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.
like most geocachers prefers anonymity
—took up geocaching in September 2001 during his annual
“Out West Trip.”
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.
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).
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.
Hot Springs is located at N39° 19’ 37.8” W116° 51’ 20.8”. A
6.39 miles away at N39° 14’ 38.3” W116° 48’ 14.6”, is named
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
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
marked by the USGS in 1962.
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.
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
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
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.
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”
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
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.
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
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.
I toured the Test Site, our guide was Ernie Williams, a former
Department of Energy employee who had witnessed more than 80 nuclear
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