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The Elko County portion of one man’s voyage across the Sagebrush Sea.
Photo: Charlie Johnston (Golconda); Kristin Boag (Tuscarora)
A band of orange concocts tequila sunrise, then salmon before changing to a light mango. Caramel forms, then a splash of red. As suddenly as that sky symphony began, the cool shades of violet and blue mark the end of day one of my four-day adventure.
The horizon creeps on, neither closer nor further on my journey to visit every historical marker in Elko County, a scenic expanse that covers more than 17,000 square miles. However, I was up for the challenge. Like any proud soldier would, I embraced the battle scars along the way courtesy of Nevada’s ever-present mystery.
Indeed the Great Basin seems to savor its own mystery, waiting in hiding and revealing its priceless moments only to those it feels worthy of witnessing its unveiling. It is through these adventures, my five years of traveling Nevada from corner to corner, that I have learned that one must work and live with the Great Basin to fully understand its essence.
Day one began with 200 miles and a cup of jo. The odometer read 91,216 as I saw the stream of traffic suddenly disappear at my turn from Golconda. The sign on the General Store, a whitewash ramshackle building, to my displeasure read, “Closed.” Still, I parked, and snapped a few photographs. Then, an old Ford pick-up pulled up next to me.
“That’s some engine you got,” said the old man, wrinkled and true, smiling as he noticed Silver’s battle scars. A crack ran across her windshield.
“We’ve been through quite a bit,” I responded. “So, I know it’s about 82 miles to Tuscarora from here…”
“Eighty two?” The old man lowered his brow. “That don’t sound right. It’s more like two hours from here.”
He was right. Time was kind and plentiful where I was going. I told him where I was from and what I was doing, yet he did not ask the most obvious question—“Why?” The old-timer understood everything by the look in my eyes. A few minutes later, he tipped his hat, wished me well, and headed north on a dirt road. A collection of poplars in the distance meant a ranch and a nice memory to take with me. And the day was just getting started.
I continued east into the distance, leaving Interstate 80 behind me. Every now and then the familiar bunch of poplars served as a break from the sage-covered hills. Before I knew it, a few hours had passed since I left the concrete behind. I ended my day by setting up camp next to Midas Hot Spring, a coffee-colored water hole and its abundant population of mosquitoes. As the sun laid down to rest, I too laid down for the night. One star appeared, then two, then three, that lovely melody beginning all over again.
A collection of houses and poplars marked the sign of population. The rising sun welcomed me as I rolled into Tuscarora. The old mining girl, with her 12 permanent residents, marked the only sign of life I had seen for close to 100 miles. The town’s bulletin board in front of the post office described Tuscarora in one line: “Reward to whoever catches the coyote.” Only in Nevada, I thought to myself, smiling in amusement. I looked at the mountains floating in the distance. The day had just begun.
In only a few hours, I reached the foot of Bull Run Basin, followed by 8,000-foot Maggie Summit. I dropped down to Marker 151 in Owyhee then northeast into the wild lands of the Bruneau River watershed. The river, if it can be called such, is one of the few in Nevada that flow to the Pacific Ocean. Delightful and drinkable, the Bruneau was every bit as pristine as I could imagine. I thought it right to set up camp here; as the day crept to an end, I watched the kaleidoscope-like patterns reflect off the water. Without a care in the world, I was truly alone, sitting down to listen again to the symphonies whose melodies had become so familiar.
Silver crept north, then east to Nevada’s most isolated town—tiny Jarbidge. It was here that two of Nevada’s most remote historical markers lie: 69 and 153 in the middle of town.
Sue at the gift shop greeted me and gave me a tour of historic Jarbidge Community Hall. Perhaps it was the town’s way of remembering its days gone past, or maybe it was something more, something hidden and intangible that will forever remain ingrained in my mind. I decided to stay the rest of the day, hiking up the confines of Pine Creek and the West Fork of Jarbidge River.
The odometer reads 95,102. Silver had touched pavement for the first time in four days. As I rolled down that gray interstate headed for home, that familiar play of tones that had been my companions the past four days suddenly orchestrated one last and final piece. I had done what I set out to do and rolled out of Elko County right at its finale. I could not help but think about that old-timer in Golconda, or Sue and her hospitality in Jarbidge. We’re Nevadans.
WORTH A CLICK