Visit Nevada of the Past with a Road Trip Along its Lonely Roads
Taking Route 93 about two hours out of Las Vegtas we started the most interesting part of the trip in Lincoln County with the almost ghost town of Caliente. This early 1900s farming community was a major stop for the railroad which supported the mining towns of Pioche and the real ghost town of Delamar.
CalienteToday the historic mission style Rail Depot stands majestically as a reminder of the past. We visited the depot only to find it sorely in need of repair. We were told the city has applied for a grant to do the repairs. It seems the stucco mix used long ago to build the depot was not compatible with modern day paint so the structure is deteriorating. The beautiful murals on the walls are still there. Do take a look, there is a small museum set up in a rail car, net to the station, with enthusiastic volunteers to tell you of the town’s history.
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We saw only two restaurants in the town. We found the food at the Branding Iron good and hardy like the historic building it is in, while eating I could enjoy looking at the beautiful old iconic tile counter.
PiocheContinuing along on the desolate road we enjoyed the wide-open vista views. The next stop along 93 is the town of Pioche. Evidence of the mining that took place there is seen all over town, with mine artifacts still in place on the hill sides. The Overland Hotel and Saloon is a prominent Pioche stopover and a piece of history in this town once known as the Wildest town in the West.
The Overland Hotel and Saloon is still operating. The hotel has refurbished rooms that include a private modern bath. The Saloon is mostly original and visitors take a step back in time.
Pioche was designated the county seat in 1871, a new court house was needed and contracted at $26,000. By completion the cost had escalated to more than $88,000, reportedly due to mismanagement and kickbacks. The cost of the Courthouse at the final payment in 1937 was $1,000,000 but by then the courthouse had been condemned. It still stands as a reminder of the past and a visitor’s attraction along with the jail.
Ward Charcoal Ovens and Lake State ParkFrom Pioche into Ely is the longest stretch of lonely road, but it also has some of the more picturesque scenery. Just before reaching Ely on Hwy 93, you pass by the Ward Charcoal ovens turn off. Just a short drive off the Hwy. you will see the beehive shaped ovens used to reduce pinyon pine and juniper into charcoal during the Silver boom years of the Ward mines, 1876 to 1879. Later the cones sheltered stockmen and prospectors during bad weather; they also had a reputation as a hideout for stagecoach bandits.
After the Charcoal ovens the next Hwy 93 turnoff will be to Cave Lake State Park. The picturesque lake provides fishing for trout, rainbow and German. There is a state campground and facilities there also. We had a lovely picnic there by the lake.
ElyTourists use the town of Ely as a base to begin their tours from. As this a central location to nearby Cave Lake State Park, Lehman Caves, Great Basin National Park and the town of McGill.
Ely is home to the touchable history of the Nevada Northern Railway. Touchable means visitors can not only ride the old trains pulled by the original steam engines, they have an opportunity, for a price, to put their hand on the throttle, along with the real engineer or spend the night in a Caboose or the Bunkhouse. The train walking tour takes visitors out to the machine shop, a rare look at what it took to keep the trains running then and now. The tour is long and may not be suitable for walking impaired.
Another great place to visit while in Ely is the White Pines Public Museum located on Aultman Street and it is a surprise delight for visitors. Outside it does not look to be much of a museum, inside I found it to be one of the most interesting museum I have been in. We spent way more time there than we expected. There is a wealth of artifacts from the historical west from all walks of life that inhabited this area. One of my favorite curiosities is a working 1953 "tube" x-ray machine. Not recommended for use because the radiation amount was too strong, yet 10,000 x-rays were taken with this machine.
McGillEly visitors should continuing north on Hwy 93 to the little town of McGill, only twelve miles away. A must see is the Historical McGill Drug Company. This little drug store, with soda fountain and pharmacy opened in 1907 to serve the mining community of McGill. The store closed in 1997 and has remained frozen in time. The current owner now shares this time capsule with the public. Apparently everything used or not sold was kept in the back room. Besides viewing the out of date products that still set on the shelves, the back room has cigar boxes full of copies of all the old prescriptions sold from the pharmacy through the years. The discoveries of these old prescriptions have been beneficial to the people from McGill, which sits downwind of the Nevada Testing Grounds. They have returned here to go through the boxes looking for their own prescriptions as proof of a related illness.
The items in the drawers and showcases are just as they were the last day the store was open. When the owner opened the old safe, he found that the birth records of the local people, during the early years of the store, have been kept there. I sat on the stool in front of the soda fountain in total amazement of the time capsule items left in this drug store.
The total trip from Las Vegas is about 300 miles one way. Enjoy the ride, stay over night in one of these retro towns. Nevada highways may be lonely, but not necessarily boring, if you take time to stop and smell the history.
In the heat of the summer this road trip will not only take you through history, but it will also take you to the cooler north of Nevada.
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Bobbie Green grew up in southern California. She is a member of the North American Travel Journalist Association. She is a freelance writer and has been published in various Senior Wire Publications, The Desert Valley Times, Nevada Magazine, Mesquite Local.com, Travel World International, and Leisuretravelreports.com. Besides enjoying her love of travel by doing it as often as she can, she enjoys photography and attends numerous travel trade functions. Presently she is enjoying desert living in Mesquite Nevada.
Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author