Wednesday, May 10
Before leaving Kershaw-Ryan State Park, I fill up the Best Little Trailer’s fresh water tank (for washing and flushing) and also several one-gallon jugs (for Reggie’s water dish and my coffee and cooking).
We’re on the open road again!
For those of you who like to follow our itinerary on a map, we head north out of Caliente on Route 93.
A few miles north of Pioche, I pull over to the side of the highway.
Reggie has a walk-around (photo above) and then I pull out my Benchmark atlas to remind myself what lies ahead.
There are boondocks along Stampede Road (near this pull-out) but I want to push further north. At this point I don’t know where we will camp tonight.
Reggie curls up in his doggie bed beside me and we resume our “journey.”
The Schell Creek Mountains are to the west of us as we roll through the vast, sage plain of Lake Valley on the straight, two-lane, paved Route 93.
The only sign of human life is the sparse traffic we meet on the road.
This is immense, open space. When we come upon a place where road materials like gravel and sand are piled up, I park there so Reggie and I can stretch our legs. It’s a chance to take photos of the mountains.
If I were tired and desperate for a place to camp for the night, I would boondock here. Not a pretty camp but the views are outstanding. Not now . . . No internet signal and I do need to work on the blog.
On the road again . . .
Over Lake Valley Summit (6,160 ft.) and into Spring Valley, a few more miles and we arrive at the junction with Route 50.
A right turn would take us to Great Basin National Park.
White-with-snow Wheeler Peak (13,063 ft.) at the park encourages me to take a left turn instead. To be truthful, I’ve done enough sightseeing lately that I’m not looking for a national park experience right now.
Soon a winding, uphill pull and we reach Connors Pass (7,723 ft.).
We roll into Steptoe Valley on the last stretch to Ely. Now the Schell Creek Mountains are to the east of us. It isn’t until this point that I make a decision where we will camp.
Hmm . . . Before we reach Ely, we’ll turn on the road to . . .
Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park!
The PTV rumbles over the dirt road on a straight path to the mountains.
I hope, I hope, I hope our elevation doesn’t increase too much before we reach the campground.
We’re about 18 miles south of Ely.
I stop to see if I can pick up internet signal on my Verizon air card. No good. I take the photo (above) and we keep going.
Turns out the campground, called Willow Creek Campground, isn’t too high up for us this day.
(Researching for this post I find the elevation is about 7,060 ft., high enough to be bitter cold in May. Without internet as we arrive at the campground, I can only guess at the elevation.)
The air is scented with pine and it’s refreshingly cool.
This is good. I don’t think it will be terribly cold overnight.
At the self-pay station I deposit a check in the amount of $14.00 for one night.
I choose campsite #5.
It has a view of the mountains on the other side of Steptoe Valley. Only one other campsite, out of the 14 total sites, is occupied (by late afternoon two more rigs arrive).
Willow Creek has vault toilets and water is available at the entrance. Recently renovated sites have new picnic tables and metal shelters.
Uh-oh. Metal shelters.
Reggie soon realizes to his great alarm that The Popping Monster followed us here!
“Never mind that, Reggie. Let’s go for a hike over to see the charcoal ovens. C’mon, it’ll be fun!”
Reggie likes this idea very much.
Off we go through junipers, pines, and sagebrush!
A footbridge crosses small Willow Creek from which Rainbow, Brown, and Brook Trout can be caught.
“Look, Reg! Over there! The ovens! What an unusual sight.”
Six “bee-hive” charcoal ovens in a row.
Made by hand from “tertiary volcanic and quartz latite tuff” chipped from nearby hills, the ovens are identical in size and shape.
I think the process of building the ovens and producing charcoal for smelting the silver ore from the Ward mines is fascinating. The ovens were in operation from 1876 through 1879.
To read more about the reason for and the history surrounding the charcoal ovens, follow this link to Nevada Magazine. The article at that link includes a somewhat surreal photo of the back of the ovens dusted with snow under a dramatic sky.
Also you can enlarge the pic below to learn more. To fill the six ovens for only one time required 36 acres of trees!
Imagine the work involved!
The interpretive board says the ovens are 27 feet in diameter at the base and 30 feet tall.
“That deserves a backhoe, right, Reg?”
At the website, parks.nv.gov, there is a satellite view map showing the campground, the trails, the ovens, the surrounding topography, and roads.
Back at our campsite . . .
Reggie turns grumpy. He does not want to have his photo taken. He does not want to be outside. He does NOT LIKE THE POPPING MONSTER!
“Okay, okay, lil’ buddy, we’ll go inside. You’ve been a good boy all day long.”
Later . . .
I leave a sleepy Reggie in his bed and go out to inhale the piney air and to watch the near-full moon rise above the mountain peaks across the valley.
NOTE: I’m often faced with the choice between keeping the blog up-to-date including staying in touch with readers or living my full-time RVing life in a way I enjoy most. In this instance, I chose the latter. I wanted to camp at Willow Creek Campground and see the charcoal ovens, and that’s what I did, even though it meant the blog would have to wait another day. As much as I love my blog and its readers, I mustn’t let that part of my life take over the rest. — Sue
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