A Tale of Small “Cities”

I woke too tired & sore to be bothered getting in a quick shuttle run up to Armstrong Connector, Sidewinder & Corral before leaving Tahoe.  Pleased to be leaving all the traffic behind, it did feel like I was leaving with unfinished business.  Maybe if I ever return the higher long trails will be clear to ride.  On the other hand, maybe it’ll be the middle of winter & I’ll be skiing.  Pipe-dreams.

We hit only the second state capital of the entire trip (the first being Helena, Montana, right at the start) in Carson City, Nevada.  We didn’t bother stopping on our way to the trio of old mining towns – Silver City, Gold Hill & Virginia City.  It’s always a little incredible how quickly dropping elevation changes you from the alpine of the Sierras to the Nevada desert landscape.  There wasn’t reason to stop in Silver City, but I did spy an old steam locomotive sitting on a siding near the top of Gold Hill.

As I was poking around looking at it (it was in pretty good condition) some guy appeared from I’m not sure where – probably checking I wasn’t trying to put it in my back pocket.  He was part of the historical society that has been restoring the loco & old freight depot adjacent to it.  He was only too happy to talk about the projects & the mining history & answer my questions – which was great.

Virginia City was only a mile up the road – Valerie came here on Saturday while I was playing in the snow & didn’t realize Gold Hill was so close.  The main street of Virginia City stretches & stretches and is most definitely the best preserved western-style street we’ve seen so far on our travels.  There were plenty of saloons, museums & of course, being Nevada, places to see your money disappear in to machines with flashing lights & irritating tunes.  The site of the Comstock Lode in the nineteenth century, this place was booming on the back of all the silver & gold being pulled out of the hills.  A couple of interesting snippets – the name Mark Twain was first used from here, as Samuel Clemens wrote for the local newspaper & George Hearst (of the Hearst Castle, which we visited almost two weeks ago, family) made one of his fortunes here.

We drove “all the way to Reno”, not much to see there – it’s like a little, tame version of Vegas in parts.   Rancho San Rafael on the northwest of town was a very pleasant spot for lunch; interestingly I could have kissed a Blarney stone.  Reminding me of “how would you like to play a central park in Newark?” (Flight of the Conchords, before you ask, Mum), for some reason there was a stone from Blarney Castle in the garden.  Continuing north we were soon going through the Californian border check as we then headed up & west into the Sierra Valley.  I was surprised that it was so wide & flat.  They obviously have plenty of water as the cropping & livestock herds gave evidence of.  Climbing out of the valley, as we pressed on east, was once again stunning, very beautiful forest as we reached Sierra City (another large village with “City” tacked on the end of its name).  Eventually we found a couple of beds at Kokanee Kabins.  Nestled in the woods, it’s great to have the birds chirping away over the steady stream of all that snowmelt running down the river.

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