Tag Archives: mining

It has sheet metal because I do not.

Day 3, August 26th, Today became a big day where a lot happened.  A lot.  Stay with me, this is a long one, but a good read.

I had bedded down for the night next to the Shoofly Oolites in southern Idaho, because, well, what an awesome name!  These chunks of rocks are the limestone remnants of a giant fresh water lake that extended across the valley of what is now pretty much the bulk of Idaho about 11-13 million years ago.  The Oolites are bits of limestone formed from tiny sealife particles which settled on the lake bottom.

Shoofly Oolites of Idaho. Fun to say.
Shoofly Oolites of Idaho. Fun to say.

The rare chemical properties of these oolites support five endemic plant species and are pretty rad to look at up close.  Not too much time available to spend staring at such blocks of rock, I have to make up for all the progress I lost by being stuck in the middle of nowhere. I am hundreds of miles behind schedule and missed out on three desired stops yesterday.  No Leslie Gulch, and no ghost towns of Silver City, and DeLorme, ID in the Owyhee Mountains.  Nuts.

I stop at a hardware store and obtain a new water jug and fill it at a Shell Station while I grab some fuel.

I then drive down the long, flat, hot Three Creek Rd south of Bruneau, ID.  This road is an eternity in a long straight line.  I pass the captain obvious sign for the Saylor Creek Bombing Range I am about to traverse. Really? Things fall from planes on a bombing range?

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the road is lined by two things: beautiful little sunflowers, and Stupid Little Birds (SLBs) who like to jump out in front of my truck as if I am a preditor seeking their eggs.  Their goal is to draw me after them and away from their nests.  My goal is to drive a straight line.  Our goals collide.  Often.  My estimate is that one in 25 of these SLBs finds itself under my carriage.  It wouldn’t be an adventure in the desert if my modern technology wasn’t a tool of natural selection changing the evolutionary outcomes of the previous few million years one Stupid Little Bird at a time.

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Air Force A-10s were making bombing runs around me during my drive.  Ironically I passed a sign that read, “Only you can prevent wild fires,” while bombers dropped 25lb incendiaries on dry grass around me…

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The little dots are A-10s making bombing runs. They are faster than my ability to turn my camera into a phone and snap a worthwhile photo.
The little dots are A-10s making bombing runs. They are faster than my ability to turn my camera into a phone and snap a worthwhile photo.
Crews working on the powerlines above Fast Fork of the Jarbidge River before reaching Murphy Hot Springs.
Crews working on the powerlines above Fast Fork of the Jarbidge River before reaching Murphy Hot Springs.

After maybe 60 miles of such roads I finally begin to dip into the canyon where the “resort” town of Murphy Hot Springs, ID resides.  The spring was known to local tribes prior to the white man, but the first recorded owner of the spring was Kittie Wilkins who was a well educated woman from Walla Walla, WA.  She became world famous for her horse breeding and traded her horses around the planet.  She was widely regarded as the “Horse Queen of Idaho.  Kittie made a pool for the spring to fill out of rocks so that the ranch hands and locals could rest their weary bones.  The pool became known as “Kittie’s Hot Hole”.  I shit you not.  I found out about this after I passed through town, otherwise I would have taken a dip in Kittie’s Hot Hole just to say I did.

A glimpse up river as I cross the bridge in Murphy Hot Springs
A glimpse up river as I cross the bridge in Murphy Hot Springs

Today the town is rustic resort where locals gather to vacation in the summer.  The resort was built by a gentleman named Patrick Murphy who renamed Kittie’s Hot Hole to “Murphy Hot Springs” (boring).  I got word that the Mexican food there is to die for.  Should have stopped for a dip and a lunch… next time.

Looking down on Murphy
Looking down on Murphy

Since this is a trip of adventure and challenge I decided to climb the canyon opposite Murphy and head up the mountain.  I wanted to descend into the town of Jarbidge, quite possibly the most remote settlement in the lower 48, via a road that goes down the canyon wall right into town.  It is a road that is somewhat a legend for how steep, unkempt, and stupid it is to drive.  Jarbidge self promotes as the “Off Road Capitol of America” and this wisp of dirt is its king.  I passed several trucks with ATV trailers on my way to my wisp of a road.  I also went by my second powerline crew of the day working on the walls of the canyon.  They looked at me and my truck like I was either a stud or an idiot.  I prefer to think of myself as a little of both.

The road down started steep and narrow right off the bat, but the view was spectacular.

The canyon road above Jarbidge, NV
The beginnings of something beautiful

I descended slowly and in 4-low.  The rocks started small and crumbly but the road go steep in a hurry.  The only tracks I saw were from something tracked like a bulldozer.  I couldn’t understand why a bulldozer would go down such a route and not grade it.  Weird.  The boulders started to get huge and my truck was plodding at a crawl over them.  I got to a little flat spot tucked into the canyon wall where I came face to face with a dude on a bulldozer on the opposite side of downed power lines.  Ah, there he is.

The look on his face was one of surprise. “What are you doing?” He asked.

“I’m heading down into Jarbidge”

“This road is not really that kind of road.” He incredulously put to me while pushing his orange hard hat back on his head.

“I know, that’s why I’m doing it.”

“Well, it’s going to be three hours until they pull these lines up so you are either going to have to wait or go around.”

Fuck, I am pressed for time, go around it is.  “Guess I’m going back around. Nuts.”

“I am surprised you even made it down here.  It’s not much of a road, more a bunch of rocks.  Why didn’t anyone up there tell you we had downed lines down here?”

“Beats me.  They just looked at me like I was a fool.”

“Jeeze… Good luck backing back up!”

And that is where I met my big challenge, taking a quarter mile of cliff face backwards and in four wheel drive.  There is a lot of torque in reverse, let me tell you.  I made it a couple hundred yards back up the slope, it took a while because I had to keep getting out to see what the rocks looked like behind me.  Eventually I opted to just climb the rear end of the truck up the slope so that I was probably face down close to a 100% grade (45 degrees) and pivoted the nose of my truck and proceeded to do an Austin Powers multi-point turn around pirouette on the slopes of the canyon and get my truck facing forward.  It worked.  I’d rather see my impending doom coming than fall backwards off of it.

I made it to the top and passed the line crew again.  This time they were all smiling at me.  I wanted to shout, “The road didn’t defeat me, your stupid power lines did!” 45 minutes later I was back in Murphy and back on Three Creek Rd heading along the canyon into Jarbidge.

I got stuck behind another truck hauling ATVs and it was just blowing dust everywhere.  I hate being the one behind someone on a dirt road.  I don’t need to die of consumption because I had to drive behind someone.  I decided to pull over and throw a whiz and kill a little time staring at a map of the canyon.  Once I was sure I was clear of the dust machine I continued.  The road is only 15 miles long or so, but takes a while as the fastest you will travel is maybe 20 MPH, but most of the time you’ll be doing 10-15 MPH.  It is really winding.

Today Jarbidge is a town that is waiting.  It is always waiting. Waiting for someone, anyone, to come along and provide something interesting and new to do.  Every person enthusiastically waved at me with a gleam in their eye as if it is possible I could be their savior, or at the very least, their next round of entertainment

Jarbidge is a gold mining boom town through and through.  it was the site of the last gold rush of the Old West in 1909.  Exaggerations of gold discoveries brought thousands of prospectors that Winter and most had their fill by Spring of 1910.  These genius prospectors tried driving claimstakes into drifts of snow and discovered that digging for gold is darn near impossible when you have to make it through 18ft of snow first.  When gold was actually discovered after the snow melt (duh), the town swelled again to perhaps 2000 by 1911. Teddy Roosevelt had created the Humboldt National Forrest in 1908 and a ranger station was built near where Jarbidge is today.  A year later, upon news of the gold strike, President Taft exempted the Jarbidge Canyon from the national forest so that people could own land and settle there.

Shortly after the town boomed a second time it began it’s slow decline once again.  Mechanization and consolidation of the mining operations dwindled the population to just those required to do the job for the Elkoro Mining Company by 1918 when Guggenheim purchased most of the mining interests.

The only connection Jarbidge had to the outside world prior to The Elkoro was via stagecoach to Rogerson, ID.  This meant that Jarbidge was the site of the very last stagecoach robbery ever December 5th, 1916 by one Ben Kuhl.  The coach was supposed to arrive into town with over $4,000 in pay for the miners.  When the coach didn’t arrive on time everyone logically assumed the 4ft of snow which had fallen that day had delayed the arrival.  A search party was assembled to find the rig.  A phone call up the canyon to Rose Dexter informed the men that the coach had passed her home and she waved at, but driver Fred Searcy didn’t wave back but was bundled in his coat at the front of the coach.

The search party found the coach hidden behind a tree with a frozen, dead Searcy slumped in his seat with a close range bullet hole in his head complete with powder burns and singed hairs.  Next to the coach was a mail bag, but missing was a second bag with the $4,000.  The next day the group set out to follow a set of dog prints and foot prints in the snow that lead away from the crime scene.  A stray dog began following the group started pawing the snow along tracks to reveal the missing bag, minus the $4,000.  The dog’s paws matched the paw prints in the snow the group had been tracking.  The party concluded that the dog had been at the crime scene and that it was mostly attached to Kuhl, a convicted horse thief.  Regardless of who killed Searcy, the killer’s hands had been covered in the blood of the driver and then the same blood smeared the letters and envelopes leaving bloody palm and fingerprints behind.

The subsequent trial was the first time in US history fingerprints were admissible in court and two forensic scientists from California determined that the palm prints were an exact match to Kuhl resulting in his conviction and that of two associates.  Kuhl was sentenced to death but his sentence was later commuted to life in prison.

The $4,000 was never recovered and to this day is the most substantiated buried treasure legend in the United States.

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I had about 1/3 of a tank of gas in Dentasaurus, so a top off was to my benefit.  The gas pump was different.  One diesel, one unleaded and no one around.  Just a sign informing me that if I can’t get my payment to work then that I need to go to the saloon next door and use their phone to call Dennis.  Of course this weird gas pump attached to a dialup modem didn’t work.  I had to call Dennis.  A woman, I presume was his wife or girlfriend answered. “He’s on his way over.”

A few minutes later an angry white haired man on a four wheeler pulled up.  “What’s the problem?”

I can’t get my payment to work.

“For Chrissakes, you have to wait until it clears!”

“I did, It just–”

“No you didn’t, Goddamnit! Give it to me.”  Dennis is like Oscar the Grouch, if Oscar the Grouch wasn’t a children’s character.  He slides my card into the gray machine and lifts his sunglasses off his face and onto the top of his head and squints at the little screen that looks sort of like a Speak&Spell.  “You just have to wait… See, there it… wait, huh? ‘Rejected by Host’?… Your card doesn’t work,” and he tosses it at me nonchalantly and starts to walk away.  It lands at my feet.

“I have cash if that will work.”

“I hate this fucking place.  I hate everything about this fucking place.  It’s not even my gas station.  I cannot wait for them to fucking sell it.”  I look at the Coldwell Banker sign with some portly woman with short hair smiling “FOR SALE” it reads.  Sure ’nuff, the place is for sale.  “Yeah, cash will work,” he sighs, and fumbles with a set of keys on the flimsy door of the dilapidated service station and walks inside a building that appears as though twenty different owners over the past century had begun a restoration project of the building before calling it quits and selling out to the next sucker.

Dennis lifts his glasses off his face again and squints at a little old school cash register like it’s the monolith at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  He fumbles with the keys and the cash drawer opens from which he withdraws a little white card and then storms passed me and my forty outstretched dollars.

He slides the little white card into the machine and does some more squinting and button pushing.  “OK, pump the fucker.”  I lift the nozzle and flip the handle up, the meter resets to zero.  I pull the trigger.  Nothing.  “I FUCKING HATE THIS PLACE!” Dennis screams.  “GOD DAMNIT, DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING!”  More fumbling, more screaming at me, at the ‘confound’ machine, and at “This forsaken shit hole!”

Five minute later the pumps starts chugging.  I try to get it to stop around $37 so that I can get $3 change to give to Dennis as a tip for the show he put on.  I hand him the $40 and tell him to keep the rest.  “Fuck you.  I told you this isn’t my damned station.  I’m going to give you your fucking change and then fucking kill myself.”   Dennis must be a legend in this town.  By now a dust-covered Toyota 4-Runner has pulled up to the pump, “GOD DAMNIT!”  I hop into my rig and pull away and out of town and watch Dennis hate everything with his new audience from my side mirror.

At the end of town began the steep switchbacks that lead up the wall of the canyon and is the start of the road to Elko.  I drove by a forest ranger conducting a census along the laid lines of a transect, she would be the last person I see for the next few hours, and climbed and climbed until I could look out at the old mines high on the walls of the canyon.

Jarbidge mines
Mines high up on the slopes. New permits were issued in 2013 and these derelict old claims are going through a rejuvenation.

The road continues up until and I passed through gorgeous stands of fir trees and aspens and I found myself at the top of a high peak about 8,500ft up.  I could see al the way into Idaho and up along a gorgeous mountain valley.

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From the summit of the pass into Jarbidge
From the summit of the pass into Jarbidge

The drive through the mountains afforded me cool observations of contact points between basalt flows and older sedimentary layers, metamorphic slates, quartz intrusions, hoodoos, and sweeping peaks.

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I had to drive slowly through the mountains.  The road is well groomed but the terrain is steep and gnarly.  There is no way into Jarbidge if it is raining; this path would just be a muddy death chute to the valley floor below.

I hear the sound of metal clanging behind my truck like I am dragging something.  I am.

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I couldn’t break it off, the last strand of metal connected to the muffler had too much integrity.  Well, add “new exhaust system” to the list for Dentasaurus Rex.   I also notice that I had obliterated my two package the day before was well… another item for the “list”.  Why doesn’t Ford attach the tow package to a cutout in the bumper so that every time I go off road it doesn’t destroy that damned dangly little fucker? As far as the pipe is concerned?  Fuck it, I’ll just drive until I stop hearing the sound.  A few miles later, that worked just fine.

About an hour down the road and on the South side of the slopes I pass a few abandoned mines and come to a ghost hotel outside the ghost town of Charlston, NV.  I don’t know the history of this place, but it must have been 1950s swanky in its heyday!

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The road forks, and I head West along Elko County Road 746 (the Charleston-Mountain City Road).  It’s like any gravel road I have traveled tens of thousands of miles before.  I am traversing the southern foothills of the mountain range as it works up and down the undulations as long ridges give out at the base of the range.  For the most part the road is boring and flat with a few curves.  It has been nearly three hours since I have seen another vehicle or person.  Regardless on blind turns and hills I give up my middle of the road to the off chance someone else is coming the other way.  The last thing I need is to be surprised by a wayward hunter or family on a camping trip.

My aim is to make my way to Elko, fill up on fuel and then dirt road it South deep into Nevada to investigate a quintet of ghost towns surrounding silver mines in the White Pine Range southeast of Eureka.  I don’t make it.

I am about to round a blind, off-camber turn (a turn which slopes away to the outside making the vehicle want to pull to away from the turn, the opposite of a “banked” turn) on ECO 746.  I am doing about 45MPH, the speed limit, but slow down to about 40MPH as I approach the turn.  Rather that take the outside of the turn like I normally would on such a curve when I have a long site-line I play it safe and take the high side of this curve to the right on the offchance that the rare fellow traveler happens upon this turn as well.

The road rises a little bit right before the turn and just as I begin the curve my front tires dip into a rut or pothole and pops the front of my truck up.  When the weight of my truck resettles on the road my tires find themselves pushing into a deep pile of gravel or silt built up on the road.  My already turned wheels crank hard to the right as they sink into this plush, loose, material.  It whips the rear end of my truck around and to begins to slide through the corner. I crank hard on the wheel to steer into the turn and hopefully drift the truck around the corner fore something bad happens.  Too late.

My front tires just stop in the fluff of material and I basically pull a quadruple toe loop with a 5,000 lbs truck.  I have spent many an hour contemplating what I would do in the event of a roll over accident.  With the thousands of miles I have travel on dirt roads it is almost an inevitability.  These thought experiments are the best kind of practice I can conduct without actually flipping my truck.  As I begin to tilt over I go through the motions I have worked through my head a thousand times before.  I grip the wheel tight and push it hard away from me and into the dash.  As a result this forces my body back into my seat and I push my head back with all my might into the head rest and flex every muscle in my body.  I don’t want to go anywhere.  I have seen too many videos of rollovers where arms and torsos flop out the door window as a result of centripetal force and arms and heads are severed as the vehicle rolls over them.  The roof might crush me, but I am not going to lose an arm in the process.

Over I go.  I have what feels like a thousand thoughts in just a few seconds:

Hold with everything you got. Count the rolls. There’s one. You’re an asshole for dying on your way to see Angie.  How is she supposed to feel finding out days after you were supposed to arrive in Santa Fe that you died alone in the desert?  I guess now this is what your last sensation of being decapitation feels like.  Two.  Keep your eyes closed tight, glass is exploding everywhere.  I don’t want to get a new truck.  Keep flexing. Three.  You are at least a two hour hike to a paved road; remember to assess your supplies.  Am I dead yet?  I really wanted to see Angie, she’s the best.  I don’t want to die yet.  I want to go to Santa Fe.  I think I just rotated entirely without touching the ground.  Four...

I land upright and open my eyes.  My hands immediately move to the top of my head to seek out any splits in my scalp.  At first I am surprised that my hands are moving and that my eyes are watching my hands move.  My brain was almost certain that I would send the signals through my arms and only bloody stumps would respond.  No blood, coming from my head.  I can’t even feel that my head hit anything.  I cannot accept this, maybe the bleeding hasn’t started yet.  I run my hands over my head again and again.  Nothing, no blood.  Next I run my hands around my torso looking for any shrapnel, large bruises, broken ribs, punctures.  Again, nothing.  I look at my knees and move my feet and toes.  I stare at my fingers and wiggle all ten of them.  My neck hurts.  Oh no, I slashed my jugular, this is how it ends. I slide my palm along the left side of my neck where it hurts.  Nothing, no blood yet again. This is fucked up, how am I not injured.  I must be injured.

The stereo is still playing Sisters of Mercy “This Corrosion”, but the engine is no longer running.  I turn the ignition off.  The battery obviously works, use the CB radio and your very illegal antenna amplifier that can broadcast your signal over 100 miles.  This is what you bought it for!  I reach out and pull the microphone out of its cradle.  The power swtich is damaged but it turns on.  I turn to the emergency channel and just get a blare of static.  I look out through the bashed in windscreen see that my antenna is no longer there.  Shit.

I undue my seatbelt and open my door.  Holy shit, my door opens!  I then look at the steering wheel, no airbag has gone off.  I look to the passenger side.  It is completely flattened.  Had I a passenger they would have been popped like a melon at a Gallagher show, no airbag either.  What the fuck, no airbag?  I should have a bloody nose and black eyes by now, damnit!

I step out of the truck and triage myself one more time.  Nothing, no blood outside a few nicks from broken glass, one scratch on my right shin, and the abrasion on the left side of my neck from my seatbelt I thought was a slash to my throat.  I’m OK! Holy shit, I’m OK!

Now is not the time to celebrate, you’re still tens of miles, if not a hundred miles from Elko. Time to start assembling supplies.  I start walking around the truck, the canopy is 100ft away, all of my prospecting gear, bedding, books, clothes, food, electronics (everything!) is smeared along a debris field perhaps 150-200ft long.  All my windows are broken out. The passenger side of the truck is pushed in like a thumb through play-doh.  Holy shit my brain keeps repeating.  Pull these things off the road so someone else doesn’t hit it.  The truck is in the road and I can’t move this.  I don’t want someone else to come around this blind corner and hit this or wreck trying to avoid it.

I begin piling items either in the bed of the truck or in the upside down canopy.  I found my compass, good.  I find my brand new water jug and half the water is gone trough a tear in the plastic, argh!  There’s the piece of shit gas can, Oh look at that, the first time that hunk of garbage didn’t spill everywhere was when it was launched 50ft into the air during a heinous wreck.  Asshole.  I find one can of cola that wasn’t destroyed.  Every other liquid is obliterated.  Milk gone.  Mexican Cokes gone.  The Seattle beer I was bringing to Angie’s brother who is a beer blogger to review?  Gone too.  Cheerios are everywhere.  Sandwiches are nowhere to be found.  I can’t find my glasses and I can’t find my cellphone.  I find my computer, clothes, various shoes, sleeping bag… all go into piles.

At this moment, it is probably only five minutes since the accident, I hear a truck approaching from the West and look up to see a cloud of dust.  I walk out into the middle of the road and start waving my arms back and forth.  The Toyota Tundra slows and the driver leans out the window, “Are you alive?… are you hurt?”

“I am alive, and no, miraculously I am not hurt!”

He pulls his truck to the side of the road and gets out to inspect me and make sure I am not just in shock and have entrails dangling out from behind me or an open wound on my scalp.  “Holy shit,” he declares, “How on Earth are you alive?”

“I don’t know… Thank you for stopping.  Thank you so much for stopping.  Pretty much all my supplies are obliterated.  It was going to be a pretty shitty hike back to the highway.

We introduce ourselves to each other.  His name is Brandon.  He is my hero.  I can taste the metallic telltale of adrenaline pumping through my veins.  My hands shake.  He asks if I have a tow line so he can pull my truck off the road.  I search through the debris and find both tow cables and open the plastic packaging and hookup the front tow hooks and hand him the other end which he attaches to his trailer hitch and drags my giant booby trap off the road.

Brandon then begins helping clear all of my belongings and putting them into the bed of the truck.  “Is there anything you need right now?”

“Yes, I can’t find my cellphone or my glasses.”  The thing about looking for glasses, is that without wearing them, it is really hard to find them.  I immediately flash back to my last baseball practice at Lewis & Clark. T he coaches decided to have a scrimmage and a little fun where the only rule was you could not play a position you had played throughout the season.    Shortstops pitching, Catchers at third base, pitcher patrolling the outfield…  The winning team got to have all the meal money for our last travel game of the season; losing got jack.

The team captains chose the teams, I was picked last because it was assumed that the skinny awkward knuckleballer would be the worst athlete on the team.  I played left field and had the game of my life.  I went four for six with 6 RBIs, four runs scored, a bases loaded double, and the play of the year.  A long drive down the line and I gave chase.  The shortstop kept yelling, “You have plenty of room!  You have plenty of room!” over and over letting me know that I had a ways until I would crash into the fence so that I needn’t fear; I can get the ball.  I chased and chased and just as the ball was about to land I leapt and discovered the fence was only a foot from me.  I exploded into the fence, ball in glove.  It hurt.  I picked myself up off the ground and threw the ball into third to cheers of my teammates who never expected such athleticism from the weirdo nerd-pitcher.

The real pitcher for this game returned to the mound and got ready to throw to the next batter. “Time out!” I yelled, “I can’t find my glasses!” I dropped to all fours feeling along the grass searching for my specs.  Everysingle one of my teammates also fell to the ground, but in laughter, as I blindly searched for my eyes with the palms of my hands patting along the ground.  I hadn’t worn my contacts because I had assumed that this practice would be like every other one; I throw a bullpen, go for a jog, and then get out of the “real” ball players way.  Game of my life and I can’t see shit. I eventually discovered that I fractured two fingers on my pitching hand on that play too…

I snap back to the present and find myself doing the same thing once more, this time instead of grass, I am on my knees crawling over an endless stretch of desert patting the ground with my hands hoping to come up with my sweet Oakley Metal Plate eyeglasses.  Brandon and I search for twenty minutes or so.  Brandon finds my phone.  I give up the glasses search and decide to document the accident instead for myself, for the sheriff, for the insurance company, for this blog, and for my friends and family so that every one can know that once again I have proof that I am once again miraculously indestructible.

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Roll over accident survivor!
As you can see the passenger side is death, the driver’s side is life. My truck has saved my life one last time. I love you, Dentasaurus!

Brandon gave me and the important possessions we could find a ride into Elko.  He was the best person to come along and discover my wreck.  Calm, helpful, and kept me from descending into shock by conversing about everything under the Sun to keep my brain occupied.  He is a mine tech for Barrick Gold and was out searching for elk as he has a tag for hunting.  He was raised in Eureka and skis the local slopes in the winter by skinning up.  His grandfather worked the big Ruby mine and was murdered by men who thought he was a different man of the same name who had wronged one of them.  I love Brandon, he is wonderful.

Brandon drives me to the Sheriff’s office so I can report the accident and patiently waits for half an hour as the dispatch has to call in deputy.  The deputy is also patient with me as I am still kind of vibrating from the accident.  He asks me to email him pictures of the crash, they are already receiving calls from people who have happened upon the wreck.  Just then he gets a word that a boat is sinking on the lake and has to go.  He’ll be in touch.  I go back to Brandon’s truck and he gives me a ride to the High Desert Inn so I can check in somewhere for the night and start figuring this shit out.  He even helps me lug everything up to my room and gives me his number incase I need anything.  I thank him a thousand times.  All I want to do is shower and sleep.

I dump my belongings inside the door and call USAA to report the accident.  The claims agent is wonderful.  He asks about my health a dozen times, orders me a rental car, informs me of how awesome the coverage I have is, and starts ordering a tow truck to haul Dentasaurus Rex out of the wild.  I upload the picture of me standing in front of the wreck and let the Internet know I am alive.  I text my agent and let her know that I am alive.  I call my mother and let her know I am alive.  Before I can call my dad, he calls me.  Every friend and family member is calling, instant messaging, and texting to see if I need any help.  Everyone is so wonderful; I love my circle, everyone of them is magnificent.  I shower and sleep.  I sleep hard.

Fuck you, gas can.
Fuck you, gas can.

 

Don’t sell out your country, literally.

Congress want to sell off all the land owned by the federal government.  Up yours, Congress!

Map of Federal Lands
This map shows just where our lands are.

The largest landholder in the United States are the very citizens of the United States.  We own, at last check, 28% of all the landmass of the entire nation.  That’s about 636 million acres or just shy of 1 million square miles of land.  If you look at a map of the United States showing federally owned and controlled lands you will see that said ownership is disproportionally distributed to the Western states starting at the Rockies on over to the Pacific.  There are some big reasons for this:

1) None of this land was originally granted to individuals via the King of England.  Most of the borders of East Coast states are the way they are because they were originally land grants to individuals from the King of England.

2) Mountains are hard to settle.  Mountains have resources but it also sucks to try and live there if all the technology you have at the time is a mule and a shovel.  When the original homesteading was taking place during the Western expansion of the mid 19th century people didn’t homestead the mountains simply because its hard to farm a mountain.

3) The desert doesn’t grow crops.  Try as we might, salty soils with no rain don’t grow food.  So, like the mountains, the deserts of the Southwest were not homesteaded.

This is OK, though.  Thanks to the 1872 Mining Act citizens of the United States are allowed access to federal lands.  It is here where we fish, hunt, hike, camp, rock hound/prospect, hold music festivals, and just enjoy the splendor of nature.  This is why camping and hiking in the west is so much better than camping and hiking in the East.  Unlike the East coast we aren’t trespassing anywhere to get to all the good spots.

As America moved West people staked mining claims, temporary renewable rights to minerals found in a particular location.  As these mining claims grew into operational mines we would see temporary, tough-to-live-in, boom towns pop up around them.  As the mineral resources waned so did the towns (leaving behind my beloved ghost towns).  Only in the rare instance, when a mine may produce valuable ore for years to come, could the claim owner petition the US government for a deed to the land and assume ownership of said real property.  The US government would then charge the company or person a nominal fee to buy the land from the Feds.  This was known as a “patented mining claim”.

This system of obtaining real property was allowed up until 1994 when the Brush Wellman Corporation (now known as Materion), submitted a land patent application to assume somewhere near 4 square miles of land.  This chunk of real estate contained somewhere in the neighborhood of (in today’s dollars) $50-150 billion dollars in beryllium.  Essentially 90% of the of the world’s supply of this extremely rare, extremely useful, and extremely valuable metal.  How much did Brush Wellman pay for tens of billions of dollars in minerals owned by you and me? About $41,000 (in today’s dollars).  When the American people found out about how hosed we got on the land deal a roar echoed through Congress and a moratorium was established.  Since 1994 no one has been allowed to patent a mining claim staked on federal lands.

Fast forward twenty years and I give the you 114th Congress.  These people truly suck.  The Republicans enjoy a large majority in the House and control the Senate.  They accomplished this thanks to the gerrymandering of districts by Republican controlled state legislatures.  Thus, Republicans control the House despite losing the general election by 1.37 million votes.  What is one of the major things the 114th Congress want to do with their ill-gotten majority?  Sell everything we own.

It is starting small.  Essentially, Congress thinks that by turning all control of current Federal lands over to the states in which these lands are found then it will be easier for oil and gas, mining, and logging companies to then grease the palms of state legislatures to purchase vast quantities of state lands.  The states do not have the resources to manage these lands as evidence by my own state (Washington) relinquishing control of dozens of state parks to city governments.  If states do not have the budgets to manage the lands they have now, how are they going to manage the tens of millions of acres of new land they suddenly have thrust upon them by the federal government?

The ploy is simple, Congress wants to sell your lands to corporations who donate heavily to their campaigns.  if we allow them to do this, we’re screwed.  Why?

Here is why: The 1872 Mining Act allows us access to federal lands.  If the lands are no longer federal our outdoor activities will no longer be protected by this Act.  There is a moratorium on selling federal lands, but there is no moratorium on selling state lands.  Congress is out to screw us over, and the moment we have a president in the White House who agrees with them and refuses to veto their sly moves, we boned.

Tell Congress to back off and leave our lands alone!

Congress wants to sell off our lands
What Congress wants…

Butterfly Murder.

I have contributed to the death of thousands.  Butterfly after butterfly gets eviscerated by the grill of my truck.  Beauty and tragedy at 70mph.

I woke up about 8:30 and got what was left behind by the rest of the hotel guests at the Holiday Inn Express.  Some warm milk, a cinnamon roll with what looked like a finger hole in it, and Raisin Bran.  Dreamy.

Last night, after I made my trip update, my computer’s battery was real low so I got my charging cord out.  Well, I should say I got half of my charging cord out.  I apparently left the half that plugs into the wall somewhere that is not my computer bag.  Hrrmmm…  Another thing to do in Fallon when your almost dead, go to Radio Shack.

I then took my bruised beast of an F150 to Les Schwab to get my tire fixed.  I chatted with the tire guy and he had all the same questions everyone else has when they meet me out here,  “What the hell did you do to your truck?”

“More manly things than anyone else with trucks around here it seems,” Has become my reply.

They took off my tire and saw the golfball-sized hole and said they couldn’t fix it.  I had to get a new tire and they didn’t have what I needed.  The dude said I could go to either Winnemucca (115 miles away to the North), or Sparks (51 miles away to the West).  I am trying to go East!  Onward to Sparks, I guess!  It was noon by this time, and the drive took about an hour as I was still driving like a granny with my two drive wheels of different diameters.

I rolled into Sparks and, guess what, got another tire tech who wanted to know just what in the hell had I been doing to my truck.

They took about an hour to get a new big ass Wild Country AT tire on my rig.  The charge: $308!  Whaaaaaa?  I then took my warranty out of pocket and asked, “Does this help?”

Yessir, it did.  The charge dropped to $174.  Not as bad.  It was now 2pm and I had hoped to be in Austin, 200 miles to the West of Sparks, by this time.  Sigh.

Back on the road and flying.  An hour later I was in Fallon, yet again.  Filled up on gas, and I was outta there.  Still cruising US50 I drove passed the tanks in the desert again.  This time they were being loaded onto flatbeds.  I guess play time was over.  Since I was retracing my steps I turned back down HWY361 to scope out some of those promising rock formations that had potential for riches.  I found three old mines, one new one, and biggest dribble of bird crap ever (it fooled me, I thought it was a quartz intrusion from about a mile away; that was a long hike to get a good view of tremendous amount of poop).  I am really good at being 150 years late to all these gold loads.

I hopped over the mountain range and crossed the big valley back toward Ione.  I had initially planned to cross the next range there yesterday and now was my chance.  Waved to all the no trespassing signs people who squat in abandoned houses in ghost towns always place on their fences and blew through Ione.  Been there, done that.

I was not a mile East of Ione, when, I can’t say it is maternal instinct, since I’m not a lady  and unless you consider the Honey Badger my child, but a thought popped into my head: Check on the Honey Badger, the little guy needs you.  I halt my rig and get out thinking that I might be dragging my tail lights again (I had just bought my 4th new pair in a year that morning back in Fallon).  Nope, taillights are copacetic.  Then I hear the hisssssssss of air coming from my trusty trailer.  The driver’s side tire had a crack in it.  Lame.

I split into action and grabbed my mostly used bottle of Fix-A-Flat.  I shook that sumbitch vigorously for 30 seconds and the emptied the can into the tire.  I do have a spare tire for the trailer, but I don’t happen to have a tire iron that fits the lug nuts on the wheel (note to self: get a second tire iron).  I had to hope the can of goo would stall the inevitable; there was another 50 miles of dirt roads between me an Austin… Where I should arrive at about 7:30, well after everything has closed.  I drove through, what looked to be an indian reservation that was the size of a football field and seemed to contain no residents.  Just cows.  And cows who don’t move for trucks at that.

The valley was gorgeous.  Bathed in the long light of the late afternoon sun the greens of what was a much more watered valley than all the other scrub brush desert I had be through.  In fifty miles I saw maybe ten homes, and one very determined dog who angerly chased my truck for about a mile even though I was doing about 30mph.

About 20 miles South of Austin I came upon a ghost ranch.  Rad.  I blew by it and took photos at speed of the homestead making a metal note to return and explore the abandoned big brick ranch house someday.

The road was weird.  There would be a mile of smooth, expertly paved road, followed by a mile of graded gravel, followed by a mile of pavement, and so on.  I reunited with HWY722, and then US 50, and chugged up the mountain into Austin where my first stop was the town’s gas station for fuel, ice, and two cans of Fix-A-Flat for the Honey Badger.  The tire was low but the hiss had stopped.  The little buddy just had to make it to Ely to get some new duds 150 miles away.

Away from the 8000ft pass that markes the exit from Austin the evening light began to bathe the next valley in reds, purples, and rainbows.  Puffy little cumulus clouds began to drop their hard days work of gathering the moisture from the rising air warmed by the sun earlier in the day giving me a colorful view.  The high desert is so stunning.  I could totally live here if it wasn’t for the lack of ocean and the constant bloody boogers.

Cars are few and far between.  I see more deer on the road than fellow travelers.  As the last remaining rays of light bend over the curve of the Earth and night begins I saw a dark vehicle off in the distance, barely, coming toward me with it’s lights off.  As it got closer I did the neighborly thing and flashed my lights on and off to remind him that he turn on his lights.  Turn on his lights he did.  Then he did a U-ee and pulled me over.

“Why are you flashing your highbeams at me?” asked the fat tub of sherrif’s deputy glaring through my window.

“Because it’s night, you’re driving a black car, and your lights were off.”

“Oh… Sorry about that.  Lord a’mighty, I can be damned fool sometimes.”  Forehead slap. “Sorry about pulling you over.” Long pause, “Thank you?”

“No problem?”

Back on the road.  I blew through Eureka, I was on a mission.  Ely or bust.  Time to meet Dave.  I haven’t seen that dude in eight years!

I got to Ely about 9:30, parked at the beginning of town, and scanned road for Dave’s Jeep.  Nope, nothing.  Duh, this is Dave we’re talking about.  He has never been on time for anything, ever!  About 20 minutes of playing Triple Stack on my phone and I get a call from the man.  He’s in Ferny (halfway between Sparks and Fallon) and won’t be getting into Ely until really late.  So I walked to the Nevada Hotel and Casino, grabbed some dinner, then some desert, and now I am that jerk who nurses and piece of cake for two hours while he steals their wi-fi signal updating his blog.  What a dick.

A Mosey Through Nevada

I woke up late (as per usual), pussy-footed around (not so unlike me), and finally got my tush on the road about 2:30 in the afternoon; that’s what I meant by, “I’m leaving in the morning.” The drive South into Oregon was OK, I decided at the last minute to cut East and go down Highway 97 and gave my old coworker Kryn, who lives in Bend, a call and see if she wanted to meet up for a very late dinner.

I rolled into Bend just before 10pm and we had a nice meal. She is loving Bend, it’s a town designed for outdoorsy young adults, and she is an outdoorsy young adult. We had a great, brief time, said our goodbyes and I got back on the road around midnight.

South of Bend I turned onto Highway 31 by the town of La Pine. All the pine trees were dark and ominous. The sky was ablaze with lightning and I could feel the rumble of the thunder through the armrest of my truck’s door. I finally pulled over and got some shuteye about 1:30 and slept cramped in a ball in the cab of the truck due to the lightning storm.

By morning the skies were clearing and I drove to Fort Rock. Ft Rock is a pretty cool geologic feature. It was a cindercone volcano that formed under an ice age lake. As a result the “tuff” that formed the ring of the cone baked into a brick leaving behind a natural fort. The earliest peoples used the shores around Fort Rock as a camp on the once great lake. The caves in Fort Rock have produced sage sandals over 10,000 years old!

From Ft Rock I went further South into Summer Lake and Paisley where I finally had breakfast (I wish I had one of my hundreds of paisley shirts… Oh well).   South of Paisley are the crumbled remnants of an obsidian lava flow. I grabbed some fine specimens. Then I turned onto Highway 140 (in the Spring time this is the most beautiful place on Earth; in the Summer: meh). That took me past my opal claim. It was best not to stop and dig opals as it was 92 in the shade–and there is no shade in this part of the country.

I decided to continue on to Winnemucca to refill my tank and my belly. I ate at a casino attached to the Holiday in Express. The restaurant was a Mexican Joint called “Dos Amigos” where I was waited on by the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my life. What the hell this vision was doing serving a schlub like me in backwater, NV I’ll never know.

I left Winnemucca about 6pm and chose to stay the night Unionville. About 30 miles South of Winnemucca is a ghost town called Star City. Star City was the site of a large silver mining operation and boasted 1,200 residents at one time complete with all the bars and brothels a town of that size required. The road up the Star City was a piece of cake… At first! I ditched the Honey Badger (my ghetto trailer that tags along with me on these adventures) and pushed on in just the truck. The road got worse, and then worse, and then impossible. I stopped the truck and got out to hike up and see if there was a place to turn around further up, because backing down thise narrow road was going to be deadly.

I found the teensiest turn around about 500 yards up the mountain, but I was going to have to drive through some decent sized bushes (trees?) To get there. Oh well, let’s do this! The truck was a champ, just mowing down nature, and then I died. Well, actually what I thought was, “Oh God, I am going to die… I should have asked out that waitress… Damnit!”

To my right is a sheer cliff that goes up to the ridge, to my left is a 6ft drop down into a pretty gnarly creek. The bank gave way under my front driver’s side tire and my truck began to roll into the creek. For some reason I steered into my doom, and rather than rolling the full weight of my F150 onto my head and drowning in the creek alone and never to be found, I drove down the embankment and ended up with my truck bisecting the creek.

Once My heartrate calmed down, I did my best Austin Powers impersination and completed an 87 point turn around in the creek and was now pointed downstream. I went from accepting my inevitable demise to, “What the hell do I do now?” What I did was class three rapids in a Ford! I drove more than half a mile down a mountain creek (including what could be considered a rather large waterfall for a truck) until there was a point I could drive out of the creek and back on to the primitive road.

I returned to the Honey Badger, gave Star City the finger, and headed back down the mountain. I arrived at the turn off for Unionville about 9pm and decided I had had enough for one day and made camp under the Unionville information sign on the side of the road.

This is where I discovered that I am easily mistaken for a cattle rustler. My arrival was the most exciting thing this dead end road has had in 150 years. By 11pm dozens of ranchers were swirly around me. Word had gotten out that some cattle rustlers had arrived in the dead of night and were by the mailboxes at the end of the road (I was camped at the mailboxes at the end of the road). Much to all these ranchers’ relief (maybe disappointment for some who may have wanted a new trophy to mount in their study), as it turns out, that I was not there to in fact take their cows. We all had a good laugh, they put away their shotguns and went back to their ranches concluding that the Honey Badger can barely carry my cooler let alone a 1500lb animal or two.

The next morning one of the ranchers was so kind as to wake me up at 6am for a chat about how well I slept the night before. “I slept very well, until some jackass woke me up at 6!”

I packed up my cot and bag and rolled up the mountain to the ghost towns of Buena Vista and Unionville. There I saw two famous people’s homes: Mark Twain’s cabin when he failed miserably as a gold miner; and Sandra Bullock’s less humble manor. I peed in Twain’s outhouse and drove South through the desert toward Fallon, NV.

I drove past Shanghai Canyon, site of my infamous fall down a cliff and subsequent hospital bill. At the base of the canyon was a herd of wild horses. I started taking a panorama of the horses and the mountain. If I had waited 5 seconds I would have had a Navy F4 in my photo. I took the last image and my heart exploded out of my chest as Mr. Comedy did a flyby of my face and scared the shit out of me. I managed to get a photo of him on his return pass.

I am now in Fallon contemplating a $10 shower at a truck stop and writing this long screed using my thumbs and my cellphone!

More to come!

The adventure begins anew!

I’m hitting the road again to meet up with my merry band of neardowells. I’ll first be poking through Nevada and getting my fill of ghost towns where I will eventually meet up with my old roommate Dave (my first friend in Hawaii when I moved there); in Elko maybe?

Thent Dave and I will mosey through the rest of Nevada, Utah and Colorado, where on the 23rd we meet up with Aren, Erik, and probably Aren’s brother Lars in Denver. We go North from Denver to Fort Collins where my cousin Sam just might be waiting for us–then it’s the push into the wild where our diamond mining begins!

Stay tuned for the trials and tribulations of the gang and see if we get significatly more diamonds than we did last year. Come on “retirement stone”!