Part 3: Lake Tahoe, CA to Tucson, AZ


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The Trip

We finished our stay at the Tahoe Valley RV park with the Tahoe-Reno Mogfest crew.  We had a great time and the weather was awesome: the temperatures were moderate and there were no winds.  From Lake Tahoe, we headed east into the central Nevada basin and range province.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

As we passed State Line, NV we got a great final view of Lake Tahoe and the still-snowy Sierra Nevada range in the distance.

Our first stop was in Carson City for fuel and some tasty Mexican food.  From Carson, we headed to Virginia City.  We were told to check out VC by one of our fellow moggers, Steve, who lived in the area.  Above is our first view of VC and you can see the town church steeple as well as their tourist railroad area.

The local schoolhouse is behind the Virginia City sign.

VC was built on the mining industry and the so-called Comstock Lode (details in a later photo).  Each of the major mines in town had a network of tunnels used to gain access to the silver-bearing ore.  The spoil from the tunnels, AKA overburden, was dumped near the mouth of the entrance tunnel.  The coloring of the spoil gives a hint as to the heavily mineralized nature of the deposits in the mountain.

VC is a standard western tourist town, not unlike Julian, CA near San Diego.  There were all manner of tourists and things that tourists like - restaurants, bars, carriage rides, etc.

Some of the older buildings had interesting relics nearby.  Above are some pretty old trucks used as part of the mining efforts.

The photo above tells the story of the Comstock Lode.

Virginia City's cemetery was visible from the main street in town.

While we were exploring town, the tourist train left the depot followed by the fire-control "speeder".  The speeder has fire extinguishers on board and puts out any fires caused by cinders expelled by the steam engine.

Sometimes, I have trouble distinguishing between "relics", "antiques" and "yard cars".  This yard had all of them.

From Virginia City, we headed east on US-50 toward Silver Spring.  From there, we headed south on US-94A toward the Carson River.  We found an acceptable campsite near the river.  The area around the river was semi-flooded due to the heavy spring runoff.

The view west from our campsite provided a classic western scene of pasture, cattle and snow-capped peaks.

The night in camp was quiet and the temperatures were mild.  The next morning we continued south along US-95A.  Our plan was to hit the dirt at the soonest opportunity.  Along the way we got great views of the sparse vegetation typical of the basin-and-range province.

In the Yerington Valley there were some nicely irrigated fields that were rich with alfalfa.

After 30 miles or so of good dirt road we spotted the Flying M ranch.  The ranch area is in the trees at the base of the mountain.  The ranch was remote enough that it had it's own airfield where the owners use the plane to commute to civilization.

We followed the dirt road along the Walker River and got some nice views of the still snow covered peaks of Bald Mountain.

We traveled through a number of passes and valleys and finally crested out on Lucky Boy pass at 8,000 feet.  Lucky Boy pass produced great views of the valley near Hawthorne, NV.

Hawthorne, NV hosts the army's ammunition depot and has it's own railroad line to service it.  The photo above shows the individual storage areas.

We descended a very steep dirt road to get to the valley floor and finally got a clearer view of the individual storage buildings.  We got food, fuel and ice in Hawthorne and then headed south on US-95 to the seething metropolis of Tonopah, NV.

It was a long haul to Tonopah and it was getting close to sundown.  We asked around about camping areas and were totally unimpressed with what we saw.  We crossed paths with a local cowboy and he suggested that we head up to the Monitor Range to spend the night.  We drove for about an hour to get to the ghost town of Belmont, NV and found a reasonable place to camp in the pinon pines.  Above, you can see the interesting rock formations near our camp.

The night at Belmont was calm and cool.  The next morning, we decided to follow the dirt over the Monitor Range to the next valley and then south to US-6.  Going over the pass in the Monitor Range, I managed to break my passenger mirror on trees that had overgrown portions of the trail.  Once we hit US-6, we headed east until we hit NV-375.

At the junction of US-6 and NV-375 we encountered the ominous sign.

The wind had been howling for hours and I was estimating wind speeds of 40-50 mph.  It was blowing us around the road pretty good and stirring up large amounts of dust from the alkali dry lake.  The dust had our eyes watering and our noses running.

So, I wonder where the road goes?  Some of the valleys had laser-straight roads that went across to the next range of mountains.

After a number of basin and range pairs, we made it to Rachel Nevada.  Rachel is on the so-called Alien Highway.  I am guessing that name came from some of the classified military aircraft that were tested at the Groom Lake facility over the mountains to the south.  I thought that the name "AleInn" was interesting.

The strong winds brought some clouds that provided interesting contrast to the mountains.

Eventually, we hit US-93 and headed south to Las Vegas to see some friends.  Along the way, the bedding of the mountains provided a nice layer-cake look.

We had a nice time in Vegas and headed south the next day.  Sadly, it was ugly-hot (105) and very windy still.  Our 1017 does not have a/c in the cab and so travel was not so pleasant.  We traveled out of Las Vegas to Boulder City and took on food, fuel and ice.  From Boulder, we headed toward the river crossing on Lake Mead.  Above, Lake Mead is visible from the main road out of Boulder.

The high winds generated lenticular clouds over the nearby mountains.  The sign on the bridge caused us to be cautious.

Despite high spring runoffs from the winter snows, Lake Mead is still way, way below full-pool.  The white "bathtub rings" on the cliff walls show how low the reservoir is.  From Lake Mead, we continued south to Wickenburg, AZ and a nice RV park.

After our really-hot night in Wickenburg, we headed south toward Phoenix and Tucson.  Along the way, we passed the Paradise Valley reservoir dam that was built as part of the Central Arizona water project in the 1980s.

The 1017 looks quite imposing next to the local sahauro cactus.

Cholla are pretty, but the true bane of the desert.  The pods are spiny and unforgiving.

The sahauro cactus is the state symbol for Arizona.

Central Nevada is interesting in a stark, barren way.  But, it was very, very hot.  The high winds made travel uncomfortable and driving difficult.  Las Vegas was very hot as well and we were very happy to spend the night with a friend that had air conditioning in her place.  The final travel from Wickenburg through Phoenix to Tucson was gnarly.  Temperatures were well over 105 degrees and we were both taking electrolyte pills in addition to large amounts of water.  Kathleen counted that we drank 6 liters of water each during the day.

For the next week, we will spend time with family and friends.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2011, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.