Winnemucca turned out to be a not bad place, even though it’s an Interstate (80) Stop. The motel internet worked well, the sky was full of fluffy, unthreatening clouds and the surrounding hills looked interesting. Given that Nevada sometimes is trashed byentities outside the state, I was warmed by this sign in a bicycle shop window, across from the Courthouse:
After photographing Winnemucca’s Courthouse, we drove a few miles east on Interstate 80, to Battle Mountain, the county seat of Lander County. I-80 winds through the Sonoma Summit along the way, which is pleasantly mountainous, with some curious fits of trees among the barren hills. Summits are interesting if it isn’t snowing, and this day started at about 50 degrees F. and got warmer as the day progressed.
At Battle Mountain, we left the big road and dropped south on NV 305 along the the Reese River, which gave some definition to the big basin we traveled south through. This is classic Basin and Range country; the ranges go northeast/southwest, with broad valleys between, and mostly we traveled southwest, between the ranges, down the basins. At the end of that valley we climbed up through the Shoshone Range and came to Austin (Nevada), a little mountain town, originally a mining site, but most of that unseen amidst the lumpy landscape. What charmed me was the clear competition between the churches, whose spires dominated the town, but whose congregations have mostly moved on. The former county courthouse is intact and on the National Register (Battle Mountain became the county seat in 1997).
At Austin, we turned east on 50 (“the loneliest highway in the US”) for a bit and after crossing Bob Scotts Summit, we left 50 and turned down a Rt 50 tributary, south again, on 376, down the Big Smoky Valley.
The Big Smoky Valley runs between the Toiyabe and Toquima Ranges, and is pleasant enough, although the Kinross Round Mountain Gold Corporation (affiliated with Barrick Gold Corporation) toward Hadley and Carvers, at the southern end of the valley is mostly piles, huge piles, of mine tailings. The mountain was mostly no longer such; just big pyramidal piles of smashed, cyanide-leached rock. Which was an appropriate introduction to Tonopah, just 90 miles from Beatty. It was late and we decided to stay in Tonopah, a town we hadn’t seen on our last trip.
Our hotel window looked out on what may have been miners shacks but more probably were prostitutes’ cribs:
The internet connection didn’t work, the motel was under some kind of construction, and the town was built on tailings. Not a single large tailing heap, but rather batches of them, serving as underpinnings to shacks, shanties, trailers, wooden houses, and even a sort-of castle. The Courthouse (Nye County) seemed to have been built on rock, but just over the edge of the court house hill, I photographed a mine hole opening that ran back under the rock upon which the courthouse sat.
If Ma Earth shakes her head near Tonopah, the town will disappear under heaps of crushed rock. We actually toured the town and took photographs and even went into their museum, which was quite good for a small town, but I felt an enormous relief when we picked up Rt 6 for a little and then dropped south (again) down the utterly boring route 95, through Goldfield (which is a bit derelict, but charming anyway), past Lida Junction to Goldpoint, where we froze last March, past the Sarcobatus Flats, whose name is apt, and into the Amargosa swale, where the aspen are just turning gold, the Bare Mountains gleam silvery-blue in the distance, and Beatty Mountain shelters the town, still.
It’s “Beatty Days” this weekend (the town is 105 years old), bikers are swarming the saloon, the town park is filled with tents of goodies, a parade came through Saturday morning and there’s a pancake breakfast on Sunday — we felt welcomed home. We drove out to the Red Barn, first thing, just to assure me that it was all as it should be. Aside for the addition of a satellite dish for internet and a new screen door, all was serene.
It felt like home. –June