Monday, September 29, 2014

Ely, Nevada via The Loneliest Road in America…


We left Eureka, Nevada and headed east on what LIFE magazine dubbed as the "The Loneliest Road in America" or Nevada highway 50. I had always wanted to drive on this stretch of road but never thought I ever would. However, as fulltime RV’ers we are able to see all kinds of places and things that we never thought possible. Gotta love this lifestyle….

I found it interesting that highway 50 was also part of the Pony Express route and I found it even more interesting that this part of Nevada was quite hilly. I had always thought it was flat and uninteresting.  How wrong I was!  Driving through western Nevada entails driving over one 6-7,000 foot pass after another with each having a long flat basin in between providing for some very interesting scenery. And as for lonely I found the stretch of highway 95 going south toward Winnemucca to be significantly lonelier than highway 50 was.

We pulled into Ely, Nevada and set up camp at the Prospector Hotel and Casino a bargain at 15.00 per night for full hookups with 50 amp service. They even gave us a two coupons for a free margarita! We had only planned to spend a few days here but extended to avoid the wet and rainy weather that was to come through this part of the USA. We have been here three days now and may extend one more day to avoid the chilly weather at Great Basin National Park, our next destination.

As with most small western Nevada towns this one too seems to be surviving as a mining and gambling town. Also as with most there seems to be a lot of vacant buildings.  Ely does seem to be more lively than all the other small towns we have explored and it is a very walkable town with a cool looking courthouse as well as assorted murals painted by various artists adorning many of the building’s walls.

The town also has the Nevada Northern Railway Museum  with an old  steam engine that you can take rides on. We didn’t opt to take the train but did enjoy looking at the old station and were able to see the ghost train pull into the station. As luck would have it there happened to be a lot of restored classic and antique cars in the lot behind the station which we surmised were going to be part of an upcoming auction or car show.

We are enjoying our stay here in Ely and the rain came through as predicted leaving chilly weather in its path. I am pretty sure we will stay through Monday night and leave on Tuesday since it is even chillier in Baker, Nevada (our next stop).

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A short stay in the mining town of Eureka Nevada…

Eureka NV 047We  left Winnemucca, Nevada and headed east on Interstate 80. I usually avoid Interstates as I find them very boring to drive on but I also found it hard to avoid a small stretch of this one on our route to Eureka, Nevada. After about an hour we headed south on 278 a nice two lane road cutting through the rolling basins and mountains of western Nevada. Our GPS was set to take us to the Silver Sky Lodge RV Park which had no address on their web site. Our old Garmin GPS finally bit the dust so we set Sharon’s phone GPS to take us there but we ended up 7 miles west of town on highway 50 (The Loneliest Highway).

Eureka NV 051     Eureka NV 052

We pulled over on the side of the road in a big pullout to make the necessary U-turn where I also opened my laptop to check the route on Microsoft Street and Trips. My route showed the RV park to be east of town so we drove back into town and found the park just outside of town on highway 50. Although it wasn't a real pretty park it allowed us to explore Eureka as it is one of the few spots around with hook-ups. We set up, made lunch and made a plan to walk the town afterward.

Eureka NV 057    Eureka NV 053

Eureka is known as a mining town and  was one of the state’s largest towns during the late 1800’s. Back in the day Eureka had 16 smelters working which spewed smoke and soot thus earning the town the name "Pittsburgh of the West."  For those of you that love Pittsburgh (we did) I don’t think this name was meant to be nice… Wanting to clean up their town’s image much of the town has been restored including the Opera House.

We parked near the restored Opera House and found a brochure for the town’s walking tour. We loved walking through the Opera House and especially found the back stage hallway interesting as there are lots of signatures on the walls and ceiling of the many past performers there. There were lots of neat historical buildings in Eureka but the signs of the boom and bust nature of mining towns is evident as many of these neat old building are vacant and need some love to regain their once vibrant stature. Nonetheless we found the walking tour very interesting and a great way to spend our one day stay in town.

Eureka NV 045  Eureka NV 046

From Eureka we will turn eastward on the The Loneliest Road in America which is the self-proclaimed Loneliest Town on the Loneliest Road… Next up for us is a short stay in Ely, Nevada just 77 miles down the lonely highway.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hello from Winnemucca, Nevada…


On our trek toward Bryce Canyon we decided to take our time and spend a few days at locations about 100 to 200 miles away from each other.. So just over 200 miles from our last stop in Bend Oregon we chose to stop at the town of Winnemucca in Nevada. We picked out a newer RV park who accepted Passport America allowing us a 50% discount. So our rate for this nice park just outside of town was only $17.50 for full hookups for a maximum of two days. Perfect for our needs…

Winnemucca NV 035   

Since most of the day was taken up by driving we waited until the next day to go into town and our plan was to swing by the visitor’s center to pick up a brochure for a self guided walking tour.of Winnemucca. As much as we love hiking in the wilderness we also enjoy hiking around the towns we visit to get a feel for their history, architecture, and culture. With our brochure in hand we set off on a three mile hike around the town…

Winnemucca had received a bad rap in a lot of the blogs I have read but we found the town to be interesting and fun. The tour gave a real feel for not only the history but what made the town tick… Amusingly the town is quite proud that Butch Cassidy and the Hole in the Wall Gang robbed the First National Bank of $32,000.00 on September 19, 1900. We walked by the scene of the crime as well as many other historical buildings and homes.  It was a great way to spend the afternoon.

Like many Nevada towns gambling is prevalent here so after we walked around the town and soaked in its history we walked over to the Winner’s Casino to try our luck at a little nickel video poker. Even better we discovered that the bar had nickel video poker machines making it real easy to procure a frosty adult beverage while playing.

After several tasty beverages and playing video poker for about an hour and a half we cashed out and left. Including tips for the drinks and the cost of gambling we spent a grand sum of about $4.50 which we felt was a real bargain for 1.5 hours of fun.

With our two days up we researched the web and picked out our next stop in Eureka Nevada about 160 miles southwest of Winnemucca. We are a little bummed that a cold front with rain is heading our way so we will need to find a spot to wait out the storm before visiting Bryce Canyon but alas, such is the life of us full time RV’ers…

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Steens Mountain Loop Road, Oregon

We would have loved to extend our stay in Bend, Oregon but alas Tumalo State Park was full up so we headed southeast out into the high desert where we stopped at Narrows RV Park in Princeton, Oregon about 158 miles away from Bend. When I showed Sharon where we were headed she asked me why were we staying out in the middle of nowhere? Well the reason I chose Narrows RV Park was it was close to a place I wanted to explore called Steen’s Mountain.

The next morning we packed a lunch and headed south from the Narrows in our CRV about 35 miles to Frenchglen.  Just past town we turned left onto the Steens Mountain Loop Road. I read that Steens Mountain is best enjoyed by driving this 52 mile Steens Mountain Backcountry Byway. This loop drive took us past several scenic campgrounds (only suitable for the smallest of RV’s). The highlights of this loop were the deeply carved glacier gorges of Kiger Gorge, East Rim, Big Indian Gorge, Wildhorse as well as Little Blitzen Gorge.  We also enjoyed a hike up to the top of Steens Mountain at an elevation of almost 10,000 feet with gorgeous panoramic views.

We started out in the Alvord Desert and the loop road took us up nearly 5,500 feet in elevation in just under than 3 miles! We started out seeing sagebrush but as we climbed we saw dense stands of juniper as moisture became more plentiful. At a turnout we read that the park is actively controlling the juniper to make room for more of Mountain Big Sagebrush which competes with the junipers.

Before long we noticed the valleys had quaking aspen which were maybe just past peak autumnal colors. We stopped to take several photos of the colorful aspen trees and even took the time to listen to the wonderful relaxing sound the golden yellow leaves make while quaking in the gentle breezes.  Higher in elevation where the climate is most severe we found mostly grasslands and low growing sub-alpine plants along with small shrubs stunted from the fierce winds that must persist at times here.

The geology is what shines here though, Historically “massive internal pressures forced the east edge of the Steens upward” which resulted in a “30 mile long fault-block mountain with a spectacular and rugged east face that rises one vertical mile above the Alvord Desert”. Steens Mountain is known to be the largest fault-block mountain in the northern Great Basin. The best overlook to take in the powers of nature for us was the Kiger Gorge overlook where we sat and took in the immensity of the landscape as we looked out over the headwall of a massive U-shaped canyon. Looking down into the canyon we could see small strands of golden hues of Aspen snaking along the lower spots where water was more prevalent.

Heyduke© 2014

We could have spent hours simply sitting and watching the shadows moving along the landscape in this isolated area of sheer desolation quite different from our urban excursions into Bend and Portland. We were also fortunate to see some of the wildlife in the area as we spotted an occasional mule deer in the tall sage brush. There was a fire in the area that was not fully contained making the area eerily hazy.  The smoke brought in raptors from all around hoping to score a quick dinner from prey feeling threatened by encroaching fires. The coolest birds we spotted were several Golden Eagles and Rough Legged Hawks.The spotting scope sure came in handy this day and my new camera helped me capture of few good pictures, too.

Steens Mountain Loop Road is one coolest scenic drives that ’I’ve ever been on. I had never even heard of Steens Mountain’ until I researched the next few places we might encounter.  I am happy to share through this blog what a wonderful and enlightening place we found here.I feel Steens Mountain provides a great experience in some untamed and remote land in the High Desert of Oregon…

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Last Days in Bend, Oregon - Friends, Hiking and Living…

We have enjoyed our stay in Bend, Oregon and before we left there was one more waterfall hike we wanted to get in, Tumalo Falls. Tumalo Falls is a short drive west of Bend and upon pulling into the parking lot, we could hear the falls. The hike to the falls was short but we planned a longer hike so we could also see Double Falls. Total distance for our hike this day was about three miles, in and out. There is a loop trail here which we prefer but that would require us to cross a very cold creek so we opted to hike in as far as the crossing and simply return.

Another magnificent set of waterfalls on this nice hike as both Tumalo Falls and Double Falls are very worth the effort it takes to see them. It may be a while before we see any waterfalls again so we took our time to soak in their beauty and the roaring sound made as the water tumbled downward… From Bend we will be traveling east across some of the high desert in Oregon and Nevada as we plan to spend a couple of weeks in the Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks before heading southwest to San Diego for November and December.

Besides hiking to waterfalls we also found several hikes along the Deschutes River with some of our miles in the wilderness and some more urban as we hiked in the town of Bend along their nice series of river trails. As we did in Portland Oregon we stopped at several of the craft breweries and even took a tour of the Deschutes Brewery. The crafted beer scene in Bend is every bit as good as rtland and while Portland may have many more breweries Bend claims the honor of having the most breweries per capita. My favorite was Boneyard Brewery and Sharon’s was Crux but we really didn’t have a bad beer during our stay.

We are sure glad we spent some time in Bend since we were unable to the last time we passed through the area. Bend is a vibrant town with lots to see and do. It was also a treat to enjoy some social time with Pam and Vic, their friends the Hiss family and our friends BJ and Mike who flew in from Portland to visit Pam and Vic for a few days.  Our last night was spent at Pam's suggestion at Anthony's for dinner on the patio by the river in the Old Mill District.  It was a beautiful evening and we all had a great time. Had there been any vacancies at Tumalo State Park we would have surely stayed longer.


We left today to head off into the desert as we amble towards Utah… see you on down the road of retirement!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bend Oregon and Newberry National Volcanic Monument

We sadly left Portland but were excited that I was able to book five nights at Tumalo State Park just outside of Bend Oregon. Luckily for us someone cancelled and we were able to snag these five days as Tumalo SP is difficult to book for any length of time at the last minute like we did. We began to set up at our site (an excellent back in site number 166) and realized that we must have lost (yet another) 50 to 30 amp converter. We spoke with the camp host who said that the best place to get one on a Sunday was Walmart so we headed over to the store where we luckily found one to replace ours.

While at Walmart we got a text from Pam and Vic who pen the blog The Big EZ.  They invited us to happy hour at their new townhouse.  It was great to see our friends and enjoy some local craft beer Pam had picked up in growlers from their local Fred Meyer store.  What a great visit we had and it was fun to hear all about their sale of the motorhome as well as their lifestyle adjustments to transitioning from the motorhome into their new home here in Bend.

The next day we decided to drive over to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. We showed our National Park Access Pass and were given a timed pass to drive to the top of 5,020 foot tall Lava Butte to hike the rim trail around the relic volcano that last spewed lava some 7,000 years ago. It was a short hike but one with fantastic vistas of the old lava flow below as well as the Sisters Mountains in the distance. I found it interesting to ponder as we hiked around the rim of about this once violent caldera…

We then took a mile or so hike out into the old lava flow on the Trail of the Molten Land. They have built a really nice trail that took us out into the flow that to this day supports only the toughest of species as water in the lava flow is scarce at best. A few small bushes and an occasional pine tree have managed to gain a foothold in this extreme environment. We were hoping to see a pika in the lava flow but weren’t successful. We did spot a few rock wrens hopping about and saw some really fascinating basaltic rocks and formations.


When we were done with that hike we still had an hour or so before we were going to meet up with some folks that contacted us on RVillage. So we drove over to take a look at Paulina Lake which is one of the deepest lakes in Oregon as it fills an old caldera similar to Crater Lake but not nearly as magnificent. Near Paulina Lake we found short trail that took us to the foot of Paulina Falls. Paulina Falls is a beauty as the water falls over 80 feet as it rushes over the volcanic cliffs. We have seen lots of waterfalls on our western trek this year and this one is a must see in our opinion.

After the hike we headed back into Bend, Oregon to meet up with our soon to be friends at the Deschutes Brewery Public House for a few crafted beers. We had a fun time meeting up with fellow RV’ers from Texas, Robert and Diana and look forward to other RVillage meet ups in the future…