We’re in Nevada! We finally left Utah (we’re 5 miles over the border in Baker, NV), and all that climbing of Utah’s mountains, behind. Now we get to climb in Nevada – everyday! Usually several times a day as we roll over mountain passes and cross broad desert basins. This will be exhausting! There are 314 mountain ranges in Nevada, making it the most mountainous state in the union. It’s also one of the driest. I think we’re crossing each one! It’s known as Range and Basin since a lot of the few streams that exist don’t actually ever reach the ocean – they’re trapped and either used for irrigation entirely, or simply dry up before they can even be used – hence the Basin.
I was really looking forward to Nevada. I’ve never been in this state before – no, never even been to Las Vegas, a city everyone else here seems to despise because they hog all the water. Towns are far and few between. From Milford, our starting point today, to Baker, NV, the next town with lodging, was 82 miles. In between were three mountain ranges to climb with desert valleys in between. This seems to be the topography of western Utah and Nevada – north/south running mountain ranges with broad desert valleys separating them. Those valleys with “rivers” (streams or creeks by eastern standards) have some green from irrigation farming. Those without water are deserted. Alfalfa is now quite common where things can grow, but where we went today, not much can grow. The first valley we entered, the Wah Wah Valley, had a single ranch.
There are a lot of abandoned mines around here. Just as John Straub had pointed out in Telluride, prospectors were swarming all over here in the 19th century, and in some cases, even to the present (hence the mining camp that saved our thirsty butts on the way to Hite on Day 48). It’s amazing to think about the “Old West” adventurers that roamed around here one to two centuries ago. How did they survive without water? Maybe many did not! The Pony Express even ran across Nevada, more or less along current day Hwy 50, which we will be using in a few days, dubbed “The Loneliest Highway in America”.
Just north of Frisco Summit is the ruins of an old mining town, known as Frisco, which existed due to the Horn Silver Mine, at one time the most productive silver mine in the world. The town maxed out at 4,000 residents, and was the most lawless town in the country. All gone now.
The next valley was completely desolate! However, at the bottom of the valley was an abandoned cottage, surrounded by cow dung and broken down corrals, and two tall trees. The owner of this land has a hose he keeps continuously running, apparently for bikers passing through. We met someone the previous day in Minersville, UT who had told us about this hose. It’s almost exactly halfway between Milford UT and Baker, NV, the 83 mile stretch with no services. Fortunately, Julie also was waiting of us there with cold water, otherwise we would have used the hose to refill our bottles.
There were also tons of goat heads around! Tires beware! These things are nasty.
After70 miles, we finally saw green again as we came into the Snake Valley just before Garrison UT.
One really has to cast-off any self-significance to appreciate the grandeur of what we are seeing – you really need to understand you are insignificant. The mixture of humility and exhilaration you feel when you stare at such magnificence that you couldn’t possibly create yourself is very humbling. The basic kindness and generosity of strangers who just want to make sure you are OK has also been surprising and overwhelming (except for that mailman in Missouri! – Day 26). Maybe the biggest obstacle we humans face is ego, and the consequences ego forces on your behavior. No one is immune.