Sunday, December 19, 2010

Polar Express on the Nevada Northern December 17, 2010

Depot with excursion train

On December 17, 2010, Tara and I drove down to Ely, Nevada, to ride the special excursion train called "Polar Express" on the historic Nevada Northern Railway. We ate dinner with one of Tara's fellow fourth grade teacher Steve Dennin and his family at Margarita , a mexican restaurant outside of Ely, before driving to the historic Nevada Northern depot.
Hirtory: The area around Ely was an important mining and smelting area for copper. The owner of the mines, Nevada Consolidated Copper Company needed a way to ship the copper ore to markets throughout the US. Construction started on a rail line from Cobre, near present day Wells to Ely, Nevada. Workers completed the railroad two years later in June of 1905. The primary purpose of the railroad was the transport of copper ore; however, a daily passenger train did run from Ely to Cobre, Nevada, on the Southern Pacific. The future of the railroad became doomed when declining ore reserves and prices caused the Ruth mines to close in 1978. In 1986, Kennecott copper transferred the ore line and yard in East Ely to the White Pine Historical Foundation for the creation of a living museum. Today visitors can visit a 56 acre museum in downtown Ely and many special excursions are operated throughout the year. (Thank you to Nevada Northern's website for this information).
The Excursion: The Polar Express is a special excusion train operated by the historic Nevada Northern Railway during the holiday season. The train left the depot at 7:30pm and took about 40 minutes to get to a spot called "the North Pole" where Santa boarded the train and talked to each kid. On the way out attendants gave hot choclate to each customer and read the book "The Polar Express." Everyone sang Christmas carols back to the station. The excursion was fun, however, it could have been a longer trip especially since each ticket cost $30. Remember it is important to keep America's history alive.
The front of the depot

Holiday decorations inside one of the cars

Cool picture of carriage and snow in darkness

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Return to Morgan Basin, Toano Mountains November 14, 2010

Photo taken from inside Morgan Basin

On November 14th, I returned to the Toano Mountains for a late season hike with my dog Nevada. (To reach the Toano Mountains travel south on Route 93 approximately 13 miles and turn onto dirt road towards range. See May post for detailed instructions). Today the weather was cloudy and cool as I started out on my hike. After a 1.5 miles I skirted the Bluebell Wilderness Study Area. A couple of hours later I entered Morgan Basin to a snow-rain combination. The view was obscured because of low clouds and a more significant storm coming in from the west. The solitude and company of Nevada made for a great hike.

Nevada walking on snow on way up ro the basin

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wendover Airfield Wendover, Utah Veterans Day

Photo showing some of the historic buildings of the base

In remembrance of Veteran's Day I am going to honor our World War II veterans. Today's post will be about the Wendover Airfield in western Utah. The airfield has more historic buildings remaining from World War II. The problem is that many of them need to be refurbished. To get to Wendover take I-80 west of Salt Lake City 120 miles. Wendover is located on the Nevada border. Restaurants and hotels are prevalent in both Wendover and West Wendover, Nevada.

History: The United States military became interested in Wendover as a location to train airman because of its remote location and temperate climate. Clear skies gave a chance for plenty of training flights year round. Construction began in 1940 and the base became active in July of 1941. Through a series if acquisitions from the Department of Interior the base would grow to 3.5 million acres; making it the largest base in the world. By 1944, the base had 20, 000 people and approximately 668 buildings.

The airfield was used as a heavy bomber training base. A total of 21 heavy bomber groups were stationed at Wendover throughout the war. Included in this list: B-14, B-17, and B-29 crews. The most famous group the 339th bomber group of the 509th Composite trained here with the Enola Gay before they dropped the atomic bomb in Japan. The training was very secretive with very few people knowing the true mission.

Today the base is owned by the city of Wendover. A nonprofit organization the Wendover Airlfield is currently gathering funds to restore many of the historic buildings on the base. They have already refurbished the Officer's Quarters which might become a community center. Right now the organization has money from the US government to restore the Enola Gay Hanger. Many of the buildings are on the register of historic places. (Thanks to brochure from the Wendover museum for this information)
Photo showing the 308th Bomber group (photo from Google)

Photo of the Enola Gay "Super Fortress" (photo from Google)

Remnants of the highly effective Tokyo Trolly tracks to the north of town. Machine gunners fired at moving targets while moving themselves. This innovative training made them the best trained gunners in the war.

Remnant of the hospital building on base

Marker showing the location for the Enola Gay Hanger
aka. Atomic Mission Hanger

Enola Gay Hanger where the historic plane was housed. The
Airlfield has the money to refurbish the building and is currently
doing so. In fact if you look at the photo the building has new windows.
The problem is that the roof has a significant amount of asbestos in it.

Armament and Inspection Building: housed administrative offices,
also used to train men in installation, inspection of armaments. The highly
secretive Norden Bombsite was also stored here.

Officer's Service Club: provided place to rest relax with
a dining room and bar. First building to be refurbished by the
historic Wendover Airfield.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lucin, Utah October 11, 2010

The Union Pacific in Lucin today

Location: Lucin, Utah, is located on the western side of the great Salt Lake. To get to the ghost town from Interstate 80 take State Route 233 through Montello, Nevada crossing into Utah. The road becomes SR 30 in Utah. The turnoff for the ghost town is approx. ten miles from the border. Five miles before the town you cross the historic rail bed of the Central Pacific (original transcontinental route). This is a true ghost town with no services. PLAN accordingly!!!
History: Lucin originated in the 1860s, 10 miles to the north, to water steam engines on the Central Pacific. The town moved in 1903 to its present location to service trains on the Lucin cutoff. At its heighth the town was mainly inhabited by railroad workers on the Central Pacific and later Southern Pacific. The town was first abandoned in 1936 but resettled by retired railroad workers in the 1960s. The last family left in 1990. Today, the area is managed by the Utah Department of Wildlife as a wildlife sanctuary. Hundreds of species of wildlife use the pond including: migrating songbirds, hawks and owls (Info from Wikipedia and informative sign in Lucin).

The pond (fed by four inch pipe from Pilot Range)

Another pic of the sanctuary

Abandoned cellar

Smith Lake, Nevada October 4, 2010

Location: The trail for Smith Lake starts at Angel Lake in the East Humboldt Mountains. Take State Route 231 (Angel Lake Road) out of Wells, Nevada. The road itself is a scenic byway and worth exploration. There are two trailheads out of Angel Lake. The first one to Winchell lake is 1.5 miles below the campground directly off the state route. The second one is near the campground which goes to Gray lake and Smith lake.
The hike: Today I hiked the 4.5 mile round trip to Smith lake. The weather was drizzly and cool. The trail itself is easy to follow and moderately strenuous. Follow like you are going to Gray lake (July post) until approximatly a mile into the hike where a sign shows the turnoff to Smith lake. The main vegetation in the East Humboldt mountains is Aspen and Sub alpine fir. The hike is very beautiful and suitable for hikers of any ability. There is no off-trail navigation to the lake. The highlight today was talking to a man from Hawthorne, Nevada, named Harold. He was scouting the day before hunting season started. What I liked about him was his tough attitude. Harold was planning on hiking to Gray lake where he would spend a night huddled behind a rock. He said, "It will probably be cold around 3 am but the sun will come up soon." The guy also owns property in Montello, Nevada, where he wants to graze cattle.

The sign for the campground with fall foliage

Smith lake with drizzle coming down

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fall Color Big Cottonwood Canyon September 26, 2010

The following are photographs taken in Big Cottonwood Canyon in late September. Tara and I spent the afternoon up at Solitude and Brighton Ski Resorts.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

South Willow Lake Stansbury Mountains September 12, 2010

Looking west from one of the high ridges on the trail

Location: The Stansbury Range is a north-south range in Tooele County, Utah. Deseret Peak is the highpoint of the range at 11,031 feet. The range is excellent for hiking with access points from Grantsville at South Willow, North Willow, and West Canyon. To get to the Stansbury Mountains take I-80 until the Stansbury-Tooele exit (if traveling from Salt Lake City it is app. 37 miles). Follow Route 138 10 miles west into Grantsville. In Grantsville turn right onto Cooley Street and follow until the turnoff to South Willow Canyon.
The hike: I started at the end of South Willow Road with my dog Nevada. Today was the first day Nevada had his pack on and I did not know how it would effect him on the hike. He did wonderfully and other hikers commented that he was a great hiking dog. The first part of the hike I saw some beautiful Aspen stands as we climbed in elevation. At mile 0.7 the trail split with the left fork going up Deseret Peak. After another 1.5 miles I stopped for lunch with a great view of Deseret peak. I then followed the trail over two more ridges to the trail junction for South Willow lake. Overall, I hiked 7 miles with beautiful views every step of the way. This range offers much more solitude than the more popular Wasatch Range, but remember every trail gains significant elevation.
Aspen stand on the trail

View from my lunch spot looking towards the high country

Nevada with his pack

Another pic of the mountains

South Willow lake

Nevada hiking in front of me

Great scenery with solitude

Belmont Mill, Nevada August 24, 2010

Falling down building with Belmont Mill in background

Location: The mill at Belmont is located below Hamilton. From Hamilton follow the road back from where you came a couple of miles and turn left at fork. A sign will show the turnoff. The mill is five miles down a good dirt road. Be careful to avoid rocks in a few places. Remember this is an isolated area: bring water and have a spare tire

History: I have not been able to find any information on how long this mill was in operation but, one can surmise that the mill operated predominately during the Treasure Hill silver boom. Ore cars used gravity to travel down from mines higher in the hills.
Cables coming down from higher in the hills

Cool photo of collapsing building with mill

Inside mill

Some of the machinery inside the mill

Train tracks going into the mill

Another look at the mill

Staircase leading into the upper part of the mill

Ore bucket hanging underneath the mill

Hamilton (Cave City), Nevada August 24, 2010

Mainstreet Hamilton today

Location: To get to the ghost town take US 50 west from Ely, Nevada, 37 miles. Exit onto a dirt road towards Illipah. Soon after you turn onto dirt road the road branches; take the right branch. The ghost town of Hamilton is nine miles on a good dirt road. Look for washboarding in a few spots and rough patches near the old town. This area of White Pine County has a number of ghost towns worth exploring asociated with theTreasure Hill silver boom.
History: Miners first discovered silver near Hamilton in 1867 on Treasure Hill. Before the creation of a permanent settlement, the town was called Cave City. Prior to "White Pine Fever" in June of 1867, 30 people lived in Hamilton. Two years later the town had a population of 10,000 people. At its height the town had 100 saloons, 60 general stores, theater and a newspaper. A number of stage lines ran from Ely and Elko to Hamilton. During this period, 200 mining companies were active in the area.
Uncertainity and fires caused the decline of Hamilton. Most miners wanted easy silver and after it was gone the population shrunk to around 4,000. In June 1873, an owner of a struggling general store set fire to his building to collect an insurance payment. The fire destroyed much of the business district. A second fire in 1885 destroyed the courthouse sealing Hamilton's fate. At this time, Ely became the county seat. (Information from Romancing Nevada's Past By: Shawn Hall)

The remains of the Wells Fargo building

Remains of a building in the old town

Interesting building

Inside one of the only cabins to survive the fires

Ruins in the area