Monday, June 13, 2011

Gunsmoke, cactus and joshua trees.

I woke up after a wonderful nights rest ready for adventure. After talking with some fellow campers it was suggested that I head north and visit Pioche. I am sorry the information on Pioche is going to be a little bit thin. Since I found out about this town while I was on the road I was unable to do research before I left.

I started off by wandering my way over to the towns cemeteries. There is one for the religious in town and "boot hill" where the less desirable members of the town were buried. I started off


Boot hill is in stark contrast to the well maintained, green city cemetery. It is dead, dry place dotted with many unmarked graves. The deaths of those buried here were so inconsequential that ore tramway cuts directly through the graveyard!



One of the original ore cars passing over the cemetery.

In the early days Pioche was rampant with crime. Its been said that during the first few years 72 men were "buried with their boots on" before the first death due to natural causes. The grave yard is full of the unmarked graves of Chinese immigrants and others who's names were unknown. Here are some of the more interesting grave markers I ran across:

"Feared by some, respected by few, ditested by others, shot in back 5 times by ambush"

"Shot during a dispute over a dog"

"Shot by a cowerd, he worked his claim, no one even knew his name"

There is an oven in the cemetery where the Chinese immigrants would cook food to honor their dead. A lifetime local told me that as soon as the meals were presented to their ancestors the local bum population would swoop in and feast. I wish I had taken a picture of the oven. At the time it seemed strange so I walked past it without knowing the story behind it.

I wandered to main street and visited the museum and some of the shops.







This is the county courthouse. the story of the courthouse is a prime example of the corruption that was so rampant in the town. The courthouse was suppose to cost  just over $16,000. By the time several contractors absconded with the money, fraudulent bonds and politicians skimmed their cut the cost had ballooned out of control. About the time the cost was getting out of hand the mines started to play out and the town lost its cash cow. It took the county 68 years to pay off the loan on the building. By the time you figure in penalties and cost over runs the courthouse cost over $800,000. The courthouse was abandoned for over 30 years and was renovated to serve as a museum. The  remodel pushed the cost of this building to just over a million dollars, a far cry from the original $16,000


An old miners shack that struck me as being cool.

I made my way over bunker pass towards Motaqua and was greeted by many cactus that were in full bloom


I made it to Motaqua, all I could see in the area was a corral, an airstrip and a single home. Apparently at one time the area was home to several polygamist families. The area use to be dotted with ranches small homes. I didn't see the homes so maybe they have since moved into Colorado City, Arizona. As I continued south the terrain was dominated by Joshua trees.



I passed the water tank at antelope spring.

As I rolled into St. George I was ran into a road block. The canyon between me and St George was blocked because of a wildfire. I didn't have enough fuel to make the loop around Gunnesion reservoir so I sat hoping the canyon would open up, and about an hour later it did. I got fuel and headed to McDonald's to get caught up on my posts. I posted up on several boards asking if anyone had a spare tire floating around they could give me. Stacey E. said he had one for me and he was just a few blocks away! Happy that someone was willing to help a fellow traveler I headed over to his house. After talking with Stacy he offered the use of his pool cabana and his driveway to set up camp. When he showed me the cabana and the showers thought I had died and gone to heaven!

Stacy E is by far the most gracious host I have had along my journey. You will be hearing more about his kindness in a future post. Glad to have run across such kindness I set up my tent in his driveway and drifted off to sleep.

Ghost towns and Cathedrals:

Today I woke up and started to wander around exploring my surroundings:







Stateline started its life in in the 1870's as an overland stage stop between Frisco and Millard. This route was sometimes used by cattle rustlers into Nevada with cattle from nearby Mormon settlements. In 1894 some small time mining was started and by 1894 it had turned into a full townsite with 12 mines working in the nearby hills. Around the turn of the century the town had grown to around 300, had a hotel, general store, 2 saloons and was a daily stage stop. by the 30's and 40's the mines had all but played out. Small time mining existed until 1984 when the EPA shut down the mill because of violations.

I then made my way down through Modena Canyon and ran into this neat little formation. (I actually found this little gem while goofing around on Google Earth)




I arrived in Modena and wandered the semi ghost town:




Modena was a railroad camp primarily inhabited by Italian immigrants. The of the town supposedly came courtesy of the Chinese cook in the mess hall. He would shout "MO-DINNA" when more food was available.....at least that is the legend.

After snapping a few pictures and talking with a mostly deaf local I moved onto to Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada. Cathedral Gorge was named by Mrs Earl Godbe in the 1890's. The eroded siltstone reminded her of the great cathedrals in Europe. In the 1910's the Edwards family spent extensive time exploring the canyons. The Edwards family was struck by the beauty of the place and in the 20's pushed to have the area preserved within the protective bounds of a state park. In 1935 the Edwards dream was realized when it was made a park.

I made my way towards the Gorge and found that it was $17 (including entrance fee) to camp a night here. I was hesitant to spend that much money until the ranger informed me that they had hot showers......I was sold right then and there! I pulled up, picked a spot and set up the tent. Reading the park brochure I learned that there was a 4 mile loop hike that started right next to my campsite. With there being plenty of daylight left I picked up my bag of photography gear, filled my water bottle and headed out.


Along the way the cacti and the yucca were in full bloom.



The trail is flat and for the most part follows a wash. This is as rough as the hike gets.





I made the short 1 mile side detour to the Miller point overlook. Its an easy hike up the stairs shade of the Ramada for a quick break from the sun.

These restrooms were constructed by the CCC in the 30's. The builders were heavily influenced by the Anasazi and followed in their footsteps when building. Even on a hot day the thick walls kept the restrooms much cooler than the air outside.

I then headed to the caves. The caves are extremely deep (and at times narrow) slot canyons. The pictures speak for themselves



This water tower was also constructed by the CCC water was pumped from a nearby well and gravity fed it to the campground. The water was so alkali that the tower was only in use for a short while and the system was abandoned.

Having finished the hikes the park has to offer I wandered back towards camp and talked with a group of teardrop trailer enthusiasts. This only rekindled my wanting for one for behind the Jeep......the tent is nice enough and suits my needs, but I just love the look of these trailers.

I talked with a Swiss couple that is wandering the United States for two months. They were in awe at the terrain and were blown away that more people didn't visit here. I guess its really the places in your own backyard that you neglect the most. Its kind of sad the things that people overlook that are right under their noses. I then took a quick shower as the showers were in high demand and there was a line. As I was brushing my teeth I met a native of Seattle who was traveling the country by motorcycle. He plans on heading as far east as Wisconsin before returning home through Canada. Tired from my hike and talking for a few hours I climbed the ladder up to my bed and fell fast asleep.