Sunday, May 18, 2014

Crossing Nevada Part II: It Feels Like an Ocean

As we head West out of Ely on the Loneliest Road, the map tells us we will be crossing a land of undulating valleys and mountains. This is high desert country; the valleys lie at about 6,000 feet and the mountains top out over 11,000 feet. Towns are few and far between, each about 70 miles distant.

In reality it feels as though we are crossing an ocean. Each valley is a huge expanse of sage-green, long and wide, slowing rising to a mountain pass topped by frothy snow capped mountain "waves". At each crest we can see our tiny ribbon of highway flowing through the next green valley and climbing the next wave of mountains.

We search for signs of life as we drive, seeing few cattle and sheep, one lone pronghorn. Water sources are well hidden here, keeping only the hardiest of men and beasts away.

My practical, city-born brain wonders how people manage to live in the small towns dotting the highway, so spread out from each other and any large towns. There are no grocery stores, no hospitals or even medical clinics for hundreds of miles. Imagine, no fresh produce in the middle of winter! How are the young people making a living?

Most of today's small towns were thriving cities in the 1800's. Prospectors struck a pocket of something glittery and the next thing you knew thousands of people had flocked to the area, looking to build their own fortune. Today these small towns seem to be hanging on by a thread, with a few historic buildings reminiscent of what used to be, but only a handful of tourists passing through, and maybe stopping, each day on this Loneliest Road.

We stopped briefly in Eureka and walked around admiring their beautifully restored historic buildings.

Imagine the grand events held in these buildings 130 years ago...

We stopped for the night in Austin, NV, smack dab in the middle of the state. Originally a silver rush town founded in 1862, today there are about 200 inhabitants, many old, decrepit buildings, a brand new visitor center (not yet open for business), a handful of open businesses, and many, many empty stores. We walked from our camp site into the hills surrounding the town to immerse ourselves in this beautiful, remote area.

Lots of interesting old buildings along the main drag, few were refurbished, many were empty.
All of these cars belonged to attendees of a meeting at the Masonic Hall (the red brick building).

This catholic church, built in 1866, is the oldest church in Nevada.

Many of the walls around town were built using locally sourced, hand-hewn stone.

We took a walk in the hills overlooking town. That's our RV right, front.
Austin RV Park is run by the local baptist church, $20/night, full hookups, excellent 4G Verizon signal.

We shared the trail with a local...

I was entranced by this small cabin nestled in solitude in the hills well outside of town.

Stokes Castle and a mining relic.


  1. Nevada is an interesting state. We clearly need to spend more time there.

  2. We have not been there. It's good to know there are full hookups available out in the great wide open.

  3. We are enjoying your trip through Nevada. Haven't traveled much in that state.

  4. I love the imagery of waves. I certainly felt that going through NV and also wondered how people survive there.

  5. I too often ponder where the people who live on the lonely back roads near seemingly nothing work and shop. I would definitely be wondering about that little cabin. Like your slithering trail sharer. He's beautiful but I don't know what kind he is.

  6. We have not been in that part of Nevada. It must have been a lonely drive and I do share your pondering on how those people that live in the sticks survive.
    is that fuchsia building? I think painting their building bold makes up for the rather drab surroundings during summer months.

  7. I was in my early twenties when hubby and I took a road trip from Chicago to Lake Tahoe. On our return we took Hwy 50 through NV. This city gal was shocked, awed, and bewildered with the land and small towns. Seeing a herd of wild horses was exciting and one of the highlights of that trip.

  8. These little spots on the highway have a fascination all their own, and I love that you take some time to explore them :-). Great shot of the local......beautiful! Looking forward to Carson City, it's a favorite of mine.

  9. You got to see more excitement in Ely than we did. I thought Ely was sad, and wondered if it was because of the gambling. That seems to be all that's left - like the soul of the town is gone. But we were amazed at the expanses and beauty of the Nevada landscape.

  10. We have not seen this part of Nevada either but given all the trees and traffic here on the east coast, I would love to see some desolate wide-open country again.

  11. Sometimes I hate meeting the "locals."