This would be our biggest detour yet. We had been looking forward to visiting any part of Yosemite that doesn’t require a reservation – perhaps the visitor center, but the entrance road on the east side is still closed for the season. We thought about visiting other more northerly parks, but more roads and more campgrounds are still closed for a season we have yet to experience – snow fall over 44 feet during winter leaving the area with 12 or more feet of snow between trees and on roadsides along dangerous cliffs.
We pass through Walker, CA but stop on the outskirts of town to admire their memorial dedicated to the C-130 Crew Firefighters. We drive to Carson City and head east on Hwy 50. I expected a lot of straight, flat roads. What we saw was beautiful, twisted terrain. The plan was to stop and look at everything and make it across the state to Utah – the desert where surely no snow closures could slow us down. We pass lakes, reservoirs, and watery pits where birds and cows gather. We stop at a state park that is just camping sites; we leave. Gas prices are $3.89, a big difference from the overly expensive gas in California – the state where everything costs more no matter where you live.
Somehow we managed to purchase bad cinnamon rolls – made with cheap nasty bread. We also got parmesan cheese bagels that were yummy and some exotic chocolate flavors. I’m driving across Nevada while trying Savory Ramen by Komforte Chockolates. It tasted like I was eating a seasoning packet in some bites, but when the taste wasn’t overwhelming the noodles were satisfyingly crunchy. I know that chocolate is best eaten with everything, but the other ingredients need to be added in moderation.
I’m enjoying driving the back roads that are less travelled for their scenery, kind people, and the ability to enjoy the open road, but these roads are also where the most animal cruelty takes place – away from the eyes of the children that will mindlessly be munching on some calf’s mother later with their french fries. There are cows left in dirt fields to walk in shit and then get stuffed onto trailers to shit on each other. I wish humans could experience the emotions of things they have no part in killing. Perhaps they would think twice before chowing down on illness and fear bred in captivity.
And this is when I get my new restaurant idea Ramen and Shit, from the good chocolate and the poorly treated cows. Everything edible would be made with Ramen noodles (pancakes, hash browns, sandwiches, soups, casseroles, salads) and to drink would be SHIT (Sambuca, Hot sex, Irish mist, Tequila) or Sunkist, Hawaiian punch, Izze, Tamarind. I’m thinking about what weird shit we could put on the walls and who I would want to hire when Caleb reminds me that we are on vacation, we can deal with business later.
We take an easy stroll around the Stillwater Animal Preserve. The roads are dusty, the winds are blowing, the birds are flying, the water is still. The mountains are in the distance, the fields vary in color, and the clouds are changing shape. We learn that where we are standing used to be 300-700 feet below the surface of Lake Lahontan. The world is a vast place where mountains used to be ocean beds or active volcanoes and fields were covered in trees and forming caves that will grow and sometimes collapse.
I continue to imagine what has been and what will be when I see a sign for a Hidden Cave. I turn left and drive down this dirt road to a fork then realize I passed the entrance to the trail that leads to the cave. There is what seems to be a picnic area that leads to miles of archaeological paradise near the main road and then a pull out further down for parking to hike to Hidden Cave. We converse with an older couple that is waiting out the heat of the day with a good book. They are unsure of the name Piggy for a dog and wish us luck on our adventure as they watch us walk away.
We walk up to the trail map displayed on a small informational sign and the route seems easy enough though many others have explored beyond the markers making it harder for us to stay on the trail. We missed a marker as the trail is numbered but were able to find our way back. We get to see petroglyphs that are over 5,000 years old, a Mojave black-collared lizard and many others, an assortment of rock types and their formations, and an astounding view of the horizon.
We arrive at Hidden Cave to find it covered and locked with a metal door. Tours are offered every other Saturday and today is Wednesday. We continue to Burnt Cave where I’m expecting melted rocks. There is soot in the back where it seems they cooked lunch. Afterwards they took time for arts and crafts using fingers and plants to draw on the rocks. Today, there is surprisingly no graffiti, that I could see, in one of the largest and most accessible petroglyph sites in the United States. I am grateful.
The way back to the parking lot is more easily marked. The couple we left is now joined by two cyclists that plan on getting in some afternoon mountain exercise. The couple mentions our obvious detour off the path. We assure them that’s not our usual method and move on to the Rock Art picnic area. Some of the art stands out, which is spectacular for its age, while some must be seen with a keen eye. These distractions can make it hard to stay on the beaten path. We notice other not-so-beaten trails but don’t get lost this time.
Back on Hwy 50, The Loneliest Road in America, we will see remnants of the Pony Express. There are other artifacts of history along this route and some towns that still have people in them. Eureka makes for an interesting stop, but tonight’s destination is the Illipah Creek Reservoir Campground. The campsite is about two miles off Hwy 50 in a windy cove near the water with hiking and fishing available. Tomorrow we will be going to Nevada’s only national park – Great Basin.