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Thread: COWBOY COUNTRY - an Epic Off Road Adventure Across Northeastern Nevada

  1. #1
    Administrator wayoflife's Avatar
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    Oct 2011
    Carson City, NV

    COWBOY COUNTRY - an Epic Off Road Adventure Across Northeastern Nevada

    Because of what they do for a living, summer was coming to an end for our good friends Tony and Steph but before they headed back to work, they were hoping to get in at least one more trip under the belt. After talking to Cindy and I about it, we decided that maybe we could wrap up their summer with an epic trek across Northeastern Nevada - a part of the state known as, "cowboy country". Along the way, we would traverse remote routes, do a little rock hounding, go for a hike, visit old ghost towns and of course, patronize old saloons and imbibe in their libations. Below are some highlights of all the fun we had and we hope you enjoy them.

    If there was ever any doubt, it's definitely monsoon season here in Norther Nevada. Of course, as we headed to our rendezvous point in Winnemucca, the sky made sure to remind us of that fact.

    Of course, there is something amazing and beautiful about tumultuous rain storms in the desert.

    Thunder Mountain
    Fortunately, a brief respite in the storm allowed us to pay a visit to Thunder Mountain Park.

    As the story goes, a guy by the name of Frank van Zant, an ex-apprentice Methodist minister and private eye who considered himself to be a Creek Indian, drove 130 miles from Reno to this very location and started construction of Thunder Mountain. Apparently, he was told by an old medicine woman that "in the final days, there shall rise up a place called Thunder Mountain" and that only those who lived there would survive the apocalypse.

    Of course, Mr. Zant's oldest son would tell you that his truck simply broke down at this very spot and he just never left. After changing his name to Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder, he began pouring concrete over an old travel trailer and started living in it. That was in 1968.

    Using whatever he could find at a local junkyard, Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder spent the next 20 years building this awesome and in someways frightening compound.

    Inspired by Tom Kelly's Bottle House in Rhyolite, NV, Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder used windshields from old cars to make windows and glass bottles to allow an array of colored light to filter through the walls.

    Surrounding the compound are a host of sculptures of Indians and naked people and for the longest time, the heads of plastic baby dolls were placed on the ends of dead tree branches.

    Built entirely out of scrap iron, car parts and junk of every nature is a wall that encompasses Thunder Mountain and one that would make Mad Max proud.

    On the north end of the compound was a building known as "the Hostel House". Essentially, an impressive hippie hangout and one that unfortunately burned down. Here's a shot from the entrance looking in.

    Here's what's written in the concrete at its threshold.

    In spite of being honored as "1983 Artist of the Year" by the state of Nevada, Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder put a bullet in his head in 1989.

    On that note, we left Thunder Mountain and met up with Tony and Steph and as you can probably guess, had a drink or two or maybe even three or so - CHEERS!

  2. #2
    Administrator wayoflife's Avatar
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    Oct 2011
    Carson City, NV
    COWBOY COUNTRY : Day 1 - Winnemucca to Jarbidge
    Our first day trekking across Northern Nevada's cowboy country would start in the town Winnemucca and at one of our favorite breakfast stops, The Griddle.

    After driving along the old Midas-Tuscarora stage route, we made our first stop near the old ghost town of Midas and to do some rock hounding.

    What we were looking for takes some work and a bit of force.

    If you're lucky, you're rewarded with this - a geode.

    After spending a couple of hours cracking open rocks, we packed up our tools and headed up into the town of Midas.

    Gold ore was discovered in Midas back in July of 1907 and by November, a post office had opened up and an extension was made to it along the Elko-Tuscarora stage line. By 1908, the town had several saloons, stores, restaurants, 5 hotels, feeding stables and even real estate offices. At its peak, there were as many as 1,100 people living in Midas but the lack of a mill caused many of the miners to leave and by the end of the year, the population had dwindled down to about 250 people. While several mills were eventually established, the population never recovered. Production of gold ended in 1941 but amazingly, people chose to stay and a number of them still live here to this very day.

    Our hope was to pay a visit to the old Midas Saloon.

    Unfortunately, the sign on the door said they would be back on Wednesday or Thursday. Such is the way of old ghost town saloons - at least we tried.

    Back on the stage route, we continued our way east.

    Taking a moment to cool our tires along the shores of the Willow Creek Reservoir, a body of water created by the construction of the dam bearing its name a way back in 1884.

    On the move again, we continued our trek east and to our next destination of the day.

    And here we are, the old ghost town of Tuscarora.

    Even though Tuscarora is a ghost town, there are a number of people who still call this place home and there's even a world famous pottery school here. That being said, you'd never know it. While we could feel people looking at us - we never saw a soul.

    Nevada became a state during the Civil War and did so to help support the Union. It is the reason why our flag and state color are blue and why so many icons of the state and towns were named after Union generals and warships like the Tuscarora. While gold was discovered here in 1867, most of it was mined by Chinese workers who originally came to help build railroad. In fact, during those early years, a vast majority of Tuscarora's population was made up of Chinese and its Chinatown was known to be the 2nd largest east of San Francisco. It wouldn't be until 1871 that the town would really started to take off after a rich vein of silver was discovered on the east side of Mount Blitzen. At its peak, there were over 3,000 people living in Tuscarora and more than half or which was on the payroll of the mines.

    The old Masonic Lodge was recently restored and very nicely I might add and it now serves as a museum.

    Heading up the hill to explore some of the mining ruins.

    Although not a large as the Union Mill that was built in 1883, the Independence Mill was one of many that helped produce over $40 million of ore from the mines of Tuscarora and its smoke stack is still precariously standing today.

    After our visit to Tuscarora, we continued east out to Highway 226 and made a stop over at the Taylor Canyon Club for some refreshments.

    Taylor Canyon
    Ahhh, now we're talking!

    Here's a shot of Tom, the 79 years young owner of the Taylor Canyon Club killing us with great stories and explaining to us that there are in fact people in Tuscarora - they were just all looking at us through the curtains and waiting for us to leave. I so look forward to coming out here again if only to talk to Tom more.

    It was hard for to say goodbye to Tom but we still had a lot of ground to cover. Here we are on the move again and making our way up into the Independence Mountains.

    Coming down the Independence Mountains and looking at the Rough Hills in the distance.

    Climbing our way up the Copper Mountains.

    Posing for a couple of shots with the breathtaking Copper Basin behind us.

    Working our way around the Copper Basin.

    View looking back.

    Final steep descent before reaching the Jarbidge River.

    Welcome to Jarbidge!

    With about 20 full-time residents and as many as 50 or so part-timers during the summer, Jarbidge is not a ghost town but rather, the most remote and isolated town in the lower 48.

    The Outdoor Inn - our home for the night.

    Imagine that, they have a saloon here.


    So, What the hell is a Jarbidge you might ask? Well, if you wander the canyon alone at night, you just might find out. The word itself is a bastardized version of 'Jahabich' which itself was a simplified version of Tsawhawbitts (pronounced “tuh-saw-haw-bits”), the name of the Shoshone man-eating giant who lives in the canyon. As the legend goes, Tsawhawbitts prowls the canyon at night snatching men, women and children, throwing them into a basket and then devouring them in his cave. Believe it or not, Shoshone's still avoid this canyon to this very day for fear of this beast.

    Before calling it a night, mother nature put on one hell of a fireworks display and the booming of the thunder as it rolled through the canyon could have easily been the roar of Tsawhawbitts as he dined on yet another helpless victim.

  3. #3
    Administrator wayoflife's Avatar
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    Oct 2011
    Carson City, NV
    COWBOY COUNTRY : Day 2 - Jarbidge to Elko
    I have little doubt that we would of had a good night sleep at the Outdoor in but mother nature decided to party all night with her pyrotechnic light show complete with THX surround sound set to 11. By morning, a light rain was still falling but it looked like we were going to have a beautiful day ahead of us.

    From the time gold was first discovered back in 1909 by David Bourne and the Elkoro Mining Company finally shut down in the 1930's, over $10 million in gold would have been produced in Jarbidge. At that time, this was the largest producing gold mine in the State of Nevada. Here's a shot of the original Jarbidge Community Hall that was built soon after the rush was on back in 1910.

    In addition to being the home of the Tsawhawbitts and the most remote and isolated town in the lower 48, Jarbidge is also famous for being the location of the last stagecoach robbery in the United States which occurred on December 5, 1916. During the robbery, stagecoach driver Fred Searcy was shot in the head and $4,000 in gold coins headed for Jarbidge was stolen.

    A local miner and town drunk Ben Kuhl along with two of his friends, Ed Beck and William McGraw were eventually caught and convicted of the murder using an envelope with a bloody hand print that was found at the scene of the crime. This was the first time in history that forensic evidence was successfully used to convict someone for homicide. This is the jail that held Ben and his friends.

    I should note that the stolen $4,000 in gold coins was never found.

    It it weren't for the 1,000+ volunteers who made up the Jarbidge Shovel Brigade, access to Jarbidge through South Canyon Road would not be possible. After heavy snow melt back in 1995 washed out a part of the road, the U.S. Forest Service decided to block it tons of debris and a huge boulder to close it permanently. Barred from using any mechanized equipment to clear the road as it would endanger the bull trout and be a violation of the Clean Water Act, the Shovel Brigade cleared the 900 feet of debris and the 10,000 lb. rock all by hand. This is a memorial that was erected in their honor.

    Thank goodness they have gas! After a great breakfast, we topped off our empty tanks and got ready to hit the trail again.

    Fun project at the gas station just itchin to be worked on.

    Time to head on out - goodbye Jarbidge.

    The long drive out of the canyon is nothing short of amazing.

    Officially out of the Canyon and up in Idaho.

    It's crazy just how drastically the landscape changes from Nevada to Idaho. Literally, all the rugged mountains and valleys disappear into soft rolling hills and grassy plains.

    Getting ready to cross the Salmon Falls Dam which was built in 1910 and oh man, does it ever look like it. With crumbing walls and leaks around the edges, it's any wonder how this thing is still standing.

    Just before the Nevada border and right off the highway, there's an old geode collecting site that we stopped and tried our luck in finding a few worthy specimens. Being so accessible, the area is pretty picked over and you can see the remains of thousands upon thousands of cracked open and discarded nodules. But, if you look hard enough, you can still find a few embedded in the volcanic ash.

    With a little effort, you can encourage the nodules out and crack them open.

    If you're lucky, you'll find something like this inside or better.

    But, more times than not, you get a dud.

    Back on pavement, we worked our way south along the East Humboldt Range and then up Secret Valley along the base of the Ruby Mountains.

    MOOOOoooVE! One of many traffic jams we've come across on this trip.

    Pulling into the charming town of Lamoille and to check out the famous, Little Church of the Crossroads. This is one of the most photographed churches in America.

    After settling in the area back in 1865, Thomas Waterman named this valley Lamoille after a similar valley back in his home state of Vermont. By 1868, Lamoille was known as "The Crossroads" and it provided food and supplies for emigrants making their way west on the California Trail. Of course, we were here to enjoy some libations at O'Carroll's


    Lamoille Canyon
    After our relaxing stop at O'Carroll's, we made our way up the Ruby Mountains and deep into the glacier carved Lamoille Canyon.

    Pulling over to get a better look of the awesome view.

    Almost to the end of the canyon and our next destination of the day - a hike up to Lamoille Lake.

    The wildflowers were just exploding with color and all around us.

    Tessa saying "come on you guys - this way!"

    Looking back at where we came from.

    A look at the first of the two Dollar Lakes.

    Here's a shot of the second of the two Dollar Lakes.

    Just as the sun started to set behind the peaks, we made it to snow covered shores of Lamoille Lake.

    Views from our hike back down.

    After a great day hoofing it up in the Ruby's, it's time for one of our favorite Norther Nevada drinks, a Picon Punch - CHEERS!

  4. #4
    Administrator wayoflife's Avatar
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    Oct 2011
    Carson City, NV
    COWBOY COUNTRY : Day 3 - Elko to Tonopah
    Our 3rd day out in cowboy country would be one that started on the southwest end of Elko and on an old trail known as the historic Hamilton Stage Route.

    Unfortunately, road construction forced us to make a detour but all was good being that we could still hook up onto the old Hastings Cutoff of the California Emigrant Trail.

    It didn't take long for us to arrive at our first destination of the day, the Jiggs Bar.

    For years, Jiggs had been known as Mound Valley, Skelton and Hylton all at the same time which was confusing and something the U.S. Postal Service wanted to fix before establishing a new post office back in December 18, 1918. To do this, they had local ranchers submit names and one of which was Jiggs, a character in the then popular comic strip "Bringing up Father". Today, the town has an official population of 1 and the Jiggs bar is the only business in town.

    Being that we got here as early as we did, we weren't sure if they'd be open but as luck would have it, they were - they just didn't have any power and so they just looked closed. Fortunately, Debbie was kind enough to open the door and invite us in.

    If there is one thing that the Jiggs bar is famous for, it's the authentic 2-headed cow head hanging above the door. As Debbie and she'll even show you a photo of it soon after it was cut in pieces and removed from its mom.

    Who knew there were porcupines in Nevada! Even more rare, this one that was caught and placed in a glass case was an albino.

    To good times with good friends - CHEERS!

    Before leaving town, we decided to stop over at the old school house.

    Unfortunately, you can't really see them but inside the school were 2 horses attending class.

    Located on the Hastings Cutoff, there was a T-marker here as well.

    Heading south down the Huntington Valley.

    Another T-marker along the way reminding us of those who came before us.

    Pushing further to the south.

    The Pony Express - Central Overland Trail
    Where the Huntington Valley meets the Newark Valley, there's a point called Jacobs Well. It is here that the Hastings Cutoff makes it turn along the south end of the Ruby Mountains and heads north and the Pony Express and Central Overland Trail continues to the west. It is here that there once stood a Pony Express Station.

    A T-maker can be found here as well as a nice display talking about the site.

    Hard to believe that someone actually put this thing way out in the middle of nowhere for people like us to see.

    Excavation had been done here years ago and it did reveal foundations and a host of other artifacts but little if anything can be found here now.

    On the move again, we headed west toward a canyon bearing the name of the device that ultimately made the Pony Express obsolete - Telegraph Canyon.

    Home on the range! The trail at this point has been so seldom used, following it proved to be a challenge.

    As we were making our way across the prairie, a band of wild horses galloped to see what we were up to.

    Continuing our way up.

    The last bit to the top took some effort and I can't even imagine how early emigrants did it pulling a wagon.

    At the top of Overland Pass!

    In this passage from Mary Warner's journal, she actually writes about the difficult climb to the top of this pass back in June 16, 1864.

    From the top of Overland Pass looking down into the Diamond Valley.

    What I love about Nevada! While there are gates, most are just there to keep the cows where they belong and instead of "No Trespassing" signs, you typically find ones that ask you to close the gate behind you.

    After a rough, rocky and brushy ride down the pass, we made it to bottom of Diamond Valley. Here you can find another T-marker talking about the difficult trek up and over the Overland Pass.

    A couple hundred yards from the T-marker is a monument that was built for the Diamond Springs Overland Station.

    To get out of the heat and find a shady spot for lunch, we worked our way up into the Diamond Mountains and made a stop over at the old Silver Bell Mine.

    While some prospecting had been done here back in the 1890's and even a few small shipments of ore were made at the time, a serious effort to mine the area wasn't started until 1937. Among the ruins here, you can still see the foundation of an old charcoal kiln.

    Remains of an old cabin.

    Crumbling cabin at the top of the ridge next to the mine entrance.

    View looking down the canyon and out to the Diamond Valley.

    Entrance to the mine and a warning sign to stay out and stay alive.

    View from the inside looking out.

    After making our way to Eureka and gassing up there, we continued our trek south across the Little Smokey Valley and up through the Pancake Range.

    Dropping into the vast Duckwater Valley.

    Big Warm Springs
    Down at the Duckwater Indian Reservation, we made a stop to cool our feet in the the gorgeous blue waters of Big Warm Springs. Home of the Railroad Valley Springfish.

    Thanks to a pact made between the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe and the USFWS back in 2003, efforts were made to restore this spring and revitalize the habitat for the endangered Railroad Valley Spring fish and as of 2007, it now looks like this.

    On pavement again or for a bit anyway, we made our way down into the Railroad Valley.

    Back on the trail, we worked our way though the brush to get to our final destination of the day.

    A few ruts had to be crossed as well.

    Like a superhighway.

    Pushing our daylight to the limit.

    Meteorite Crater
    Unfortunately, we couldn't beat the shadow of the mountains but we did make it out to the Meteorite Crater before dark.

    Approximately 225 feet in diameter and about 10 to 15 feet deep, the Meteorite Crater has all the signs of having been created from a meteor impact only, there has never been any meteoritic evidence to support it the theory.

    Of course, there is no evidence that indicate the depression was created by erosion, volcanic or seismic activity or through any natural forces. In fact, the edges of the crater suggests that it's very old and sediment from a nearby canyon run off has collected for years at the bottom of it.

    Back in the 1920's, the Irwin brothers, ranchers who live in Duckwater attempted to dig through the sediment with the hopes of finding meteoritic material discovered it was at least 25 feet deep.

    Back in August 5, 1936, the Tonopah Daily Times Bonanzo published an article written by Mr. C. C. Boak, a veteran amateur mineralogist and professional mining engineer. In it, he talks about Mr. Ralph Irwin of Duckwater of who, after countless attempts to get him to give this crater a look, he finally relented. Although he was skeptical, he did come to the same conclusion that the crater was most likely the result of a meteor impact. Mr. Irwin also told him of a legend that he was once told by a very old Indian who came from a tribe that once inhabited the area. The Indian said "his ancestors saw a great ball of fire come rushing from the sky with a loud roar and a light that was blinding. As it struck the Earth, the ground shook and trembled, and for many nights the valley was alight. For a long time afterward the Indians dared not approach the spot where the ball of fire had fallen, lest the 'Fire Spirit' be angered and wreak his wrath upon them." For Mr. Irwin, this crater was created from that ball of fire.

    With our daylight all but gone, we made a final push to Tonopah, our last home away from home. CHEERS!

    It really is a shame that all good things must come to an end but Cindy and I were glad that we could share in Tony and Steph's final hoorah for the summer of 2017. Without a doubt, it was a hell of a trip and we hope that you enjoyed following us on our epic 800 mile off road adventure across Northern Nevada's cowboy country.

  5. #5
    Knows a Thing or Two Battle Born JK's Avatar
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    Nov 2016
    Silver springs NV
    Wow one hell of a trip great pictures looks like a great time

  6. #6
    Old Timer benatc1's Avatar
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    Nov 2015
    Reno, NV
    Pretty cool trip, seems like you guys covered a lot of ground and man what scenery and as always tons of history! Thanks for sharing!

    Sent from my iPhone using WAYALIFE mobile app

  7. #7
    Old Timer TrainWreck618's Avatar
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    Oct 2015
    East of St. Louis
    What a cool trip! I really enjoyed the stories, thanks for sharing.

    Sent from my iPhone using WAYALIFE mobile app

  8. #8
    Advertiser Discount Tire's Avatar
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    Feb 2013
    Thank you for taking us along for the ride on this incredible history tour. Your outstanding photos along with the captions make me feel like I was with you in the passenger seat. I'm going to have to go back and re read this again so I can soak it all in.

    This reminds me of the air mail marker sory you did. That was my favorite to date but this will rival it.

    We are fortunate in Arizona to have a ton of old mines and history as well. Fortunately I have been to much out it many years ago as for some reason the BLM has wiped out many of our historic ghost towns.
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  9. #9
    Old Timer HighwayTrout's Avatar
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    Dec 2013
    Excellent trip recount! Thanks for taking us along so to speak.
    en hopup veritas

  10. #10
    Nothing but a Thing Overland_stormtrooper's Avatar
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    Aug 2016
    Tyler Texas
    nice trip always enjoy the good bit of history you toss into it ..

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“wayoflife” is a moniker that I’ve been using for 20 years now and I chose it because I think it does a great job of explaining, in simple terms, the passion I have for Jeeps and the Jeep way of life. This is a lifestyle that transcends age, gender and race as the only thing you need to be a part of it is a love for the outdoors, a desire to explore, a yearning to take on a challenge and a will to conquer it. Over the years, Cindy and I have attempted to capture the essence of this lifestyle through photographs and videos and share it with others around the world. And, this is how WAYALIFE was born.
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