I suppose on some elemental level, every dirt road looks about about like the next. Just an endless valley. Another scraggy mountain range with a name that only means something to the dusty pioneers who gave it. But every road leads somewhere.
And this one brings us back here to Sage Valley, The Seven Troughs Range and Tunnel Camp. There are a number of Air BNBs here. Some more desirable than others. All of them, to be completely honest, are barely standing.
But the views from the tailings pile above town are spectacular in the dog days of summer, or any time for that matter. The structures left around the site have relics within both sacred and profane and attest to a continued presence over the years. This bunkhouse always has open beds. Though the previous guest must have been raised in a barn.
There remains the foundation for the power plant which supplied electricity to machinery when there was a milling and ore processing going on in Tunnel Camp. All that’s left are threaded iron erupting from the fracturing concrete.
There are ghost stories of Tunnel Camp. Nothing concrete, only youtube videos and blog posts alluding to malcontent spirits inhabiting the site. When you poke your head in this dugout and see the clothes hanging from pegs the ghost stories seem plausible. As natural as the wind.
The kids love these places as much as a carnival. More even. And they run, and climb and explore in ways that don’t look safe.
As the mountain descends through town and becomes alluvial fan, there are a number of artifacts and sites to check out. But there is once thing missing.
A year ago we visited Tunnel Camp in the Spring and checked out a cool old truck body, as it slowly blows away in the desert wind. We sat in it and climbed on it. Cut ourselves on the jagged bullet holes in its skin. Looked back in time through its iron lens.
It’s gone now, like the other trucks that once were in the town parking lot and all that was left when we visited was a patch of weeds now free from their metal oppressor and some tire tracks visible from the air. By now, even those signs are gone.
A more cynical man than me might assume someone came along and hauled it off. Maybe some pandemic nomad out for an Instagram decided to wrestle it into a van. Could be some luxury homeowner decided it would look fabulously rustic as a derelict visual interest piece on their suburban property. Or maybe the bullet holes overcame the sheet metal and it all gave way to the void.
It’s more likely that the Ghosts of Tunnel Camp, finally had enough of the rat race, started it up and drove themselves away.
We followed the old Ford’s tire tracks as far as the cemetery. Where the ghosts of Tunnel Camp might have stopped to pay their respects. Admire the ofrenda left by visitors to their barren graves. Take one last look at their home and start down that dirt road that bumps out of town, and over a pass and on to who know where.
Water in the desert is a sign you going the right way. Heading West past Vernon and Porter Spring, we crossed the big valley and made camp for the night near the back side of the Selenite Mountains at a place called Desert Spring. This was our first night all sleeping together in the roof top tent. I’d slept in it with the kids, and separately with Danielle, but not all together. We’ve always used a ground tent. There’s no particular reason we want to sleep up off the ground, it’s just that it’s fast and easy to set up.
As I was setting it up, and leveling it out, I heard the familiar buzz of a rattle snake at my feet. There was a little one slithering under the truck for protection. I generally don’t take to killing snakes, and this was no different. But as I can’t have our deaf old dog stumbling around a snake, I got out the shovel and relocated out cold blooded friend to the sage. That did make climbing the ladder a lot more palatable though.
In the morning we headed out in the smoke driving south towards the Nightengale Mountains. Here we’re on the opposite side of the mountain range from MGL Mine and Schoolbus Canyon.
Nightengale is a Tungsten Mine in Pershing County, Nevada. The mine produced from 1917 to 1956. There are a lot of tripping hazards and open pits, but not a lot of other cool stuff to see. The easy way out is to head south down Coyote Canyon which empties out into Winnemucca Dry Lake and State Route 447. But I’d been doing some recon on Google Earth and It looked to me like there was a more direct route straight through the Nightengales. It was kinda iffy for sure, though I didn’t tell the family that.
When traveling solo, particularly in a stock truck, particularly in a stock truck towing a trailer, you should always scout ahead when things start to get tight. And that’s what I did here. While there was still room to turn around, I ran at least a half mile down gaging the difficulty of the terrain until I’d found a spot I knew I could turn around again.
In the 4Runner, I wouldn’t have slowed down for this, but the Tacoma is longer and lower and newer so Danielle and Rocket Spotted while Lightning Dragon shot video. Visibility from the driver’s seat in this Tacoma isn’t great, so Danielle’s help with spotting was critical to get though this. This last section was the most treacherous. I did stack a few rocks, the transfer case was in low and the tires were aired down to 20 PSI. That and taking it very slow is all it took to get through with out scraping anything or getting stuck.
Of course, the trailer made it just fine. No issues with that at all…
And then we popped out into familiar territory. From there it’s just an easy dirt road with a couple of sandy sections and a lot of moon dust before you get back to pavement. There’s actually a lot more to explore in the Nightengales. More mines associated with MGL and Nightengale as well as two more crossovers we’ve yet to try. And if you subscribe, you’re sure to see it here.