Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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Getting Out and About (Safely)

Things are starting to open up in Nevada, but that doesn't mean that Lisa and I feel all that safe. Still, we really wanted to get away from the house for something other than a shopping trip. I suggested we go to Fort Churchill State Park, about 25 mi / 40 km south of us on US-95A. The park preserves an old US army outpost and Pony Express stop. We've been here before and I've written about it when we last came here. For our purposes, it had the advantage of being pretty big, spread out, and unlikely to be crowded. We packed some sandwiches and cold drinks in the cooler and set off for Fort Churchill.

Fort Churchill

After depositing our $5 day use fee at the entrance station, we parked well away from other people. This is the view of the partially-restored fort buildings from the parking lot. There is a visitor center with a lawn, but there were too many people there so we never went near it.

Officers Row

We walked around the Ruins Loop, occasionally having to dodge other people in the park, but for the most part we were left alone and left others at a distance. These buildings were the officers quarters and were relatively spacious.

Fort Churchill

By comparison, the companies of 100 men had a pair of 50-bed barracks with dirt floors plus a mess building. It was not the most salubrious posting.

Lizards on the Rocks

While signs warn of rattlesnakes in the area, the only reptiles we saw were lizards — lots of them. (I think these are common spiny lizards; I'm no expert. We have the same kind around our house and are happy to have them because they eat bugs and spiders.)

Lisa and Lizard

Lisa is in this photo looking a a lizard atop a trail marker. There also were both the small short-eared rabbits like we have near our house and the long-eared hares. In both cases, they moved too fast for me to get my phone out to take pictures of them.

Sun Lizard

Later, another lizard on a post sat still long enough for me to get a better shot.

Mina Sub

The Union Pacific Mina Subdivision (former Carson & Colorado Railroad) runs through the park and we walked along the adjacent Railroad Trail. Fort Churchill is at milepost 27. UP owns the track as far as milepost 43 and keeps the tracks in good enough condition and runs enough trains down as far as the Churchill Power Station at MP 42.5 to keep the rails shiny. The tracks continue past that point under US government ownership to Hawthorne in order to serve the weapons station there. The rails once kept going south to the town of Mina (thus the name of the subdivision) and a connection to the Tonopah & Goldfield Railroad. Alas, those rails are long gone, so there's no way to get to Tonopah by train.

Buckland Ditch

The Buckland Ditch draws water off the nearby Carson River to feed nearby farm land.

Lisa and Kuma at the Bridge

Lisa, Kuma, and I walked over the trail bridge that crosses the Buckland Ditch.

We took our lunch down to the picnic area near the Carson River, wiped down one of the tables with Lysol wipes, and had our lunch. We could hear but not see lots of birds, and there were lizards small and large running around the tree-shaded picnic area. Our timing was good, because nobody else showed up until we were tidying up from our lunch.

Carson River

Walking along the Railroad Trail, we got as far as the railroad bridge that spans the Carson River. That's as far as we could go while staying in the park, and by then we'd walked quite a bit and it was near the end of Lisa's day, so we headed back to the van and drove home.

We spent several hours hiking around the trails at Fort Churchill, and we plan to go back again, although we may have to wait until autumn to do so because soon it may be too hot to take long hikes. The 1 km Ruins Loop gives you a look at all of the fort buildings and is an easy walk from the parking lot.

Fort Churchill State Park is open 24 hours a day because it's also a good place to go stargazing. There are camping sites, but they are temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

We got a lot of fresh air and sunshine (I'm glad I put on sunscreen and wore my long-sleeve shirt, hat, and sunglasses) and didn't feel like we were in any danger of being crowded. That's good for both of us and definitely worth the drive and the day-use fee.

I'll be writing this up as a place where you could stop for a while on a drive to Tonopah from the north. By then, we assume the adjacent Buckland Station Museum ($1 admission) will be open once again.
Tags: fort churchill, lisa, nevada, railroad

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