Continuing 50 miles to the southeast, we found ourselves at Ichthyosaurus State Park. Discovered midcentury by prospectors, the park is unique in its collection of fossilized, flesh-eating fish. The ichthyosaur was not just your common guppy. These little flippers grew up to 40 feet long and sported a set of teeth that could tear a person in half. Fossilized for eternity and encased in stone, they caused us no harm. After a narrated tour, we headed toward our lunch stop in the remote town of Ione. Ione is an authentic, semi-operational ghost town with a population of eight (no, this is not a typo) - the family that runs the bar makes up half the population. The innkeepers served up a full spread of barbecued hot dogs, chicken, and burgers with all the trimmings. Miles from any town, an occasional UPS truck has now replaced the old freight wagons, and the incessant whistle of steam-powered stamp mills no longer resonates through the hills.
Next on the agenda was a stop at the historical ghost town of Berlin, a mining district that operated all the way into the 1950s. We took some time to explore various relics, old buildings, and the Walter Bowler Tunnel - a hard rock mine bored thousands of feet into the mountain and operating on several different elevation levels. As the sun headed for the western horizon, Smith turned the wheels of his Grand Cherokee to the east and we made tracks for the town of Ely, Nevada, and the historic Jail House Hotel, our basecamp for rest of the trip.
Jeep Jamboree packs a lot into its events, and over the next several days we would visit places like the gold mines of Egan Canyon and Cherry Creek, the Ward Charcoal Kilns, the depths of the Lehman Caves, the Ruth copper mine (the largest in the world) and enjoy wine and cheese on one of the country's last operational steam-engine trains in the country.
If you get off the Loneliest Road in America you'll find yourself in a place where distances between points seem to fade into a dusty mirage on the horizon. It is a place of few fences and thousands of miles of enticing two-tracks that beg to be explored - a place where historical artifacts and local lore abound for those with an adventurous heart.
So what is so different about...
So what is so different about the Mark A. Smith Signature series, and why the Nevada Outback? Smith turned 80 this past fall, and being one of the founders of the first Jeepers Jamboree back in 1953, he has 50-plus years of experience guiding folks around in Jeeps. The fact that he grew up in Ely, Nevada, a century-old mining town located deep in the American outback, makes him somewhat of an expert in the field.
As ancient Lake Lahontan receded,...
As ancient Lake Lahontan receded, it left hundreds of dry lakebeds in its footprint. Baked in the sun and deprived of moisture for a half-dozen millennia, dust and sand migrated with the prevailing winds. When it finally settled, vast sand dunes were created. On day one, our group ventured into the shifting sands of Sand Mountain State OHV Area for a little sand play. The keys to success when driving in soft sand are floatation, horsepower, and not getting sideways on the precious inclines.
Jeep Jamboree guide Grant...
Jeep Jamboree guide Grant Rubino blasted out into the dunes to test the suspension on his new Jeep Rubicon.