Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ward Charcoal Ovens

The basic plan for this day during our stay at Great Basin National Park was to drive around and see stuff. Rather vague and ill-defined to be sure, but that's what we do. One of the many travel brochures purloined from an Ely motel mentioned Nevada ghost towns, one of which was Osceola. We had hiked already on the Osceola Ditch Trail, the historical site of a wooden flume that transported water from Mill Creek to Osceola so with a shrug of our shoulders and a bemused "Why not?" we hopped in the car and headed towards the small dot on the map that was Osceola.

A relic from the Osceola of yore
"Osceola" in Native American tongue probably means "long dusty road to nowhere". The rough and rutted dirt road started in the Snake Valley and ended in the Spring Valley, with the formidable Snake Range traverse testing our shock absorbers between the two valleys. Currently, Osceola is a small smattering of modern day abodes where the old town used to be and we did see several ruins from days gone by. The most tangible sign of the former town was the forlorn cemetery on top of a hill, other than that I don't think much else remains or else the remains are somewhere other than where we were.

The fans go marching two by two...
Anway, after arriving at Spring Valley, we crossed the broad valley with its parade formation of wind turbines permanently marching in a halftime show. From there, it was up and over the Schell Creek Range and down into Steptoe Valley. Up and down, up and down, that's what driving in the Great Basin is like. In Steptoe Valley, the next object of our affections was Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park.

Proof extraterrestrials have landed
Back in the day, silver was mined in these hills and the ore needed to be smelted. This required the use of copious quantities of charcoal. So, the ovens were built, looking all the world like giant beehives, and the mountains were soon stripped of trees in order to feed the ovens. Six of these odd looking ovens are preserved in a remote state park where we were the only visitors that particular morning.

Willow Creek drainage
We poked our heads into the alien looking ovens and then began hiking on a trail system in the park's Willow Creek drainage. Along the way were the ruins of several kilns, used back then to bake limestone to make mortar to make the ovens. Other than seeing a horned lizard and several rabbits, our walk was fairly uneventful until we reached a trail junction with a sign pointing the way to "Rocky Point".

View from Rocky Point
The "hike" was about 25 percent hike and about 75 percent scramble up some rocky faces marked with holes made by the ancient peoples that once peopled the area. This looked and felt like rattlesnake country so by wifely edict, I got to hike in front. I'm glad to report neither hikers nor rattlesnakes were harmed on this venture and we soon were atop the rocky point, enjoying the view of the vast Nevada outback and the nearby Egan Range.  Down below and looking more out of place than ever were the pointy headed ovens. An intersection of several dusty roads marked the location of  the nearby Willow Creek Ranch resort.

Singing "The Wind Beneath my Wings"
Our next destination was some 50 or so miles away: Cave Lake State Park. I'm sure it has some really interesting caves and lakes but we were going there with only one purpose in mind: showers! It wasn't quite a medical condition yet, but we had gone 3 days already without a shower other than rain showers and they don't count.

Cave Lake
Parking our car at surprisingly lush Steptoe Creek, we climbed up to a waterfall we had espied from the roadway. Once we got close enough for a good look, the natural wonder turned out to be a creek disappointingly pouring out of a man-made culvert underneath another roadway. Scrambling up a steep slope that turned out to be the Cave Lake dam, a nice overlook of the lake was enjoyed, but the showers at the lake's campground were enjoyed even more.

A small piece of the Grey Cliffs
Upon our return to Great Basin National Park, we swung by the Grey Cliffs which were just that. A great wall of rock rising above Pole Creek, the Grey Cliffs do impress visitors. While Dollie waited in the car, I bushwhacked through a dense thicket of willows to a pile of Volkswagen-sized boulders at the base of the cliff. It was a struggle to scramble up the pile of rocks but the reward was a nice up-close view of the cliffs. A large cave was present nearby with a sign forbidding visitors from entering as this particular cave had a large breeding population of bats inside.

I was told not to post this in Facebook
She didn't say anything about my blog!
So, it was back to camp and yet another chilly night but we slept well, fully sated by the day's we were squeaky clean! For more pictures of the sights, please visit the Flickr album.

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1 comment :

  1. As far as that picture of Dollie goes, you are so dead Richard. Nice knowing you.