Elko, Nevada – Part 2

Western movies and television shows sparked my interest in early American history. Stories about families loading up their possessions and joining a wagon train to travel 2,000 miles from Missouri to California are among my favorites. Hollywood rarely invests in this genre anymore, but the Bureau of Land Management’s California Trail Interpretive Center allowed me to imagine what life was like on the emigrant trail.

California Trail Interpretive Center

The building sits above Interstate 80 on the west side of Elko, Nevada. Easy hiking trails behind the building take hikers to overlooks of the Humboldt River, South Fork, and the California Trail.

JT reading California Trail outdoor display

A replica wagon train camp illustrated life on the trail. I tried to picture myself wearing a dusty and dirty petticoat, cotton dress, and bonnet, cooking the evening meal over a hot fire fueled by chopped wood or cow pies.

California Trail Interpretive Center Wagon Camp
Wagon Camp Cooking Pit

Inside, dioramas depict the daily chores and entertainment engaged in by the emigrants. Pioneer letters, lists of provisions, statistics on deaths, maps, timelines, and other information, rounds out the displays. I have to admire the courage of the emigrants who dared to make the 4 1/2-month trek, suffering disease, tragic accidents, starvation, and even death along the way.

California Interpretive Center Diorama

Today we zip along the highway at 70 miles an hour tugging our mobile house with a bathroom, galley, refrigerator, and soft mattress. The next time an urge to complain about how far we have to drive, the trailer’s tiny bathroom, or my stuffed closet, takes hold of me, I’ll think about the emigrants walking next to their oxen and wagon and be thankful for our modern conveniences.


On Wednesday, a loop drive on Highway 229 took us through rolling green hills, another beautiful canyon, and cattle ranches.

Lush Canyon Vegetation – No water shortage here

We marveled at the blue sky we encountered everywhere we turned. The rolled bales of hay, fermenting in the sun, dotting the wide-open landscapes were an unfamiliar sight. We were used to the rectangular bales.

Rolling Green Hills and 900 LB Rolled Bales of Hay

In front of the gated Mustang Monument property was a perfect place to stop and eat a snack. We could see a few buildings in the distance but no farming equipment, no horses or other farm animals, and no other type of activity. My curiosity was peaked. It was time to search the internet. If you are in the market for an eco-resort or American safari, you can tailor your adventure to your liking for the reasonable price of $1950 a night for a cottage or $1650 a night for a luxury tipi. All meals, alcohol, and adventures are included. I wonder if we could get a discount for bringing our own accommodations.

Mustang Monument Eco-Resort

We gave the truck a work out on Highway 231 for the 11 miles up to Angel Lake, our last stop on the loop drive. Waterfalls feed the small alpine lake at an elevation of 8,500 feet where fishing and canoeing are popular. Several picnic areas near the parking lot are tucked in around the vegetation, giving visitors a sense of privacy. Angel Lake Campground is adjacent to the lake, and Angel Creek Campground is down the hill at an elevation of 6,800 feet for campers who wish to stay overnight.

Angel Lake Waterfall
View of Angel Lake from Trail to Waterfall
Angel Lake after Sunset

The truck continued running at full power. We had four more days traipsing around Elko. Would we find enough to do?

Elko, Nevada – Part 1

On Sunday, July 10, we left Sparks in our rearview mirror and headed across the desert toward Elko, Nevada, with a quick stop in Lovelock for lunch. The courthouse parking lot gave us plenty of space for our rig in this quaint town.

Lovelock County Court House
A walk around the building to stretch our legs seemed like a good idea and what should we see but clusters of locks hooked to chains stretched between short pillars.

img_8918There must have been thousands, from old rusty locks to shiny new locks, engraved locks, and plain locks. Name a brand. I’m sure it’s represented somewhere in Lovers Lock Plaza. Had we brought along our own lock to add to the bunch, I’m not sure where it could have been clipped.img_8922

We pulled into Iron Horse RV Resort where we planned to stay for three or four nights. Iron Horse is unique in that customers also have access to the Hilton Garden Inn up the hill, including a discount for a hot breakfast. Although they advertise a pool at both the RV section and the hotel, they are not large enough to propel your body for more than one stroke. We did, however, make good use of the treadmills and dumbbells at the inn, using the walk up the steep hill to the Hilton as our warmup.

Let the sightseeing begin.

Anxious to start poking around, we packed a lunch and hit the road the next morning. A few minutes later, a check engine light flashed on the dash. Now what? A quick look in the manual revealed a possible problem with the deisel exhaust fluid (DEF) system, which is the equivalent of smog control for diesels. Great! The situation wasn’t critical so off we drove.

What a surprise to find an oasis like Lamoille Canyon after 290 miles of crossing the flat and rolling desert hills from Reno.

Ruby Mountains – Still snow on them hills

View of valley from overlook
The geology, flora, and fauna of Lamoille Canyon reminded me of sights in Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes.

The canyon, twelve-miles long, is the largest valley in the Ruby Mountains and includes waterfalls, sparkling pools, snow-dotted peaks, campgrounds, picnic areas, and hiking trails. I felt sorry for all the travelers up on Interstate 80 missing this experience. It’s a perfect respite from the monotony of driving through the desert.

Indian Paintbrush
Large sections of tree stumps showed evidence that beavers had been hard at work.


Beaver Chew Marks

Except in pictures and movies, I had never seen a pond built by beavers. This one reminded me of an infinity pool.


Beaver Infinity Pool

When driving through Elko, Nevada, the short detour through Lamoille Canyon is a great place to break up the monotony of freeway travel.


Hanging Valley


Canyon’s End

Back in town, it was time for a visit to the local GMC dealer. The service writer hooked up his diagnostic scanner and confirmed there was an issue with the DEF sensor(s). The fix usually results in pulling and replacing the reservoir. “The earliest we can get you in is next Monday. The worse that can happen is the truck will lose power.” What? That didn’t sound good. Losing power while pulling 8,000 pounds up a hill, was not something we wanted to tackle.

We were stuck in Elko for at least another week. Everyone we talked to before our trip had encouraged us to make reservations. We were glad we hadn’t listened. No reservations, no need to cancel. We prefer to keep our options open to explore a place in more depth, leave when we want, or pivot when complications arise beyond our control.

A week wasn’t so bad. We had more time to explore.


Sparks Nevada


We began our forty-four-night journey on July 6, 2016. Yellowstone National Park was our primary objective, and we would try to include the southwest corner of South Dakota if time permitted. Our first stop was Sparks, Nevada, to spend a few days visiting with friends and exploring the area. The Sparks Marina and RV Park served as our home base. We had found this spot during our last stay in Sparks. The paved roads, cement pads, artificial turf, and wide spots all within walking distance to the marina and lake impressed us. Our visit, this time, did not disappoint. We enjoyed walking along the two-mile marina and lake trail, greeting pet owners and their dogs, and watching the ducks floating in the water before fresh baked pastries and brewed coffee enticed us to stop at Lighthouse Coffee for breakfast.

Paddleboards on Sparks Lake


Their patio had a great view of the paddleboards and kayaks (available to rent) skimming across the calm waters. Volleyball courts and playgrounds for children, along with the water sports, make this park a favorite place for everyone.


The next day we visited Pyramid Lake and Museum making a loop northeast out of Sparks on Route 445, then back down Routes 446 and 447 to connect with Interstate 80. The lake is within the 475,000 acres of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s Reservation and home to five different species of fish including the Cui-ui and Lahontan Cutthroat Trout.

Used through Creative Commons License 3.0, #81876: Sunlight on Pyramid Rock, copyright 2015 Tanya Wheeler, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/photos/81876

This is an excellent place to get away from the city for a day of fishing or to stay awhile and camp. Pyramid Lake Marina and RV Park offers twenty-five sites with full hookups or beach camping with no hookups. It was refreshing to see that development of hotels and casinos had not spoiled the natural beauty of the shoreline. The tribe focuses on preserving the recreational and cultural resources of the reservation, which includes the lake and related fisheries.

Front of Pyramid Lake Museum

The  Pyramid Lake Museum and Visitors Center in Nixon has informative displays and exhibits about the tribe.

Rear of Pyramid Lake Museum






While driving the roads to the lake and back, we commented on the bumpy ride and questioned what the department of transportation did to make the roads like washboards. Were they like this because of the snow?  When we hit the freeway, we knew what was wrong. We had experienced the same bumpy ride twice on our trip to Texas earlier in the year. This time, both rear truck tires had bulges that looked ready to burst, evidence the tires had separated.


At least, we could get them both replaced at the same time. Goodyear sent us to Discount Tire for the warranty adjustments, which took most of the next day. So much for sightseeing around Reno and Sparks.

Next stop? Elko, Nevada.