Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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The Roads Less Traveled

We are home. This morning we packed out of our wonderful suite at the Tonopah Station Hotel, grabbed breakfast and coffee from Beans and Brews (the former McDonald's, now a coffee and convenience store; it's an upgrade in our opinion) across the road from the hotel, and set off for home.

We had piles of time today and a full tank of gas, and that meant that when the mood struck us to stop and look at something, particularly things we've previously seen and said, "We should go look at that when we have the time," we did so.

Downtown Silver Peak

Our first side trip was down NV-265 to Silver Peak, the third-largest town in Esmeralda County. But that's not saying much, as fewer than 1000 people live in the county. Still, it explains why there were so many campaign signs in town, if one in ten voters in the county live here. This sign was what we decided was "downtown." NV-265 ends somewhere around this point (we didn't see the specific sign for it) and the pavement ends shortly thereafter. A dirt road leads toward Goldfield, the county seat.

Humbug Flats

This is what the road to Silver Peak looks like at the junction with US-95/6 north of Tonopah, at a place that Flickr's geotagging function says is called Humbug Flats. (Which presumably explains the name of a hotel/apartment complex overlooking downtown Tonopah and the adjoining Bug Bar ("Drink on the Brink").

This is not a busy road. I stood right in the middle of it to take this picture, although Lisa was standing guard in the minivan in case a vehicles should happen to turn off of US-95/6 behind me and would have honked the horn.

Humbug Flats

Note the "Next gas Beatty 116 miles" sign. That's including the stretch of dirt road beyond Silver Peak before it picks up the road into Goldfield. Goldfield (the Esmeralda County seat) doesn't have any gas stations or stores more substantial than a small convenience store for that matter. We reckon that people go into the "big city" of Tonopah periodically and stock up at Raley's.

Road to Silver Peak

If you like stark, desolate desert landscapes, this road is for you. There were dust devils swirling around the base of this mountain (it may be the same cinder cone pictured here) jutting out of the ancient lake bed.

Blair, Nevada

Blair, Nevada once boasted of a 100-stamp silver mill and a connection on the Silver Peak Railroad to the Tonopah & Goldfield, but by 1920 it was gone, and most of what's left are the ruins of the mill on the mountain side.

Lithium Cracking Station

Silver Peak's main reason for existence is the lithium mining operation here. On this Sunday morning, however, there was virtually no traffic, except that a bunch of vehicles with numbers on the sides passed us periodically, and while we passed in and out of Silver Peak, we saw the vehicles clustered around a banner. When we got enough bandwidth again for me to use my phone, we found that we had been playing tag with Day 2 of the 2018 Rebelle Rally, a women's off-road navigation rally.

Silver Peak

While there were quite a few non-moving vehicles (of which we found this the most amusing), aside from the rally participants, on our out-and-back to Silver Peak, we met only one other moving vehicle.

Returning to US-95/6, we continued past Coaldale and into Mineral County, where we turned off onto the only barely marked Candelaria Road. We've seen signs for Candelaria before, both here and on the cut off (NV-360), so we decided to satisfy our curiosity about another old mining town that once had its own rail connection on a branch of the Carson & Colorado Railway.


Candelaria was another mining boom town that once was hopping with activity, but today it's completely deserted, with only a few derelict buildings. The road is paved, but in many places there is dirt and rocks washed over it, and we had to tread carefully.

Candelaria Mine

I'm guessing that the only reason there's a paved road at all is an apparently-now-closed modern mine mentioned in the Wikipedia article. The mud and dirt washed over the road appeared to be mostly from the massive tailings piles of that mine. There was one modern building off the road and a power line running up to it, but we did not explore that further.


We were reluctant to go beyond the end of the paved road, even though it was probably not a lot farther that way than we'd already come to get over to NV-360 and loop back to US-95. With that large crack in the windshield and a left-front tire that has been showing signs of a very slow leak, we figured we were pushing our luck enough as it was. As it happens, apparently the main part of the ruins of Candelaria were actually just a short distance ahead of the end of paved road.

Candelaria Mine

It turns out that we weren't the only people doing this sort of sightseeing. Not visible in these photos but close by were another group that had stopped to take photos of the ghost town and mine site.

Maybe someday we'll try coming at Candelaria from the north over the dirt road that might be the right of way of the C&C branch that served the town during its heyday.

Meanwhile, back on the highway, we put miles under the wheels and stopped at Hawthorne for lunch.

Hawthorne Ordnance Museum

After lunch, we made a stop at the Hawthorne Ordnance Museum, where we stopped on our first trip south over US-95 together. If you like military museums, this one is rather entertaining. Hawthorne is the home of a military ordnance depot, which makes sense because it's isolated and has mountain ranges separating it from most populated areas, so if things were to go catastrophically wrong, any damage would be contained to just this one valley at the south end of Walker Lake.

Patton Tank

This M47 Patton tank is, by Lisa's recollection, a new addition to their collection.

Schurz, Nevada

At Schurz, we continued north on US-95 (rather than taking Alt-95, the road from Yerrington, which we'd done on our way south) and crossed the railroad tracks. This line is currently owned by the US military (the milepost behind us in this photo seemed to read ARMY 31 but we didn't go look more closely). The line is the former Southern Pacific (and before that the narrow-gauge Carson & Colorado) line to Mina. (The Tonopah & Goldfield railroad connected at Mina for the 100 miles down to Tonopah.) The Union Pacific Mina Subdivision currently runs from Hazen to Fort Churchill, where the UP ownership ends but over which UP apparently operates occasionally to serve the Hawthorne Army Depot. Note the de-tracked boxcar and an old concrete railroad phone box. Before radio communication became the norm, trains had to stop and crews had to call the dispatcher on line-side phones like this.

Kuma Bear had his own adventures in Hawthorne. Fortunately, no minivans were harmed, nor did Bear get honeyed at the El Capitan casino.

After Schurz, we made no more side trips, and headed home via Fallon. We unloaded the minivan and Lisa headed off to bed, as she was very tired, having not slept well last night and having done most of today's driving.

I found when we got home that I'd accidentally left the oil-electric heater in the living room plugged in, which wastes electricity, but was probably for the best, as temperatures in Fernley have been dipping below freezing (unlike Tonopah, which was hovering just above freezing overnight while we were there). As it stands, things are a bit chilly, but tolerable.

I took a four-day weekend although our planned trip was only three, in case of mishaps, like the time we had to stop short of home and spend the night in Hawthorne on our trip back from San Antonio due to fatigue. We didn't have to do that on this trip, but I'm glad I have that extra day, so I don't have to be up early tomorrow and because I need to get the windshield replaced due to the rock incident as soon as possible. Lisa thinks the cracks in the windshield are spreading. I hope the place here in Fernley can do it so I don't have to go into Reno/Sparks tomorrow to take care of it.

This was a really good exploration day. We're glad we got to take some side trips and see things that most people don't get to see by looking at back-roads of Nevada. It's been a good trip and I was happy to take something approaching an actual vacation that didn't include an SF convention in it, albeit that due to our Conrunners' Disease, we kept thinking about how we'd fit one of our conventions into Tonopah, at least as an academic exercise over meals.
Tags: lisa, nevada, tonopah, travel

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