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KINDNESS across AMERICA - Chapter 04: Boom and Bust Nevada

KINDNESS across AMERICA - Chapter 04: Boom and Bust Nevada

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Published by Kirk D. Sinclair
Chapter 4 of my book about our American Discovery Trail journey.
Chapter 4 of my book about our American Discovery Trail journey.

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Published by: Kirk D. Sinclair on Aug 08, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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CHAPTER 4: BOOM AND BUST NEVADAMiddlegate to Ely; Days = 16 (1 rest); Distance = 256; People Met = 25We began struggling with desert wind a little before Middlegate. When we followed US 50 eastthe wind came from the east. When we departed from US 50 heading southeast for Ione, the wind camefrom the southeast. I felt cheated. Aren't winds supposed to be westerly most of the time?Long distance hiking is more mental than physical; the mental challenge hiking into Ione was themonotony. We were crossing a high elevation desert, somewhat scenic and cooler than a low elevationdesert. The backdrop of mountains surrounding the desert were scenic enough, particularly themountains in the Arc Dome Wilderness where we were heading. You could still see whitecaps at the endof June. Yet we might as well have been walking on a treadmill inserted into a picture postcard. As wewalked on a fourteen mile stretch of straightaway dirt road the mountains never seemed to be gettingcloser; the ubiquitous sagebrush on our left and right seemed to remain the same.When you are in good condition the temptation while hiking is to choose destinations for breaks.The first destination may be one mile away or five miles away. The distance does not matter because of aconditioned body and you want to break where you might maximize your enjoyment. This inclinationtowards destination hiking gets a little out of hand in the open desert. I knew better than to choose theend of the fourteen mile span ahead of us as our first destination that morning, yet our bodies werecoaxed on by the backdrop of mountains in the distance.I felt my mind encased somewhere between daze and agitation, if that can make sense to you.The monotony almost put me to sleep yet with a growing impatience for the scenery to change. We didmanage to take one break before arriving at Ione.Ione was the first of a few boom and bust mining towns we encountered. The sign for Ioneclaimed they were tenaciously holding on with their population of 41, yet in reality there seemed to beonly two residents still there. Ky was at Ione when we arrived and getting along well with those tworesidents, Norma and John Harpe from the Shosone tribe indigenous to that area. We joined Ky and the
Harpes for lunch at a very small, fenced in park with a water pump in one corner and a stone table inanother. Perhaps in a former time this bustled with neighborhood kids or families in the day and withyoung lovers at night.A woman whose horse trailer broke down joined us while waiting for help to arrive. Like us, shewas benefiting from the kindness of the Harpes. Norma did most of the talking, as John was hard of hearing. Both presented an aura of jovial resignation while talking to us like old friends. They were bothsatisfied enough with their lives, while welcoming the “interruption” of the very occasional stranger, yetcould remember a time when neighbors outnumbered strangers.As we enjoyed lunch together, I reflected on the irony of two Shosones being the holdoutresidents of a Nevada mining town. A boom and bust culture meets a boom and bust industry. At leastmining towns bust from their own doing, you can extract something for only so long. As the journey progressed this reality impressed upon me. Many things naturally “die,” and attempts to keep somethings “alive” is like rescuing corpses from the grave.Yet the Shosones did not bust from their own doing. The encroachment of private property andsmallpox laden blankets were the two biggest banes to Native American culture. With an end to their own sustainable lifestyle many Native Americans are caught in unsustainable pursuits such as boom and bust extraction; irony stemming from tragedy. Even as I learned from the journey that many communitiesmust accept boom and bust as consequences of some economic choices, and to not feel too much remorseabout this, I lament the failure of many communities to make the wise choices that would grant themsustainable autonomy.As we resumed hiking that afternoon I felt my lips going numb. I did not know what that meant,until I later discovered the hardened red tissue on my lips. Cindy often gets chapped lips, but I'veavoided them through thousands of miles of exposure. My lips could withstand snow fields at highelevations and bright sun, but not the desiccation of hiking directly into high winds and sun over thedesert.
Those strong southerly winds also brought increasingly uncomfortable heat, so that by lateevening the temperature was well into the nineties at 6700 feet. We ended the day at the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, where we once again joined Ky. The “Ichthyosaur” referred to the fossils of a seadinosaur discovered at that high elevation. The “Berlin” referred to an abandoned mining town that hadmany parts restored and preserved, another reminder of boom and bust in Nevada; there were still morereminders to come.We parted with Ky the next morning anticipating a “vacation,” meaning time spent in our belovedmountains with low mileage to enjoy them. Our first intended “vacation” in the Sierra did not work outas planned as we went off route; this one went awry as we mainly stayed on route. In both cases theelevated snow pack across the region was a contributing cause.We started off by going through yet more boom and bust towns on our way into the Arc DomeWilderness. I spotted on our Forest Service map a trail that seemed to be a more logical route for nonmotorized travel than the dirt road the ADT followed. I soon learned that the good folks who spent ayear scouting out the ADT route knew what they were doing.The trail followed a creek, with what looked like a gradual ascent. However, the trail on the mapseldom occurred on the ground. Whenever we lost the trail we could stay by the creek and battle withthick willows and thorny multiflora rose; or we could avoid the tangle by contouring the steep banks thatcame down into the creek bed. Towards the end of our first “vacation” day we found ourselves bushwhacking farther and farther up a steep slope that some might call a cliff. Finally I determined wemust make our way back down to the creek somehow before we ended up in a different drainage. Wecame down to a spot by the creek relatively cleared of vegetation and set up camp.Let me recap again how we got to that camp spot. We started out on a trail that no longer existsand had to either battle thick, thorny vegetation or struggle with going up and down boulders on a steepslope. Now imagine my reaction the next morning at 6:00 a.m. when Cindy says to me:

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