Ghost Town Explorer
April 2009

Virginia City on our mind, and the thought of civilized accommodations made for some exciting anticipation. Originally we thought we were headed to Mina, but Tioga Pass was still closed and it seemed like too large of a trip so early in the spring. So the vote was a series of day trips near Virginia City which included the Ophir Grade, Lousetown Creek, and the Pine Nut Mountains. Attending were Gino & Ginger from nearby Stagecoach Nevada and my brother, his wife and son.

Departing San Jose at about 5am on Thursday morning, we were immediately inclined to make two stops in Livermore for fuel and snacks which delayed us an hour. Once on the road it was smooth sailing all the way in to Reno. Tresa drove about an hour through Sacramento to Colfax allowing me to take a brief nap. A bathroom break near the Colfax exit exposed me to some brisk 40 degree temperatures and an energy drink. Good to go! At the summit we encountered some light snow, slushy roads and slower speeds. We made one last fuel stop just before Reno to top off, and then headed directly to Virginia City. When we arrived we made a quick stop in the center of town at a saloon to toss back a couple burgers and sarsaparillas. Nothing to really brag about, although the nachos were fresh and contained real shredded cheese.

Ghost Town ExplorerHunger satisfied, we drove to the south end of town and to the Edith Palmer Country Inn Bed & Breakfast where owner Leisa was patiently waiting for us. We were very impressed with the suite we had reserved. It had everything we needed to make our trip more comfortable, including wireless internet. Although we originally planned on a small day trip to the Petroglyphs in Lousetown Creek, Once unpacked, we decided we were too tired. So we stayed in doors drifting in and out of sleep, enjoying snacks and cable tv. Calls to Gino and Marc produced an organized exploration over the Ophir Grade above Virginia City for 10am the following morning, leaving us plenty of time to prepare. Snow flurries falling and the heater set to high, we turned in for the night.

The following morning we awoke to the much of the same; cold wind and floating flurries of snow. I prepared breakfast then stepped out to set up the Teryx with the necessities for our first trip. Other than the usual gps, cameras, ice chest and spare fuel, was the need for a sheltered roof top, so an eazy-up shade tarp was converted to a soft top in a matter of minutes employing tie wraps and bungee cords. With snow flurries now converting to light hale, Gino arrived wondering if we would still be venturing out. Knowing we could return easily and quickly if the weather conditions worsened, we agreed to give it a shot. Bundled in warm clothing and full of optimism we boarded our machines and headed for the hills. We rode about one quarter mile from the hotel towards the town limit of Gold Hill, where we arrived at the trail head for Ophir Grade. Now on dirt terrain we quickly winded up the switchbacks above the historic towns. The view of Gold Hill and Virginia City were awesome. Near the summit was the cut off trail to American City, Yet another historic mining camp dating back to the early 1920’s. We were warned in earlier years to avoid that area by locals who claim that it is now infested by drug dealers and squatters. We continued over the summit and started our way down the Jumbo Grade towards the various mines that supported the small mining camp of the late 1800’s. Unfortunately for us the snow flurries had turned to harsh pebbles of hale and they were dropping by the bucket loads. We made it as far as the former site of the mining camp where we parked and took cover hopeful the hale storm would soon pass. But the clouds became darker and the hale drops were now more furious. With no let up in sight we voted and then made our way back for more comfortable climate. This would now be the second time exploring above Virginia City and failing to locate each of the mines. Although disappointed, I felt more comfortable knowing that my family and friend were not trudging out in poor weather to satisfy my accomplishments.

Ghost Town ExplorerTo stay warm on our return trip over the mountain, Tresa rode with Gino and Makala took a front seat with me as I drove. Huddling close to the engines we remained as warm as could be as the hale pelted our travel back in to town. Gino returned to his home in Stage Coach Nevada, and we to our room in Virginia City, where we turned up the heater and tuned in to the local weather channel. A text message from my brother Marc indicated his arrival near 3pm. When he did arrive, he was pumped up and ready to explore regardless of the weather conditions. Once convinced, I layered up and pulled the Teryx off the trailer. Tresa, who was upstairs sleeping, heard the engine and decided to join us as well. The trail up the Ophir Grade was a bit slower this time around, this being Mari (Marc Wife) first experience riding. When we arrived at the cut off trail we decided it would be better for Tresa to take control of the quad that Mari was riding. Mari climbed aboard the Teryx and we headed down the washed out tilted trail to American Flats. At the bottom we discovered no way across the unused rail road tracks, so we made our own with large rocks. Tresa crossed first but the rear tires hung up on the first rail. Thinking we were yelling to “gun it” she accelerated. Unfortunately for her the tires caught traction and the quad launched across the tracks with her holding on for her life. Once the quad bounced over the second rail she was thrown in to the air backwards as the quad wheelied forward. Landing just beyond the second rail on her back we rushed over to check on her. No blood, no broken bones, just a sore back and bruised butt cheek was our official trail diagnosis. After a few minutes of laughing and joking about u-tube video, I started over the tracks with the Teryx followed by Marc on his Grizzly.

Ghost Town ExplorerWith Mari back on the quad and Tresa licking her wounds in the Teryx, we headed down the trail to the old American City Cyanide Plant. The ruins were awesome. Huge 3 and 4 story cement buildings gutted empty with stairways leading to nowhere. Basements filled with water and foundation pads are what remain of this once busy location. The first thought to my mind was making a horror flick. This place is spooky. The hale had increased on our ride over the tracks, and was now falling at a faster rate then ever before. The light was falling back behind the hills. We agreed that we needed a quick return, so we headed back. To avoid the track crossing and save several minutes of time, we took a trial that dumped us off on to the main road in Silver City and rode like hell up the hill past Gold Hill and in to Virginia City. The Hale had turned in to all out snow. The higher we climbed the thicker it became. Once in Virginia City we could see that the snow had been falling for sometime. Everything was covered in several inches of snow. We quickly secured the machines on the trailers while being questioned by the local sheriff as to why we had to ride the main hwy in to town. When cleared of all charges we went inside for some hot chocolate.

Marc’s family stayed with Gino in Stage Coach that night. Morning came early but we had actually prepared the night before. We drove out to Dayton via 6 mile canyon and met Marc and Gino at the Terribles Casino for some breakfast. Word of advice, if you have the opportunity to eat here, avoid it.

Even Denny’s is better. After breakfast we drove about 3 miles up a dirt road behind the local high school and parked next to a large water tank on the old Como Road. It was here that we staged for our next trip in to the Pine Nut Mountains. We all worked at unloading the machines and setting up for the day’s adventure.

Ghost Town ExplorerSoon after we were truckin down the trail and winding our way in to a mild canyon. It didn’t take us long to arrive at our first stop, the Hultey-Logan Mine & Mill site just below the historic remains of Como. The Hultey-Logan was founded in the 1930’s as a revitalization attempt. Unfortunately it shut down a year later when the ore had played out. Another mile up the road is the site of Como. Not much left here. The most notable remains are those of a rock structure that is slowly crumbling with time. Unfortunately there was a large fire here last year that would have burned any wood remains littering the mountain floor. Even the rock foundations were non existent, probably blackened by the soot and high temperatures, they now hide among the burnt ashes littering the earth. After we explored a couple mine sites that supported Como, Gino led us up Rawe Peak. The trek around the east side of the mountain was shadowed by trees which made it very wet from the recent snow. Ruts of slushy mud made for a fun trail. Then there was a climb that took us several minutes and fed us some of the rockiest terrain we had encountered in some time, but the view from the top was well worth the sore butt cheeks. From Rawe Peak one could see Virginia City to the North, Wabuska to the East and the Sweetwater Mountains to the South. Lucky for us there was no wind that day, so we relaxed and ate lunch with a view.

Gino thought to show us a bit of the trail to Wabuska before herding us back to our starting point. And a nice trail it was; smooth and soft. Once we reached Churchill Canyon we pulled aside, shut off the machines and enjoyed some time in solitude. We listened to the birds and the breeze blowing through the trees. We discussed a return trip to the Mountains, and other trail options. Then we headed back. I accepted the passenger seat and took in the sights. Back at the trailer I noticed the welds had broken on the ramp holder on the trailers underside. To avoid loosing it on the freeway and the horror of 25lb ramp tumbling through traffic, I decided to make a quick fix.

Ghost Town Explorer The following morning being Sunday, we slept in a bit longer than usual. Tresa cooked breakfast. Then we packed up, checked out and headed in to town to look around. After town, we visited to the cemetery. The drive back to San Jose was a long one. Being a holiday weekend, we hit traffic in Sacramento and Tracy. But eventually made it home sweet home.

We really enjoyed ourselves on this trip, making it as much of a vacation as a time to explore took some stress off the “need to proceed”. When we drove off towards home we were already discussing a return trip for next year.


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