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Eleven Days In the Desert

Fang Ridge wild horses

I had just finished jockeying my truck around, and using the rear air bags to get the camper level when six wild horses appeared from behind a small bluff.  They were obviously heading to the water hole, but when they saw my truck they became very curious.  They checked me out for a bit as I was taking pictures through the window, but I needed to get out for a clear picture.  When I got out and they saw a human figure, they took off.  They were beautiful healthy looking horses and I felt a bit guilty about keeping them from a drink.

Fang Ridge with Hallmark pop-up camper

I try not to camp too close to water holes.  Maybe I’ll camp a little further away next time.  The following morning I headed back to the highway and spotted the horses again about two miles away still giving me a wide birth.

I stopped in Tonopah to get gas.  Then I headed north up, “Big Smokey Valley” on Highway 376 and, just before Highway 50, I took a dirt road headed southeast.  About twenty miles later, I turned onto a two track trail.  It was time to fold in the mirrors and prepare for more paint scratches as I tried to find the abandoned Indian Blue Turquoise Mine.

I knew from research that the mine was shown to a man in 1925 by his Indian servant.  I thought I’d poke around in the mine tailings for some turquoise scraps.  After a few miles of steep, narrow, and rough trail, I finally came to the mine.  I parked next to an old shack and headed up to the diggings.


As I approached the mine itself, I saw a really new looking Location Monument.  The monument had a container attached to it that held claim papers.  It turns out that, just last year, a new claim had been made on the mine.

When I left the mine it was mid-afternoon and time to scout out a campsite.  I headed south down Monitor Valley with the National Forest off to my right.  Looking at canyons and the map, I went up a trail that followed a creek called Stoneberger.  After couple of miles, I came to a creek crossing about twenty-five yards across.  I thought long and hard about the ramifications of getting stuck, but crossed my fingers and went for it.  Just on the other side was a beautiful place to camp.  No guts, no glory!

The next morning, after giving the truck another bath, I went to the geographic center of Nevada which happened to be close by.  After paying my respects to Nevada’s belly button, I went to the Town of Austin for supplies, then on to Buffalo Canyon off Highway 722.  This remote spot is a place where you can find common Opal.

After turning off the highway and then turning off the dirt road onto a trail, I spotted a man by a car.  This was the first human I had run into in the outback.  He looked friendly.  I didn’t see a lot of tattoos or anything, so I waved.  He waved back and we ended up talking for half an hour.  It turns out he’s a gold miner and he was here with an excavator doing some prep work for his partners on the mine.  He told me where I could find the opal and off I went rock hounding.  After collecting a pail of opal I said my good-byes to Dave the gold miner, and headed to Fallon for the night and a hot shower.


The next day I backtracked to the east on Highway 50 to Highway 361 and headed towards Gabbs.  Just north of Gabbs, I headed west into the mountains where my rock hounding book said I could find Fluorite in the tailings of the Kaiser mine.  This was a large mining operation at one time.  All the wooden structures where no longer standing and there were deep mine shafts everywhere.  A lot of old mines shafts are surrounded with short barbed wire fences for safety, but you still need to be on your toes.

I was exploring some old foundation work when I heard a strange noise.  When I spotted the source, all I saw was a tail with rattle attached going into the bushes.  After gathering my wits, I gave the rattler a wide birth.  This was my first encounter with a rattlesnake in my many visits to the desert and I told myself to be more alert.

I did collect some Fluorite and then went a short distance to Broken Hills, another mining area.  At the old mines I saw many new claim markers.  I guess with gold at over $1,500 an ounce, many old gold producing areas are getting a second look.  I found some Opalized Petrified Wood in this area and did some target shooting too.

That night I camped in Desatoya Mountains Wilderness Study Area.  The place is very beautiful with huge vistas devoid of any clue of modern life.  It could have been 1811.

In the morning, I headed for Middle Gate to try and find leaf fossils.  After much digging and finding nothing, I walked around the area and found a spot where I could pick the fossils up of the ground.  This is way more fun than digging.  I found so many fossils I stashed some in the bushes.

Great Basin Gopher Snake, Nevada

By mid-day, it was time to head to Green Mountain near Fallon.  On the road to the highway, I spotted a big beautiful Gopher Snake.  This would be my last campsite before heading home.  The rocks here are called Wonder Stone.

Nevada Highway Sign low aircraft

After loading up on rocks and making camp, I was treated to a lot of F-18 fighters flying out of Fallon Naval Air Station.  I had my only camping neighbor here, other than the campground.  They were about a mile away.  Man, I hate being crowded.

Green Mountain, Nevada

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