Travels in the American Southwest

Genoa-Where It All Began to Yosemite Nat. Park

It was early afternoon as we saw Virginia City receding in the rearview mirror. Cruised through Gold Hill (where we stopped to watch a train laden with tourists cross the highway), then zipped through Silver City picking up US50 and then US395 through Carson City. I couldn't believe the small amount of traffic on this Labor Day weekend. Where was everyone? Last year, US395 was packed with cars but this year we shared the roadway with few vehicles.

About ten miles south of Carson City, we headed west on SR206, also known as Genoa Lane. We had decided that a quick stop in Genoa was in order. All I really knew about the town was that it was the first permanent white settlement in what was to become the state of Nevada. Those who've read my trip reports in the past know that I'm an inveterate sign reader. Not just traffic, street and commercial signs but also the little signs on the side of the road which tell tales of the bits and pieces of history which seldom make it into history books. MSO and I saw one such sign nailed twenty feet up a tree on the road to Genoa. This was a "Hanging Tree". On November 25, 1897, a crazed mob dragged Adam Uber from the local jail, "abused and hanged" him for the killing of a local, Hans Anderson, during a "bar room brawel" (sic). The sign states that the lynching was "the blackest episode in the history of Nevada". Thanks to "Sharkey" Begovich and local rancher and historian Arnold Trimmer who placed sign on the tree to remind us of this less than pleasant episode of Nevada history. Further investigation has revealed that the "brawel" was the result of an argument over twenty-five cents. As twenty of the townsfolk "strung up" the drifter/gambler Uber, he laid a curse on those present for not allowing him a proper judicial hearing. In reply, the vigilantes "filled him with lead" as he swung from the cottonwood tree's branch. Perhaps Uber got the last laugh. One of Uber's executioners was injured in a buggy accident as he later drove by the Hanging Tree. Others were killed in gunfights or inexplicably went mad. Still others had the curse visit their children - one's daughter broke her neck after getting stuck in a picket fence, another's son was killed when a wagon ran him over and still another's daughter died after being scalded by a vat of boiling water.

A mile or so further, at the very base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, was Genoa. It was 1861 when Col. John Reese and his band of eighteen men traversed the deserts to the East and set up Nevada's first trading post calling it "Mormon Station". Other Mormons followed the Colonel, establishing the town of Genoa. One of the first female settlers was the wife of Israel Mott, Eliza Ann Middaugh Mott. Eliza gave birth to a daughter, Louisa Beatrice, the first white child born in what shortly thereafter became Carson County, Utah.

A log cabin marks the site of the trading post and is today a museum housing some of Nevada's true treasures. The museum was deserted when we walked through the front door. MSO and I wandered through the three rooms of the cabin. A shadow fell across the doorway. It was Park Ranger Linda who seemed pleased that we stopped by to visit the museum. While MSO and I simply had wandered around looking at the furnishings and things on the wall, our education began when Linda arrived. You can always tell when someone truly enjoys their job and Linda showed all the signs. She delighted in showing us a proclamation dated November 28, 1864 concerning the appointment of one D.W. Virgin to the position of Judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit. This original document was signed by the then Governor James W. Nye and Secretary of State Orion Clemens, brother of Samuel (better known as Mark Twain). Nevada's Museum of State History in Carson City would very much like to acquire this document but Linda smiled as she said it would never happen. Another document on the wall was a bond issued by the state of Nevada. It bears the number one indicating it was the first bond issued. It was issued in 1866 and interest accrued at the rate of 24%, payable annually on August 10th to the holder, William Ralston. Linda proudly told us that every bond the young state had issued was paid off in full. Many other artifacts are housed in this small museum; horseshoes, rifles, ancient photographs sitting atop and equally ancient piano, a bed similar to those used by the first settlers. A black bear pelt is nailed to the wall above the bed. The final artifact which drew my attention was the first and only surviving copy of the Territorial Enterprise which was written and published in Genoa for two years before it moved to nearby Virginia City.

Full of new knowledge about Nevada, we headed back to the RV. A plastic bag, carelessly tossed on a planter caught our attention. In the bag was a book, Lonesome Dove. A sticker on the book clued us in to what was happening. The book was left by a member of Bookcrossing.com . Members leave books on park benches, in diners and the like. All that's asked is that you log that you found the book, enjoy the book and afterwards, leave the book somewhere for someone else to enjoy. MSO took delight in taking the book, certain that whoever had left it would get a charge out of seeing that it would reappear thousands of miles from where it was left.

Backtracked to US395 and resumed our trek southward, still amazed at the lack of traffic on this Saturday afternoon. Entered California and warned MSO of one of the greatest vistas coming up. It's where US395 loops around and provides a view of Mono Lake that is spellbinding. Like other tourists, we stopped and drank in the scene. Shot the obligatory photographs then continued south to Lee Vining, the East entrance of Yosemite National Park. The RV started the long climb to Tioga Pass. Speed limit signs mocked us. Sixty-five? The fully laden RV struggled to maintain forty, but on and on we chugged on the two-lane road. Pulled over frequently so the traffic building behind us wouldn't be stuck cursing us slowpokes in front of them. We reached Yosemite Valley shortly after dark, promptly lost our bearing and traveled up and down the valley looking for the Pines campgrounds. A couple of well placed signs would have made our search considerably easier but eventually, after touring the valley twice, we found our campground and campsite, Lower Pines site 27. It was past 7:00, the sun having set much earlier as MSO and I prepared a quick bite. Part way through the meal, a park ranger approached the RV. He just wanted to make certain we were where we belonged, giving us maps and information on food storage as this is bear country. Yosemite is plagued by illegal campers who, to avoid the minimal cost of a campsite if any are available, pitch tents wherever they feel they won't be seen or bothered by park rangers. Fortunately, all was well with our reservations, the ranger bid us good night and left to continue his patrol.

Minutes later, there was a knock on our door. I thought the ranger had forgotten to tell us something but instead, a six foot five guy stood there. "Good evening, sir" he said. "My friend and I are on leave from Camp Pendleton and were wondering if we might camp on the far side of your site." I paused. "Camp Pendleton? That's the Marine base isn't it?" I asked. I received a crisp, military-type "Yes, sir." If these guys weren't marines, they were certainly polite civilians. I knew there were no campsites available in the valley; Hey, it was Labor Day weekend. Magnanimously, MSO and I said we'd be pleased if the two would feel free to camp as the campsite was enormous. "Thank you, sir. Thank you, ma'am." and we returned to our meal. Another knock on the door; Nope, not the marines. Not a park ranger either but another couple of guys - Luis and Juan. Yep, they wondered if they and their friends could camp by the treeline. (Told you we had a large campsite!) I chuckled. "Couldn't get a campsite, huh? Gentlemen, as long as you're not going to be partying all night, we've no objections." They were profuse in their gratitude and good as their word. We didn't hear a sound from their camp all night. Instead, to the sound of crickets and some inconsiderate campers down the road, we fell asleep, exhausted and knowing that we'd be putting more miles on our mountain bikes in the morning.

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