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German intern Ben Martinac reflects fondly on his Northern Nevada travels.
Photo: Matthew B. Brown (Martinac at Fort Churchill State Park)
The first thing I did when I got to Reno is jumped in my car and drove to Lake Tahoe. I remembered it as one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. So I was very excited about returning to this mind-boggling place.
As I was driving up Highway 50 from Carson City to Lake Tahoe, I felt the lake getting closer and closer, not only because my ears started filling up with pressure, but also the stunning view of Carson Valley and the change of desert-like terrain to alpine mountains and woods. Soon, through the leaves of the trees, the reflection of the sun on the water dazzled me, and I couldn’t wait to get to the shore and dip my feet in the lake.
Turning around the next corner, the full beauty of the lake was exposed to me. I couldn’t believe that I was here again for six long weeks and able to visit this breathtaking place as much as I want. The turquoise water gave me the impression of being at some top-notch seaside resort in the South Pacific or Caribbean. But the snowcapped mountains surrounding the lake snapped me back to reality.
Since I was doing an internship with the Nevada Commission on Tourism, I figured I would learn a lot about the area and the amenities in Reno-Tahoe. Besides interning with NCOT, I would help out at RKPR Inc, the Reno Convention Center, Carson City Convention & Visitor Bureau, Virginia City Tourism, and Nevada Magazine. I was really looking forward to my week at Nevada Magazine. What better place to learn about Nevada and maybe get out on the road and explore the state?
But there were still two weeks to go before I would start at the magazine. Working with NCOT and the Carson City Convention & Visitor Bureau gave me the opportunity to learn, apart from job-related things, a lot about what there is to do in the Reno/Lake Tahoe territory. Full of useful information, I was ready to explore.
After a weekend American breakfast in Reno with pancakes, waffles, bacon, and eggs, I drove up to Virginia City. Everything is kept the way it used to be in the 1800s. The old mining town used to be one of the richest cities in America. Since its establishment in 1859, gold and silver attracted people to come and work here. Soon, Virginia City grew to more than 10,000 residents who tried to find their luck in the gold and silver mining industry. Also, Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, called Virginia City home and started writing under his alias in February 1863.
Driving into Virginia City on C Street is like entering another time. Old buildings, saloons, and wooden sidewalks take you right back to the late 1800s. Cowboys greet you with a friendly “Howdy,” the sheriff taps his hat while walking by, and the ladies wave at you in their big, decadent dresses. I decided to take a walk through town and browse the little stores and other places of interest. I stopped at the Bucket of Blood for a drink, since I have heard some intriguing stories about it and wanted to see for myself. Apparently, so many fights happened nightly at the infamous saloon, that after cleaning the floors, the bucket where the mop was wrung out was filled with blood. Hence, “The Bucket of Blood.”
Although you don’t see any bloodstains on the floor, the Bucket of Blood offers a great image of how saloons used to be back in the day. But as if that’s not enough, I had the most beautiful view of the valley, if you too are lucky enough to score a table with a window view.
Located on the opposite side of the street, I had to check out the Delta Saloon, since it has a very special attraction to offer guests: the notorious “Suicide Table.” The name says it all. Supposedly, the former owner of the ol’ Delta, Black Jake, shot himself at the table after losing all his belongings one evening. Two subsequent owners killed themselves at the same spot for the same reason years later.
Virginia City is a very lively town where you can spend a whole day without being bored. Music, food, shops, saloons, and the V&T train will make it an unforgettable experience. The ride on the steam engine from Virginia City to Carson City was the highlight on my getaway to the Wild West. Hot, noisy, and big, shining in the light of the sun, the steam engine started with a loud “choo choo” and rolled down the hills toward Carson City. Passing old mines, stunning landscapes, and even a herd of wild mustangs, we left the past behind us and headed back to the future.
On my way home, I was thinking about the coming week at work and although being excited about it, I thought it would be a shame to spend all week at the office when there is so much around to explore. But what did I know? The next day when I arrived at work I was told that we were going for a hike from Spooner Lake to Marlette Lake. I was psyched about it because I have never hiked before.
We met at the NCOT office in Carson City and drove about 13 miles toward Lake Tahoe to Spooner Lake, where we parked the car and started walking. After a few minutes of hiking, the path guided us alongside big pine trees on one side and a huge field full of blow-balls the size of my hand. I’ve never seen them as big and had to take photos immediately.
The peacefulness of the forest and the fantastic lookouts we passed on the hiking trail kept my jaw dropped for quite some time. After a while I started feeling a bit tired from the hike and the altitude. I totally underestimated hiking. At the peak point of my exhaustion, the path suddenly started going downhill, which could only mean one thing: soon we’re there.
A half-mile later, after two hours of wandering through dense woods, Marlette Lake sparkled invitingly. I couldn’t wait to cool my feet in the refreshing water. At this picturesque location completely remote and far away from civilization, we had lunch before heading back home. Well, first we had to withstand another five-mile hike back to the car. And the way down is no less amazing than the way up. Rock formations, wild life, and sensational mountain ranges and valleys crossed my path while I was enjoying the last moments away from the daily rush and stress that was waiting in the city.
The third week of my stay in Nevada has come, and I finally started work at Nevada Magazine. Editor Matthew B. Brown and Associate Editor Charlie Johnston took me under their wings and gave me an idea of what the magazine is doing. And faster than expected we were on the road again the next day to Fort Churchill State Park just outside of Fallon.
I was quite surprised when we got there because I expected a small wooden fort in the middle of nowhere, but instead there was this relatively big ground with around 10 buildings, some of which are preserved well. Walking through the fort and reading the descriptions, it was very easy for me to imagine how it was there in 1860 when it was built to provide protection for early settlers and to serve as a stop for the riders of the Pony Express transporting mail from the east to the west. I could almost hear the horses neighing.
The Naval Air Station, where soldiers are prepared for their life on a flattop, is located on the outskirts of Fallon. Thus, we witnessed from afar landings from jets returning from battle training in the desert. With ear-shattering sounds, the jets dashed over Fallon before landing at the base.
So this was a nice little extra on our trip to Grimes Point, an area just outside Fallon, where well-preserved petroglyphs are found. The traditional Native American rock art adorns the many boulders along the trail and gives mysterious impressions of the place.
While walking the trail, we realized that some art was brighter and clearer, whereas some art was very dark and not as visible. The answer to this came quick as it is explained that the darker pieces originate from an older time and through wind, water, and other forces of nature, they have lost depth. It is unimaginable that simple carvings that were some kind of communication and ritual, in some cases around 6,000 years ago, are still preserved for our generation.
On the way back to Reno, we decided to take a detour to Pyramid Lake (see photo above). It’s the first time I’d visited an Indian Reservation. While thinking about that, in the middle of the desert, surrounded by rocks and sand, this huge blue-greenish pool of water emerged and began to occupy my mind. Pyramid Lake arising in the distance made my eyes light up. There is something phenomenal about this massive collection of water, giving life to creatures in this otherwise hostile environment. I just have to come back during the weekend and go for a swim.
So far it has been one of the greatest summers in my life. I’ve met all these interesting people and learned a lot about tourism as an industry. But apart from that, I fell in love with this wonderful state and what it offers. There is nothing like Nevada, and I am very excited about what’s waiting for me during the next couple of weeks. I can’t wait for my next trip to explore the area. There is something to find behind every corner and under every rock, so I guess another three weeks won’t be enough time. But this only means that I will return and have another great summer—or winter.
Read the Chinese version of this story here.