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Fave Trips

An avid Nevada visitor and geocacher reveals the top spots on his travel list. 

By CmdrMark

CmdrMark—as he’s known by
his friends in Nevada and on
the alt.vacation.las-vegas Web newsgroup—is a Massachusetts native now living in Philadelphia with his wife, Samantha, and daughter, Cassandra.


CmdrMark left a cache near the Center of Nevada as located by the USGS in 1962.

Top: Cones mark the
general area.

Dan Braddock serves ice
cream at the McGill Historical Drugstore (left).

The former corporate manager enjoys traveling the Silver State’s empty highways, seeking the little-known places that make Nevada unique. Descriptions of his Nevada trips, going back to 1994, can be found at www.CmdrMark.com.

CmdrMark—who like most geocachers prefers anonymity
—took up geocaching in September 2001 during his annual
“Out West Trip.”

“Using an inexpensive geographical positioning device, or GPS, you can follow in the steps of others and locate their hidden cache, or you can hide your own,” CmdrMark explains. He notes that a cache is a sealed container where cachers place inexpensive trinkets.  For  more information visit www.geocaching.com.

Here CmdrMark reveals five of his top-rated Nevada side trips. Three of them involve the sport of geocaching.

Spencer Hot Springs
There are 312 hot springs in Nevada, according to the National Geophysical Data Center, and one of the best is Spencer Hot Springs. Spencer is located about seven miles southeast of the junction of U.S. 50 and State Route 376 in a remote but surprisingly accessible spot at the north end of Big Smoky Valley. A valve regulates the flow of hot water into a circular tub, allowing bathers to soak in water ranging from tepid to dangerously hot (visitors should always be careful when entering a natural hot spring).

The tub’s flat rock floor and seats are comfortable, and a wood deck and indoor-outdoor carpeting helps protect the spring from muddy feet. The closest overnight accommodations are in Austin. However, primitive camping 200 feet from the springs is permitted for up to two weeks.

Spencer Hot Springs is located at N39° 19’ 37.8” W116° 51’ 20.8”. A geocache, 6.39 miles away at N39° 14’ 38.3” W116° 48’ 14.6”, is named CmdrMark’s Beyond the Hot Spring Cache—a Tupperware container with a yoyo, deck of cards, and other items stowed inside.

Twelve miles due east of the spring is the Geographical Center
of Nevada, positioned at N39° 19’ 48.0” W116° 37’ 56.0” as determined in 2003 by the U.S. Geological Survey and marked with rebar and a laminate notice. Best accessed from Highway 82, a well graded dirt road that runs south from U.S. 50, these coordinates locate the third leg of the multicache called The Center of Nevada Cache. The multicache starts at N39° 19’ 11.7” W116° 38’ 13.3”, an earlier Center of Nevada location marked by the USGS in 1962.

McGill Drugstore
Twelve miles north of Ely on U.S. 93 lies the little community of McGill, once a Nevada Consolidated Copper Company town. If you visit the McGill Historical Drugstore, now a museum, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back to Smalltown, USA. During the summer, Dan Braddock, chairman of the White Pine County Historical Society and drugstore curator, is often found behind the soda fountain, ready to serve you double-scoop ice cream cones and milkshakes.

“Welcome folks!” he’ll say. “Feel free to browse through the store, back rooms, everything. Touch whatever you like. Explore. Have fun, but remember that this is a museum, and the only items for sale are ice cream and Coke.”

If you’re visiting during the off-season, Dan, who lives in McGill, says he is happy to open the museum if you call him first at 775-235-7276. Browsing the drugstore is a trip back in time for anyone who remembers America’s more innocent days. Or has seen episodes of Leave It to Beaver.

In the 1930s, Beowawe, six miles south of Interstate 80 on State Route 306, was known for its geyser fields. While not as famous as those at Yellowstone National Park, Beowawe’s geysers would spout to a height of a couple of feet, with one geyser shooting a dozen feet in the air, according to the 1940 guidebook Nevada: A Guide to the Silver State. The guide was compiled by writers in the Works Project Administra-tion, and today’s travelers can obtain a reproduction, The WPA Guide to 1930s Nevada, which was published in 1991 by the University of Nevada Press.

Although Beowawe’s geysers spout no more, it’s possible to see an occasional wisp of steam emanating from the holes of the former spouts or hear a gurgle of water from the depths. In 1985, a geothermal power plant altered the flow of water in the subterranean channels, killing Beowawe’s geyser field. We placed a geocache named The Ghosts of Geysers, Beowawe in August 2002. It’s located at N40° 33’ 44.9” W116° 35’ 45.3”. East of Beowawe is Gravelly Ford, a resting place for the 19th-century pioneers following the California Trail. Cottonwood trees and water allowed man and beast to rest in relative comfort before continuing their grueling trek across the desert.

Valley of the Moon
Nevada State Route 305 runs between Battle Mountain and Austin through the heart of the Great Basin Desert. The American Automobile Association has designated this roadway as a scenic byway because of its stunning desert views. The road gently twists and turns and rises and falls as it follows the contour of the landscape along the Reese River.

Located halfway between Battle Mountain and Austin is the Nevada Department of Transportation rest area at Valley of the Moon. As you face east, you will gaze upon the same view—low-growing brush marching all the way to the Shoshone Mountains—that explorer John C. Fremont saw in the 1840s. To the west, you will see acres of alfalfa undulating before the westerly winds—a view that Fremont might never have imagined. The Reese River provides irrigation for this seeming Garden of Eden.

As an inducement to visit the starkly beautiful area, we left a geocache in 2002 at coordinates N40° 07’ 47.3” W 117° 07’ 36.0”. It’s our way of encouraging people to travel State Route 305 and see one of Nevada’s hidden beauties.

Sixty-five miles northwest of Las Vegas off U.S. 95, Mercury is headquarters of the Nevada Test Site, where nuclear devices were detonated above and below ground from 1951 to 1992. The U.S. Department of Energy offers a monthly, 250-mile round-trip motorcoach tour, which originates at the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas and passes hundreds of the site’s soil subsidences and craters.

When I toured the Test Site, our guide was Ernie Williams, a former Department of Energy employee who had witnessed more than 80 nuclear explosions.

Visitors are allowed to get off the bus at the Sedan Crater, where a July 6, 1962, detonation created a crater measuring 1,280 feet from rim to rim. In one and a half seconds, 6.6 million cubic yards (12 million tons) of earth moved as a result of the 104-kiloton device detonated 630 feet below the surface. Other stops on the tour include News Nob, where reporters witnessed nuclear blasts, the 1955 Apple II test house, automobile skeletons, an M-48 U.S. army tank, and a Mosler brand bank vault. For reservations call 702-295-0944 or visit www.nv.doe.gov/nts/tours.htm.





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