Six of CmdrMark's Favorite Places in Nevada
(Draft of an article appearing in Nevada Magazine -May/June 2006)

Geocaching - A 21st century version of hide-and-seek. Using an inexpensive geographical positioning device, you can follow in the steps of others and locate their hidden cache or you can head out and hide your own cache. A cache is simply a sealed container containing inexpensive trinkets. For more info:

The Center of Nevada - In 1962, the center of Nevada was located by the US Geological Service at N39° 19' 11.7" W116° 38' 13.3". Using data unavailable to those cartographers forty years earlier, the center is today positioned at 39° 19' 48.0" W116° 37' 56.0", 3900 yards northeast of the 1962 location - well within the USGS margin of uncertainty. Both sites are located 26 miles southeast of Austin; approximately 12.5 miles south of US50 just east of SSR82.

Using these coordinates, a series of three geocaches have been hidden. The first cache is the 1962 location and is marked with rebar and a laminate notice. This cache contains coordinates for the second geocache, which is placed exactly midway between the '62 and '03 locations. Coordinates found at the second cache lead to the third cache, which is located at the 2003 Center of Nevada coordinates. Like the '62 location, this spot is marked with rebar and laminate notice. A couple of fluorescent orange cones mark the general location of the midway point and include a listing of distance and bearing to various locations in the world as measured from this point.

1962 Center             Mid-point             Center 2002

Spencer Hot Springs - According to the National Geophysical Data Center, there are 312 Hot Springs in Nevada. Twelve miles due west of the Center of Nevada, Spencer Hot Springs is truly one remote but surprisingly accessible site. Listed at 162°, a valve regulates the flow of hot water into the circular man-made tub allowing bathers to soak in temperatures ranging from tepid to dangerous. The tub’s flat rock floor and seats are quite comfortable; 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 for periods not to exceed two weeks is permitted. Spencer Hot Springs is located at N39° 19’ 37.8” W116° 51’ 20.8”. A geocache is located 6.39 miles away at N39° 14’ 38.3” W116° 48’ 14.6”. It’s appropriately named “CmdrMark’s Beyond the Hot Spring Cache"! This traditional-style geocache is a tupperware container containing various goodies like a yo-yo, deck of cards, chemical light stick and other inexpensive trinkets.

Bathing Spring          Killing Spring

Valley of the Moon -
Nevada State Road 305 runs between Battle Mountain south to Austin through the heart of the Great Basin Desert. The American Automobile Association has designated  this roadway as a "Scenic Byway" for its stunning desert views. The road gently twists and turns, rises and falls as it follows the contour of the landscape through the Reese River Valley. Route 305 passes through a number of life zones exhibiting flora unique to their ecological niche. Most common is sagebrush and rabbitbrush gradually giving way to juniper and pinyon pine as the elevation increases approaching Austin.

Located halfway between Battle Mountain and Austin is one of Nevada Department of Transportation's newest rest areas named Valley of the Moon. As you face east, you'll gaze upon the same views as did noted Nevada explorer John C. Fremont 160 years earlier -- low-growing brush all the way to the Shoshone Mountains. Turning to the west, you'll see what Fremont might never have imagined -- Acres of grain slowly undulating  before the prevailing westerly winds. It's the Reese River that provides irrigation for this seeming Garden of Eden in the middle of the desert. As an inducement to visit this starkly beautiful area, a cache was left here in 2002 at coordinates 40° 07' 47.3" W 117° 07' 36.0". This cache was our inducement to get people to travel SR305 and see some of Nevada's natural beauty at its best.

Looking east

And West.

Beowawe's Geysers - In the 1930's, Beowawe was well known for its geyser fields. While not as impressive as Yellowstone National Park, Beowawe's geysers would spout to a height of a couple of feet with one geyser attaining a height of a dozen feet, according to a guidebook for Nevada written back in the mid-1930's. Today, the geysers spout no more; In 1985, a local dual-flash geothermal power plant altered the flow of water in the subterranean channels killing Beowawe's geyser field. Although the geysers are gone, it's still possible to see the occasional wisps of steam emanating from the holes of the former geysers. If you listen carefully, you may even hear the gurgle of water from the subterranean depths. A geocache named "The Ghosts of Geysers - Beowawe" was placed here in August of 2002. It is located at N 40° 33' 44.9" W 116° 35' 45.3". The guidebook mentioned is “The WPA Guide to 1930s Nevada (and) was first published in 1940 as 'Nevada: A Guide to the Silver State'." It was "copyrighted that year by the Nevada State Historical Society; The book was compiled by workers of the Writer's Program for the Work Project Administration (WPA)...The present volume reproduces the original edition...A new forward has been provided by Russell R. Elliot” and has been republished by the University of Nevada Press, Reno, Nevada. This wonderful resource is available at

East of Beowawe is Gravelly Ford, a resting place for pioneers preparing to cross the grueling Forty Mile Desert after departing the famed Humboldt Trail. Cottonwood trees and plenty of sweet water allowed both man and beast rest and feed here in relative comfort before continuing the trek across Forty Mile desert to California.

Gravelly Ford is also where James A. Reed, a member of the ill-fated Donner Party, killed John Snyder. Reed was to be hanged for the murder however his wife implored the party to show mercy and Reed was instead banished on foot without food. In an ironic twist, Reed ended up being a member of the rescue party later on when the snowbound survivors were stuck in the Sierra Nevada. Another Gravelly Ford story concerns an emigrant who was so intent on crossing the ford that he didn't realize his wife and two small children had been swept away in the current. Other members of his party saved the three and were intent on hanging the husband for his carelessness, but again like James Reed, it was at the pleas of his wife that the man's life was spared.

McGill Historic Drugstore Museum
- North of Ely on US93 lies the little community of McGill, a one time mining company town. A highlight of the town is the McGill Drugstore. Now a museum, you'll feel like you've been transported back to Smalltown, USA when you cross the threshold. During the summer, Dan Braddock, chairman of the White Pine County Historical Society and current curator of the McGill Historical Drug Store will probably be behind the soda fountain, ready to serve you ice cream sodas, milkshakes or a double scoop cone. "Welcome folks!he'll say as you enter this unique museum. “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 products."  This museum is a wonderful trip back in time for anyone who remembers a simpler time in America. Or has seen episodes of "Leave it to Beaver". If you're visiting during the off-season, Dan lives in McGill and is happy to open the museum for visitors. Give him a call (in advance) at 775-235-7276.

I'll have a double scoop, please!

Nevada Test Site
- Its name became Mercury and it is here that the muscles of the Cold War were flexed. Mercury was the Nuclear Test Site for America's arsenal. A monthly, 145 mile motorcoach tour led and narrated by an actual participant in the tests passes many of the 1035 manmade craters. Visitors are allowed of get off the bus at the Sedan Crater. This blast on July 6th, 1962 resulted in a crater deeper than a football field is long and measures 1280 feet from rim to rim. In 1 1/2 seconds, 6.6 million cubic yards (12 million tons) of earth moved as a result of the 104-kiloton device detonated 660 feet below the surface. Areas visited on the tour include Nob Hill from where reporters viewed the nuclear blasts, the Apple II test house, numerous automobile skeletons, an M-48 US Army Tank and a Mosler brand bank vault.
Reservations required - (702) 295-0944 On the web:

Atom-splitting for "Peace"    KABOOM!
                          The Sedan Crater - 7/6/1962                                                      Owens Detonation - 10/7/1957

CmdrMark (as he’s known in Nevada and on the alt.vacation.las-vegas newsgroup) is a Massachusetts native and currently resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A former corporate controller and operations manager, he is semi-retired and with his wife Samantha are enjoying raising their now two year old daughter, LieutCmdrCassandra! Husband and wife have enjoyed traveling the empty highways and byways of the Silver State searching out the little known places that make Nevada unique and look forward to instilling the same love of exploration of this wonderful state in their daughter in the near future. His travels may be found at

The author

The following two portions were omitted from the publication due to the author's inability to locate multiple independent corroboration:

Beowawe - I’ve been told that Beowawe is a Native American name that translates roughly into "naked buttocks". It's just conjecture but I suspect this spot was so named because the hot springs located there were used for bathing. Many Shoshone artifacts found in the area lend credence to this theory.

Nevada Test Site - Its name was supposed to have been Atomic City but in the end, it became known as Mercury. I heard the “Atomic City” story from Ernie Williams when I toured the site in 2003. He has been associated with nuclear weapons for the past 52 years, first as an Army enlistee and then as a Dept. of Defense employee and now a volunteer guide. He has personally witnessed some 73 nuclear detonations, both above and below ground. Mr. Williams was instrumental in the formation of the Atomic Testing Museum In Las Vegas. As I recall, he said the name “Mercury” came from the many small empty mercury vials (containers) which were used by miners during the assaying process. I did find one reference to the name Atomic City: “(its founders declined the temptation to name the site Atomic City, as so many had expected)" as reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on March 23, 2005.

At the request of the magazine, the Valley of the Moon portion above replaced this section on the LeBeau gravesite:

LeBeau Gravesite
- There are different types of geocaches, one type is called a Virtual Geocache. This type of geocache locates a place of interest where hiding an actual cache would be inappropriate. There is a virtual geocache is at N 39° 17’ 26.7” W 118° 26’ 51.8” called The LeBeau Gravesite Virtual Geocache

It is a stark and sobering reminder that the journey west was harsh and unforgiving. In the bad years, a wagon train would see 2/3rds of those who began the journey perish along the trail. Located on US 50, a couple of miles west of Sand Mountain (22 miles east of Fallon) the site is a poignant reminder that not all made it to the end of the pioneer trail and the start of a new life. In 1864, three LeBeau sisters died not far from here as their wagon train headed west. Diphtheria, according sources, claimed the girls as well as three year old Wilson Turner. The girls, Jennie age nine, Louise who was six, and Emma the three year old were buried along with young Wilson about a quarter of a mile west of the present day gravesite. In 1940, heavy rains washed the skeletal remains of both Jennie and Louise from their original graves to the current site. It is here that they were reburied.

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