Growing up in Auburn, California, Nevada was not far away. Nevada had little appeal. It was the place to get married under age, to gamble, or to endure miles of endless desert boredom.
My poor parents heard nothing but, "Are we there yet?" when we drove across Nevada.
We left Great Basin National Park, wanting to see the Ward Charcoal Ovens, but otherwise thinking there was not too much else that interested us in Nevada. We set out on Highway 50, aptly named the Loneliest Road.
Built in the mid 1870's, each stone oven is 27 feet in diameter by 30 feet high. Loaded, they hold 35 cords of wood. They burn for 12 days to produce 50 bushels of charcoal for every cord of wood. It took 5 to 6 acres of timber to fill each oven.
After visiting the ovens, we head for Ely to resupply. Then, retracing our steps a bit, we follow the signs to Cave Lake State Park. Kicking my boring-sagebrush bias in the butt, we discover, up in the hills, two campgrounds in beautiful surroundings, complete with a lake and enticing trails. We stayed the night.
The next day, after a hike and lunch we move on. We have more desert to cross and we want to get the long haul behind us. We're now certain we've seen the best of Nevada, and want to cross into Idaho, as quickly as possible.
We spot tents on our map, close to Elko, so we head there. Elko's sprawl of billboards, trailers, metal buildings, casinos, broken down cars, traffic and irreverently placed homes leaves us dispirited.
Our lament! What has happened to America's charming towns? Discouraged, we are about ready to park in a casino parking lot, and be done with the day. Luckily, at just the right moment, we spot the sign for Scenic Byway 227, and press on to Ruby Mountains Wilderness in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
We find another gem! Lamoille Canyon. Surrounded by splendor, all three of us, Benton, Ed and I, are frisky with delight, and in wonder that we are only 20 miles from Elko. Here's our camp.
Leaving Lamoille Canyon, it's back to Elko to connect with Scenic Highway 225 North. But first, coffee at Cowboy Joe (*****)! While there we meet a fun-delightful-interesting-adventurous couple traveling in the most mean ass, back-country-outfitted Lexus I've even seen.
"Sage-brush is a very fair fuel, but as a vegetable it is a distinguished failure. Nothing can abide the taste of it but the jackass and his illegitimate child the mule."
- Mark Twain