Travels in the American Southwest

Toquima Cave & Geocaching

As the rental van started climbing up FR100 which runs through Sam's Canyon, I noticed the temperature gauge start to rise. Stop and look under the hood, but see, hear nor smell any steam escaping. Antifreeze level looks ok. Off goes the air conditioner. The rate of increase merely slows. Oh boy, open all the windows and turn on the heater. The needle stopped rising - Close to the red zone but neither the van or I were beaten yet! As I crested Pete's Summit (7900'), the needle starts to drop. "Well old van, I guess you weren't made for mountain travel," I chuckled. At least the problem has been identified.

Arrived at the camping area at Toquima Cave. A trail leads to a chain link fence which protects the pictographs painted on the walls. The red, white and black drawings are clearly visible. While the pictographs are obviously of historic interest, the casual visitor might prefer to avoid a long trek on a sometimes rough dirt/gravel road and view the pictographs located at Burnt Cave, (just past Hidden Cave) a mile north of Grimes Point, near Fallon, NV. The Toquima Mountains are a magnet for hunters, many of the campsites scattered around the pine forest were occupied as I drove by. ATVs and rifles were much in evidence.

Geocaching.com - Hide & Seek with a 21st century twist. Since GPS receivers have become so popular, it's only natural that a game be developed around them. A player hides a waterproof container with some trinkets inside. Using their GPS, they record the longitude and latitude of the cache and post the information. Other players, using the information provided, search for the hidden cache. Successful hunters note the date and time they found the cache in the cache's logbook. The finder then takes a trinket from the cache, replacing it with something the finder brought. (Finders: Please take something! If everyone just left a trinket, the container would surely overflow!) Some caches include a disposable camera for the finders to take their picture. I've joined this rapidly growing craze - CmdrMark's "Beyond the Hot Springs" Cache - Cache is located at N 39 14.638 W116 48.244. Bring water, have fun!

Continued northwest on FR100 passing Spenser's Hot Springs. I was running a little behind schedule so bypassed the springs because if Most Significant Other didn't receive an "I'm OK" phone call from me in Austin, she'd have every employee of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management combing my route looking for my desiccating carcass!

Exited onto SR376, then on to US50. Stopped in Austin, called M.S.O. and after assuring her that I was well, I went off in search of Stoke's castle. This structure built overlooking the Reese River Valley provided a vantage point enabling the viewer to see for miles. Today, Austin continues to promote itself as a haven for mountain bikers. Trails ranging from easy to extreme crisscross the mountains. For more on this fascinating town and its history - http://www.cmdrmark.com/austin.html

Continued west on SR722, the "old US50". This route provides more varied scenery and driving conditions for the traveler. For some fifteen miles, it runs arrow straight towards the southwest. It curves to the north of Iron Mountain using Railroad Pass, then heads due west at the Peterson Station Pony Express station. Crossing the flat Smith Creek Valley, SR722 twists and turns as it crosses the Desatoya Mountains and Carroll Summit (7452'). Again, the van's temperature gauge started climbing toward the red zone as the sun continued its quickening descent toward the horizon. "Over the summit and it's downhill all the way," became my mantra. Crested the summit weaving my way down the west slope on the road's twisting hairpin switchbacks. SR722 follows the Buffalo Creek Canyon, passing the ghost town of Eastgate, then rejoins US50.

Continued west on US50, stopping at: The Shoetree to add my donations, Fairview and Frenchman ghosttowns to snap a photo or two and finally stopping at Sand Mountain for a night of camping. Sand mountain is an enormous sand dune some 600' high which served as a landmark for the early pioneers. A nearby pony express station was covered by the meandering sand dune and only recently uncovered. An interpretive trail guides visitors through the ruins. As an established campground, Sand Mountain offers pit toilets but no water is available. Bring your own! As BLM managed land, the use of ATVs is permitted so the giant dune was alive with off-the-road vehicles zipping across its broad face. Fighter jets from nearby Fallon Naval Air Station seemed to play tag, screaming over the nearby mountains. I was so tired that the noise meant nothing to me. Cooked up dinner, built a small campfire and in the gathering gloom, reviewed my planned high-points for the next day - cleaning the LeBeau gravesite and visiting Hidden Cave.

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