Robbin and I have been crossing the Great Basin from Tonopah to Carlin in January for twenty years, choosing the longer route to Elko instead of I-99 towards Sacramento congestion and Donner Pass. Once known as the World’s Loneliest Highway, going home we met only a couple of vehicles on Highway 278 towards Eureka, Monday morning February 1st, after Sunday’s storm.
Twenty years ago, everyone waved a passing hello when meeting a vehicle on these back roads, but the habit seems to have waned in the past few years. I never fail to wonder about the first wagon crossings, the weeks it took to overcome this high desert expanse, the people, their courage and endurance, as they made the trek. How many of us today would have done as well, invested the patience and dedication to get to a place, presumably California, that they’d never seen?
Temperatures in the single digits, we left blowing snow outside Tonopah a week ago in Nevada’s Great Basin. Since we have gathered our last bunch of cows and calves to brand this morning to a forecast high of 76°. Here the hillsides are green, spattered with early patches of golden poppies and fiddleneck, as white popcorn flowers begin to creep up the lower slopes. The visual and mental contrasts from Elko to Dry Creek are startling, two different worlds either side of the Great Western Divide within a week’s time.
It’s been years since we’ve seen much snow in the Great Basin, and despite its potential hazards and inconvenience, it’s a heartening sign of better health. January is a time of daily feeding for cattle ranchers in Nevada with temperatures hovering around zero — a pretty tough breed of man and beast!
With a leisurely, late start from Elko, we encountered a few midday showers Monday, crossing Nevada’s Great Basin between Carlin and Tonopah, making for some interesting high-speed photos with the point and shoot.
Under a dark cloud outside Eureka, a blurry foreground beneath a crisp Lone Mountain on the ‘Lonliest Road in America’ (US 50).
Hay headed to dry California.
We stopped for a bowl of soup at the refurbished and reopened Mizpah in Tonopah,
then headed into to the sunset towards Bishop.