Last night I was interrupted while composing some words rom Honey Lake. When I got back to them they wouldn’t post. Tonight I’m way the hell gone to central Nevada in Tonopah. I can’t get a draft from last night to come up, so now you’re in for a long session
First there was yesterday. Rising early from a night in a noisy tent (the highway noise was relentless), Tofu and I headed South to Tule Lake. There’s a wildlife refuge on the way to the Lava Beds National monument. It’s a huge lake and it was covered in birds.
Then came the Lava Beds. This was my first opportunity to whip out my National Parks Pass. While other volcanic peaks along the cascades and Sierra chain are more impressive the lava beds cover the largest area. I ponder my spelunker friends, as I passed by many opportunities to descend into a cave.
As a history buff, the most interesting part of Lake Tule and the Lava Beds, is that they were inhabited by the Modoc First Nation folk when the Europeans showed up and sent the Modoc to a reservation in Oregon. The Modoc didn’t mix well with the other tribes, so a large contingent came back to theLava Beds. The Modoc Wars went on a long time as the Modoc were very adept at ware fare in their home territory. But the European settlers overcame the Modoc through attrition.
Tofu and I headed southeast on a rough Forest Service road not recommended for RV’s or mobile homes. I was a little wielded out as we traveled miles and miles on a road that at times very narrow and very rough. We never went faster than 35 mph and we never saw another vehicle. I was getting worried, when startled by a giant bird, that lifted off the ground and flew across our path. It was bigger than any hawk I’ve ever seen. My best guess is it was an eagle. Does anyone know if the California Condor is in that area. It WAS huge! And just around a corner our road ended. Turning left a few more miles and there was the main highway.
Traveling into desert country, I was hoping to find a tent site (with showers) as I prefer to travel clean. There was nothing in Susanville. There was a Good Sam RV Park, with beautiful green lawn, but they wouldn’t let me or any other tenter into the Inn. The apologetic lady at the desk said that along Hope Lake, there is a place that calls itself a Campground. So we headed down this desolate stretch of highway and about 25 miles down the road there was a Very rickety sign announcing “Honey Lake Campground and RV Park, with Full Hook UPS, full service Restaurant, Laundry, and Hot Showers. It was a dirt road. I could see several ramshackle mobile homes. We really needed a place to stay so we went on in. The whole thing was practically falling down. There were some worn out single wides dotting the periphery of the place, complete with junker cars and dogs barking. We stayed.
It looks pretty good in the photo. Yes, it was dirt camping. But the dirt reminded me of the gravel in the Yukon. Now I have to say, the bathroom sparkled with cleanliness. There was only one other tent in the campground; a young couple with a preschooler. Of course she was wound up with excitement. I think I fell asleep before she did. Before we leave the Honey Lake Campground, I need to show you the view from it.
The second photo looks more like low hanging clouds, than hills reflected on water. I’ve never been much of a desert appreciator, but this bleak landscape coupled with Honey Lake helped me with my prejudices.
So now we’re moving on to today. I’m going to leave out more than one excellent story so we can move on. This morning it was literally freezing. Tofu had slept warm on my feet, on my legs, beside my legs under two of her blankets. Actually, she didn’t’ hardly move all night. I was the one doing the moving. Somehow I managed to unzip the bottom of the double sleeping bag. Though I was wearing wool socks, the cold air wouldn’t leave me alone. Tofu couldn’t be bothered and I was too tired to help myself correct the problem.
There was no coffee this morning. So as we traveled the desert landscape I kept my eyes peeled. There was nothing. After what seemed like an Interminable length of time we arrived at Reno at 65 miles an hour. I meant to stop someplace for coffee. I meant to take off east toward Sparks. But it was a traffic nightmare, and We found ourselves headed South to Carson. This wasn’t the plan!
But then I recalled I hadn’t really made a plan, so let’s go with the flow. Arriving in Carson, the freeway was still wide but not so angry. Lo, and behold, there was an exit with a coffee shop and a blueberry scone. I had only been on the road two hours. A little further down the freeway was a turnoff to highway 50, which was a part of the Pony Express. So we went east a few miles and there was a sign announcing that Virginia City was just 8 miles down the road! We’re talking Comstock Lode!
But before turning off to Virginia City, we saw some huge political signs, saying “Save Our Brothels. And there it was by the side of the road, the world famous, Bunny Ranch. Needless to say I didn’t stop. A few hours later, I saw a sign for the Wildcat Ranch and Casino. I assume we’re talking about the same thing.
Anyway, It turns out we didn’t go “Down” the road to Virginia City as much as we went “Up” way up the road. It is windy and steep.
See the mining equipment? Stuff like that strung all along the road. A couple little mining towns, mostly falling apart, but with a few new homes; strange. At last we got to the top of the mountain at Virginia City. It’s a pretty good sized town, that has turned into a tourist Mecca. Driving through the narrow Main Street cars lined up both sides. I turned around and took a couple photos before heading back down the mountain.
After getting back to highway 50 we continued on the Pony Express trail, heading east. We went east and south forever. The landscape is astonishing, broad valleys of sage and mesquite with barren mountains. We went through the Paiute Reservation. True to form it looks like land no one would want. Of course that’s my anti-desert prejudice speaking. In the midst of the desert there were a few green farms, transforming the land. I can only guess who owned those properties but I would be willing to bet they aren’t Paiute.
Most of the way the highway speed was 70 mph. But the road went on forever. We passed this enormous complex, with many large buildings and mysterious black mounds . I was right when I guessed it was something military. It was an army base that is the world’s largest ammo dump. I found it ironic, that next to the base is the town of Hancock. Entering the town is a Veteran’s memorial park, which includes, a dog park. It was the first grass available to Tofu all day, and she much prefers grass when pooping. There we were next to the world’s largest ammo dump and I was taking a photo of the park, when I snapped Tofu taking a d***. Instead of showing that picture, I’ll show you the ginormous Flag at the park.
So we continued through the barren landscape toward the middle of Nevada. From a great distance I spotted a white tower, with an extraordinarily bright light shining from the top. Drawing closer and closer to the tower it moved from the right side of the road. I tried to take a photo of it through the windshield but it didn’t turn out. As we passed it I looked back and it looked the same from every direction. It must have been a hundred feet tall. At its base there appeared to be a small lake. On the top of the column it didn’t appear to be a flame. It looked like a small sun. Gazing at the tower, I also noticed we were headed toward some hills. At the bottom of the hills there appeared to be a town; at long last Tonopah. I asked the motel clerk at National 9, prices starting at $41 per night, but he didn’t know what the tower was. Neither did the other man standing in the lobby. So it’s a mystery. More about Tonopah tomorrow. But I will close by saying today in the middle of Nevada I saw a raven.