on the east side.
At the junction with US 50/US 6, Majors' Place is closed up tight, like most of the little enterprises, from roadhouses to gas stations, that once flourished at every crossroad.
Sad report from Baker: Doc Sherman, founder of the Society and progenitor of the art displays has passed away. His art is clearly not immortal either; it's looking a little the worse for wear, but it survives. Not long ago someone took the skull from The Horse with No Name and it seemed as if the art that Doc had inspired by his own creative example would pass away with him. But now the skull has been replaced, and the horse is whole again. Maybe there will be a new piece or two along the fence line when you make the trip.
Ely is Nevada's great undiscovered city, now that Elko's been found. It is becoming increasingly visible, however, as the city's imaginative mural project is bringing international attention, and work is getting underway to bring the old Kennecott mines back into production again. "All of the equipment needed to operate the Robinson Mine has been secured and workers are being hired," the Ely Times reports.
The beautifully conceived Steptoe Valley Inn has re-opened just up the street from the Ghost Train Depot. Norm and Jane Lindley made this humble mercantile building into a jewel-box, and new owner Ronnie Branham is realizing a dream. She learned to bake out at the ranch, and now her guests awaken to the aroma of fresh baked bread and pastries. She sells 60 cinnamon buns every morning, and Ely is that much more civilized as a result.
Eureka is still as sunny and inviting as ever, but my schedule only permitted a brief stop at the Eureka Opera House to check out the permanent exhibit by Visiting Artists. It's a small treasure and if you're lucky, Curator Wally Cuchine will find a few minutes to give you his personal tour of these beguiling art works.
I stayed at the Lincoln Motel across from the International Hotel, one of several modest lodgings available at a modest price. Austin is a pleasant place to break your trip down US 50, particularly if you allow two or three hours for exploring its steep and tangled streets.
Overheard at the Welcome Grant Gallery in Virginia City: "The politics of art are so ferocious and deadly because the stakes are so small."