Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Virginia City and the Comstock Lode

Saturday, July 25, 2009 - South Lake Tahoe to Mammoth Lake, California

Up and at ‘em – gonna go eat some breakfast at the Harrah’s buffet on Mr. Terry highroller’s points. Damn, damn, damn, closed. McDonalds and forge on. Virginia City, Nevada, here we come!! And, oh ma gosh, what a place!! But, on the way, we get a couple of bonuses – Silver City and Gold Hill. Three mining camps situated one right after the other, the area is dotted with head frames, mine tailings and old buildings as we wind up the road to Virginia City.

The heart of the Comstock Lode, Virginia City was heralded as the most important settlement between Denver, Colorado and San Francisco, California in the time of its heydays. By the 1870s, over $230 million in silver ore had been produced by the mines and Virginia City was continuing to grow. At the peak of its glory around 1876, Virginia City was a boisterous town with many businesses operating 24 hours a day. At that time the boomtown sported some 30,000 residents, 150 saloons, at least five police precincts, a thriving red-light district, three churches, hotels, restaurants, ten different fire departments, its own water, electric and gas systems, and numerous other businesses.

After strolling the streets and taking lots of photographs, we can’t resist getting our photo taken in an “old tyme” photo shop. As we wait for the photos to print, we sip on a coupla beers in the Mark Twain Saloon and pick up a few legends from the bartender. Cool stuff and you’ll see it soon.

Turning around and heading south again on our way to Bodie, California – one of the best, if not THE best ghost towns in all of the American West. Unfortunately, our GPS gave us not such good directions and we wound up at the park at 5:55. It’s ok, it doesn’t close till sundown. Nope—that was pre Mr. Hollywood cutbacks. In December, the park began to close at 6:00 p.m. but, alas, I didn’t know that. So, I pay $5.00 for five minutes and run like the dickens through the park taking as many pics as possible. All the way getting stopped by no less than four rangers telling me I’ve got to leave. “No, I say, I have four more minutes, I paid a dollar a minute, and I will use them.” And, I did. Sadly, not the kind of visit I had hoped for.

South again, beautiful scenery along the way and an erie lake called Mono Lake – huge but not a single boat, nor dock, nor campground, nor tree. The lake, one of the oldest in North America is over 1 million yearls old, covers about 65 square miles and has no outlet. Throughout its long existence, salts and minerals have washed into the lake from Eastern Sierra streams. Freshwater evaporating from the lake each year has left the salts and minerals behind so that the lake is now about 2 1/2 times as salty and 80 times as alkaline as the ocean. Ah, this explains no boats, docks, or buildings around the lake.

Then on to Mammoth Lake, about 30 minutes south of Yosemite and the only hotel we could find.

No comments: