Lake Tahoe to Ely

Posted by | Filed under 2007 Road trip, Nevada | Jun 12, 2015 | Comments Off on Lake Tahoe to Ely

 August 30, 2007

What a day, rain, gray skies, creepiest place on earth, awesome sunlight, moonlight dinner. What else can anyone ask for? I could have done without the creepy place, more about that in a bit.

For now, I am going to skip my journey from Bellingham to San Francisco. It will follow, but I have to get today on paper before I forget all those different emotions I went through today.

I left Lake Tahoe mid morning heading east on highway 50, supposedly the loneliest highway in the US. The day started out gray, the light was flat

Highway 50 sign in General store

Highway 50 sign in General store

and it was just a question of time before it would rain. Carson City and the few towns to the east of it were sprinkled with casinos, we are in Nevada. Traffic was light and I didn’t have to scream at anyone J. Once I past Fallon the highway turned into a very lonely place, hardly any cars in either direction. And I thought hwy 26 in Oregon was empty. The mountains to the left and right of the highway were impressive. Some were more hills than mountains others had great peaks and the color changed constantly. Some were green covered with little bushes, others were rugged sandstone (?), red rock or even green rock. I don’t know if the green was the actual rock or if it came from the same plant that made the truck look like Kermit. I had cleaned the truck before I left Lake Tahoe and now it had this awful green grime all over it. The color of the sagebrush changed as well. Most if the time it looked dried out, gray green. In some places it was in full bloom with bright yellow blossoms, amazing contrasts. I would have taking pictures, but there was absolutely no light, just gray and flat. It was raining on and off, but the light could not break

Sand Mountain

Sand Mountain

through the clouds. I past through salt flats and wide open spaces only to be stopped by the distant mountains. Than there was this huge sand dune, called Sand Mountain. Looked completely out of place. I was a little frustrated that I could not get any good photos of this area. It was a beautiful place in the rain; I can’t even imagine what it must look like with a little sunlight.

I hadn’t past a town in a really long time, all the places on the map turned out to be tiny gatherings of trailers off the highway in the distance. The only larger place between Fallon and Ely, my destination, was Eureka. They even had an opera house. I am jumping ahead.

Eureka Opera House

Eureka Opera House

On the map I had seen a couple of ghost towns about 20 miles south of highway 50. I had never seen a real ghost town and thought it might be fun to check it out. I turned south on hwy 361, past the Middlegate Station, a weird salon & motel. This used to be the route for the Pony Express. There was nothing and nobody for miles, it was just me and the sagebrush. I misread a sign for the ghost town (Quartz Mountain), instead of turning left and continue for 5 miles, I went straight for another 5 miles. Couldn’t really see anything, according to the map it had to be off to the left. I did see a dirt road and some structure in the distance. I turned onto the dirt road and that’s when it started to get creepy. The road was bumpy and there was nothing but open space with sagebrush. The kind of place

Middlegate Station, highway 50 and route 361.

Middlegate Station, highway 50 and route 361.

where you expect someone to jump out from behind a bush with a rifle, like in the movies. So my mind is going a little overboard, I get this strange feeling and wished I wouldn’t be there. But I couldn’t turn around, not because the road was to narrow, but because I had to see what was at the end. I was pulled by an imaginary force. I did have a little reason to feel creepy. Early on there were the remains of an old car, couldn’t make out the model. As I went on I saw another one. This is the perfect place to lose something or someone. Nobody would ever find you for a million years. At the end of the road was an old mining shaft going straight into the ground, and some kind of wooden tower like structure. I had to get out of the truck to take pictures. Why am I doing this? There was not a sound to be heard, neither from humans nor from animals, just a little wind. There was a cross on the side of the road with “H & M” written on it and down the embankment was another old car, all rust, and it had bullet holes.

Cross and wrecked car at Quartz Mountain Ghost town.

Cross and wrecked car at Quartz Mountain Ghost town.

Your mind can go off in all sorts of strange directions from here. I guess the car served as target practice, I hope. Now that I was all creeped out I had to get back to the main road, which was 3 miles away. Neither of the cars looked like recent models, one of them had door handles like cars had back in the 50s and 60s. I so wanted to call someone just to hear a friendly voice, but I had no cell reception for the next 60 miles and than only for a short time. I was glad when I

The Shoe Tree.  A cottonwood tree covered in shoes.

The Shoe Tree. A cottonwood tree covered in shoes.

was back on hwy 50. Ely was still hours away. The next “big” town was Austin. At least it had a gas station and even a library. There were only very few gas station along this stretch of highway. I was glad I had a full tank when I left Tahoe. Once on the other side of the mountains from Austin the sun made an appearance and not one minute too soon. It was sunset time and the light was incredible. The mountains got an intense red color and the green of bushes was a

wonderful contrast. I pulled over several times to take pictures. If I had done this all day long I would have gotten stuck in the desert over night, no thanks. Now it was time to hurry up and get to the campsite. I have gotten used to setting up tent in the dark, but I still don’t like to drive at night. Especially not when I am in an area without anyone around. The sun starts to set at around 7 PM, by 7:45 PM it is totally dark. It had started to sprinkle again when I arrived in Ely. I contemplated staying in a motel/hotel. There were several along the main drag. Many of them were casino/hotels. I stopped at one and walked in, the cigarette smell was not pleasant. I forgot, there are still places where smoking is permitted. I walked out and decided to camp. The rain had stopped. I pulled into a gas station to fill up and also to wash some of that grime off the truck before I put up the tent.

Highway 50 looking east from Pancake Summit, White Pine Nuts Mountains in the background.

Highway 50 looking east from Pancake Summit, White Pine Nuts Mountains in the background.

I safely arrived at the KOA three miles down the road. When I finished setting up tent, the moon had come up over the trees. It was very bright, on the decline, but still almost full. It was so bright that I didn’t need a flash light during dinner. What an incredible day! When was the last time you had dinner by moonlight?

I hope I can go to sleep now and not that my mind plays any tricks on me.

Good night.

P.S. I had no nightmares. Only woke up at 5AM because some stupid person was leaving the campsite with the car radio turned up loud.

Have a good Labor Day weekend. To all New Yorkers, this is your last chance to check out Coney Island with Astroland before it all gets torn down.

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