Another month is behind us and what an eventful month it was. We got both the Toiyabe and Humboldt National Forests done (that completes the Intermountain Region and constitutes another book), enjoyed a visit with our new grandson, bought new tires for Kermit, Jr. (ouch) and, on a sad note, said "Farewell" to Fred's Uncle, Ted Cobb.
We started September in Bridgeport, California one of the prettiest places this side of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. At some point, when the area's mines were in operation, Bridgeport must have been a bustling metropolis but today it is basically a wide stretch of roadway and the only place to buy gas or a drink for a hundred miles. The most newsworthy event that occurred during our time in the area was initiation of new members into the local Historical Society. It was immediately apparent this wasn't your usual Historic Society. Initiation required incoming members to stand in the middle of Bridgeport's Main Street (also known as US 395!) and invite travelers to stay awhile in Bridgeport as the older members lined the roadway, sipping their favorite morning beverage (Bud appeared to be as popular as Bloody Mary), and yelled their support to the new guys. Fun club!?!?!?
So what else is special about this town? At the west end of town is a road that leads across a broad, flat plain into a valley, then past crystal clear twin lakes, and ends at the entrance of a seventy year old resort. When we were there, ranchers had gathered their herds onto the plain before moving them to their winter grazing. The sight of these cattle, their numbers must have been in the thousands, dotting the barbed-wire fenced fields, was amazing. No stockyard was this. These cattle were scattered across what we estimate was a 6,000-plus acre plain (or larger than 10 square miles) so there was plenty of "elbow room."
We camped where the plain narrowed into a valley, near a fast flowing, crystal clear river among Aspen, River willow, and sagebrush. Each morning we were greeted by golden sunlight. Night's approach brought a blush to the towering Sawtooth Ridge in the west. Although the days were delightfully warm, nights were cold enough for a thick layer of frost atop Kermit, Jr. One morning we even woke to fresh snowcapped peaks on the Sawtooth Ridge!!!
The valley ends at the Hoover Wilderness and Sawtooth Ridge's sheer wall. Here we found the quaint, and anything but little, Mono Village Resort. Established initially as a sheep ranch, Mono Village Resort now caters to visitors, many who return year after year. Mono Village Resort, owned and operated by the same family for four generations, is something of a cross between Scout camp and an old Route 66 motel in the middle of breathtaking beauty.
When we departed Bridgeport, we stopped at Hays Caf‚ for breakfast and what a yummy breakfast it was. They serve real, not that instant stuff, oatmeal with an almond and brown sugar topping that is their most popular breakfast item. Imagine, oatmeal as a most requested menu item?!?!? However, Suzi declared their cinnamon buns her favorite. Although one of the patrons remarked one bun could feed a family of four, it lasted Suzi only two meals. You've got to love country restaurants where the locals provide the foundation for their business and things are made from scratch.
The next three weeks were spent crisscrossing Nevada, completing our research of the Intermountain Region. During this time we discovered Nowhere is located about midway between here and hell-and-gone. And there is a lot of nowhere in Nevada. But there is also a surreal beauty to this state.
Nevada has 314 mountain ranges separated by broad, level plains covered with sage and brittle-bush. Our travels took us around, through, or over most of them. As illustrated by the quantity of sage, Nevada is the driest state in our union so these mountains do not have the lush vegetation seen elsewhere. (Pinon pine is the state's tree with good reason. Finding something growing on a mountainside beside pinon pine and juniper is a real treat.) While each mountain range has a slightly different personality, there are some collective traits. One trait is vegetation grows in bands or stripes across mountainsides and mountain tops appear barren. Another trait is these ranges run north to south. From space, we imagine Nevada looks as if it is covered by an army of giant caterpillars marching south to invade San Diego.
Another collective trait is Nevada's mountain ranges were built by either volcanic eruptions or block-fault lifting. One way to tell the difference between the two is block-fault mountain ranges are huge chunks of ancient ocean and lake bottoms forced upwards and have a more gentle contour. We have seen some that, with a little imagination, appear to be a pod of whales swimming by while others have the silhouette of healthy homo sapiens reclining on the horizon. Mountain ranges produced by volcanoes have none of these gentle angles. They, by contrast, appear to be the fiercely toothed jaw of some ancient monster or the crumpled remains of a burnt log. And these mountains tend to have more vivid coloring. Some we saw appear to have sustained a recent injury and the open wound, an angry red, is waiting for a scab to form.
The drive from Nevada to Montana was long but a good transition from the barren isolation of one state to the lush and robust activity of another. We've been on the road long enough to see beyond the billboards and road conditions and observed Montana is booming while Nevada is fading into a sad state.
After a wonderful visit with Tyler, our month old grandson, and of course his parents, we will hit the road again. This time we head for Kentucky and this year's last forest, Land between the Lakes. Our next Wanderings will be from Bisbee and we are ready to get back there. With the Eastern Region almost ready for the publisher and the Intermountain Region to be compiled, we have a very busy off-season planned. But we are already giving next season's route some serious thought. Until then -
Suzi and Fred