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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Photo Essay: The Scenic Route, Nevada Edition

I got really ambitious with this last road trip, which meant I had to make some changes to the way I normally travel.



This time, I left my car at home and hopped on an Alaska Airlines flight...



...that landed just an hour and a half later at Mammoth Lakes, which would've easily been a five-hour drive.



From there, though I landed with less than an hour's worth of daylight to spare, I hopped into a rental car and drove a couple of hours to Tonopah. There, I checked into the Mizpah Hotel (photo essay forthcoming) and checked out the stone headquarters of the Tonopah Liquor Company—which, fittingly, had one of the most interesting whiskey selections I've ever seen.



I only spent one night and a few hours during the day in Tonopah, using it merely as a stopover point, as I had more hours of driving ahead to get to Ely for the "main event" of my road trip (again, photo essay forthcoming). But that didn't mean I was going to rush along the way.



I most certainly made time to detour along the Back Country Byway, past outcroppings of desert mallow...



...to the centerpiece of a huge volcanic field in the Pancake Range, known as the Lunar Crater.



It was too dry in the season to have collected any water, as it occasionally does in its "crater lake" phase...



...and the wind was so strong, it nearly blew me into the extraplanetary depression.



So, I got to see it as the astronauts who were training to land on the moon did—as an approximation of a meteoric impact site, all 400 acres of it.



I almost didn't make the turnoff, deliberating whether I wanted to make the 16-mile drive to see something for just a few minutes...



...but then again, I knew that I may not pass this way again.



It had taken me this long to get to the Great Basin of Nevada, Nye County, and US-6—after having added it to my wishlist as far back as 2011, maybe earlier—and I was going to make my visit count.



Even in Ely, where I'd centered my travel plans (for the sake of a "traincation," which you'll understand once I post more about the Nevada Northern Railway Museum where I spent a couple of days and nights), I diverted my attention to the 1920s-era airport—one that I wasn't allowed to fly directly into on a commercial jet but was worth a side trip to regardless.



And in Ely, there was also the 1930s-era single-screen movie theatre, with its fantastic neon blade sign—but no time to linger and catch a movie there, because I had so much else I wanted to see.



And then, after spending one night in a caboose (more on that later), I started to feel under the weather—so much so that I canceled my plans to venture out to Great Basin National Park (on my bucket list) and refocused the rest of my trip on getting to the Vegas airport for my flight back to LA without keeling over behind the wheel.



I weighed my options carefully, and I plotted my route out on a map several times. GPS wanted me to take a more direct route to Vegas—along NV-318—but I decided to take the more scenic US-93.



I figured if I was going to have to drive four hours to Vegas, I might as well drive five or six and see a lot more along the way.



And despite the wind, my sneezing and sniffling, and alternately feeling parched and having to pee, I managed to squeeze a few tourist stops in—not the least of which were the Ward Charcoal Ovens.



Sure, I had to bypass the Ward Mining District. No time for that. But these ovens—or kilns, as it were—are far better preserved than the ones at Cottonwood by Owens Lake in California, which have been left more or less in ruins and look more like beehives than a feat of stonemasonry. 



Besides, though it was approaching summer back home in LA, June had only just begun to bust out in the high elevation hinterlands of Nevada...



...showing off its wildflowers that were both exotic and familiar...



...like the prickly poppy (Argemone pleicantha) that looks remarkably similar to the matilija or "fried egg" poppy (Romneya coulteri) that's so common in Southern California.



And there was the first time I'd actually seen any of the open-range cattle that so many road signs had been warning me about since I first departed Mammoth three days before.



Supposedly the area along this stretch of the US-93 is good for spotting elk, though I came up empty despite scanning both sides of the road as I drove.



With coughing fits and a runny nose nearly knocking me down for the count, I wasn't sure how much more I'd be able to see on the drive to Vegas. I wasn't even sure I would make it to Vegas.



But I had to try.



So, I turned off for a lunch stop and some impromptu industrial archaeology in Pioche...



...a vista point in Panaca...



...which gave me an eyeful of otherworldly landscape...



...though I could barely make it down the easy trail through Cathedral Gorge.



At least I got a quick look at the Mission Revival-style Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad depot in Caliente, though I was in no shape to get out of my car and check out the neighboring Boxcar Museum.



I'd also planned on taking a tangential trip off the US-93 and onto the NV-375—a.k.a. the "Extraterrestrial Highway"—but at that juncture, I threw in the towel.

At that point, I had to focus on my destination—the Las Vegas airport and its rental car return—rather than the journey.

I'd already seen a lot, and the aliens were going to have to wait for the next trip.

I don't think they're going anywhere. And I'm pretty sure I'll get to them... eventually.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Paying My Respects Along the Nevada Silver Trails
Photo Essay: Clown Motel, Gateway to the Haunted Miners' Cemetery
Photo Essay: Seeing the Forest from the Cars
Photo Essay: No Scene Twice Seen, Through Rivas Canyon