Ghost towns and mines in the high desert

Anna wasn’t able to participate in part of our Nevada fun so she asked me, her husband Nick, to be a guest blogger for this entry.

We arrived in Nevada on Thursday and stayed overnight in Reno and moved on as soon as work was finished on Friday.

The only thing worth mentioning was this uncommonly honest advertising.

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Friday night we stayed in Winnemucca. It quickly become obvious that if you’re not a gambler there’s not much worth seeing in Nevada’s living towns. It was the ghost towns we were really after so we moved on with nary a photo to slow us down.

After a few hours of driving we found ourselves in the tiny village of Wells. I found a great website called ghosttowns.com which lists hundreds of abandoned towns, mines, and buildings in Nevada and elsewhere. The site doesn’t give directions in order to help protect the ruins but some research revealed the nearby town of Metropolis.

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This looks like the middle of nowhere.

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The remnants of the old Lincoln School.

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What’s left of the three story hotel after it burned.

We knew that another town called Afton was somewhere near by but we weren’t able to find it and there was no one around to ask. Instead we headed over Angel Lake in the Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest.

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What a setting! The green mountainsides towering over the stark scrub desert below was almost metaphorical in its contrast. The lake itself is fed by snow melt via a series of waterfalls from near the peak.

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Yes that’s snow. In Nevada. At the end of June. We were pretty high up.

Saturday evening I did some more research and found Spruce Mountain. Sunday morning Caleb felt like a down day and Anna wasn’t feeling up to the purportedly rough 4×4 only trails. Betsy, George, and I packed a lunch and headed out around 10:30.

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The road to the mountain is not exactly an Interstate.

There were meant to be maps at the highway turn off but they were all gone. Not to be deterred I took the lay of the land and figured we could find our way back to civilization.

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This is true desert so the forest service has a few wells scattered around the park.

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The first ruins we found were the old Spruce Mountain post office.

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After this there were buildings and towns seemingly around every corner.

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The abandoned mines were definitely the highlight of the trip.

It’s hard to explain the feeling that staring down an old mineshaft gives. There’s something in the cold air it breathes from deep in the earth, the weight of history and the lives spent digging into that dark. It’s humbling and sort of terrifying, but evocative too.

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No idea what this was for, but it’s a giant compressor that pumped into the ground, presumably to a tank, driven by a steam engine.

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We went to the top of Spruce Mountain (elev 10,266 ft).

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After twisting and turning all over the mountain we ended up on this road in a wide valley with no other signs of civilization. After half and hour or so with one eye on the sun and the other watching the mountain I started to doubt my navigation skills. After another 15-20 minutes we were starting to feel like the only people on Earth but finally found a sign telling us that we were on the right track and the highway was approaching. Interestingly it turns out that this road was actually part of the original California Trail.

During 6 hours of mountain trails and ghost towns we didn’t see a single other person. Finally returning to the highway felt surreal in a way, almost as if we were suddenly thrust into a different time and place. This had been the adventure I hoped to find in Nevada and it was a little sad to reach the end of it.

Categories: Nevada, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Ghost towns and mines in the high desert

  1. laurapeck16

    What a great blogger you are, Nick! Thanks for sharing your awesome, and a little bit scary, trip! You all are far more brave than I. 🙂

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