Sunday, May 30, 2010

So, this weekend we set off and another desert adventure which turned into a scavenger hunt of sorts. Our goal was to find the California Trail, Carson River Route, which passes through the dreaded 40-Mile Desert (And Hubby wanted to metal detect for artifacts). Back in pioneer days, the journey from east to west was a long and difficult one but toward the end of the journey was the 40-Mile Desert. Forty miles where the landscape was hot and desolate and there was no drinkable water. As you can see on the markers in the following pictures, many, many people who attempted the difficult crossing died.
We started out with an idea of where the 40-Mile Desert was and directions found on the internet to a marker near the end of the route. We set out and found the first marker fairly easily. From there we were able to follow a portion of the trail and find a second marker. But then the trail went cold, so to speak. The area we were traveling had many dirt roads crossing every which way and we drove about looking for another marker to let us know we were on the right track. Unfortunately we could not find a third marker in this area. We decided to visit Soda Lake which is along the Carson Route. Now, you might think to yourself, "But I thought there was no water!?" And the answer is, there is no drinkable water. If you read the marker in the photo below, there is a journal entry which tells of finding a lake of salt water. I love how it says " is almost Strong enough for brine to save meat with..." But can you imagine being on this journey, nearly (literally) dying of thirst and coming upon a lake only to discover the water is too salty to drink? What a cruel joke.
At this point we decided to try finding the Carson Route near the point where it branched off of the main California Trail. On the Trail there was a point where the travelers came basically into a fork in the road. There was the choice to cross the 40-mile Desert via the Truckee Route to the Truckee River or the Carson Route to the Carson River. So we set off the try to find the trail nearer to this fork, hoping to find a marker to let us know we were in the right place. On the way we saw a large structure made of stone, stacked like a chimney so we stopped to investigate. It looked to be a large oven but there was nothing to tell us precisely what it was used for. After a bit of walking around there we headed on. When we approached the area where we should be able to pick up the trail we found that there was a large wet and muddy area which would be impossible for us to cross as we don't have 4-wheel drive. We had mostly given up hope of finding the trail again and Hubby wanted to drive a little further to try to find a hot spring that we had seen from the road on a previous trip in the area. But when we got there everything was all fenced off. There is a large geothermal plant operating there. We decided to head back toward home. As we were driving along the highway, Hubby spotted what looked to be a marker! It wasn't too far off the main highway and the road here was nice and dry.
Then after looking around we spotted another marker on the other side of the highway.
Again, we lost the trail and headed back down the highway. We were feeling pretty optimistic because now we knew what the markers looked like and it was easier to spot them from a distance. We spotted another and when we got to it realized that it was very close to the stone oven we had stopped at! We had missed it.

We followed the trail a short distance but came to a deep wash that we could not traverse. We doubled back to the highway, passed the wash and found yet another marker. We were on a roll!
Again, the trail became impassable to us so we hit the highway once again. When we left the highway we found this marker. Sorry, it isn't a very good photo but I was trying to hold the camera up over my head to get the whole thing in the shot and I couldn't see the camera display in the bright sun to see what the photo looked like. From this point we set out along the trail once again veering away from the highway. The trail more or less parallels the highway for a number of miles and then angles off westward, away from the highway which runs north and south. We headed out on the trail for a distance but the sun was getting lower in the sky and we certainly didn't want to get out into the unfamiliar section of desert, far from a major road or highway in the dark only to find the road impassable due to mud or deep sand and end up stuck. So, we stopped and pulled out the metal detector. Big R hunted around with the detector but mostly only found gun shells and some spent bullets. Here's one last photo of the 40-Mile Desert with the sun dipping low in the sky.
It was another fun adventure for us in the Nevada desert. A historical one and, once again, I find myself thinking of those brave and hardy pioneers who faced such a difficult journey and feeling thoroughly grateful that I don't have to cross vast miles of uninhabited, inhospitable country in a wagon. I have the luxury of following their trail in a pickup truck and heading home to my comfortable home and bed at the end of the day.

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