Sunday, May 26, 2019

Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park, White Pine County

Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park in White Pine County is a pretty cool place to visit.  Located east of Ely, Nevada, the charcoal ovens were built when silver mining was big in the area in the nearby Ward Mining District. They operated from 1876 to 1879.

Nearby pinyon pines and juniper trees were cut and put into the ovens. Then the ovens were heated and the wood turned into charcoal, which has a 96% carbon content. The charcoal was desired by the mines because it burned longer and hotter than wood.

I visited Ward Charcoal Ovens many years ago, but didn't have a return visit for many years, until the fall of 2017, before the Women in the Mountains Bicycle Clinic.

 On this visit, I wanted to check out some of the trails in the park. They have a nice trail network.

Here's a view of the riparian area. A small creek starts from springs in the park and then runs throughout the park.

There are some historic features that aren't preserved as well as the charcoal ovens.

Here's a view of the ovens from a higher vista on the trail.

I stayed in the campground, mainly so I could go take photos of the charcoal ovens at night. It was a fun photoshoot.

I didn't return to Ward Charcoal Ovens until Ely Outdoor Enthusiasts put on a trail run there in May 2019. What a terrific excuse to go back! They offered two- and four-mile runs. The kids signed up for the two-mile run and I did the four-mile run. Both courses were great, and we had a nice break in the rainy weather.  Here's a cool photo, courtesy of Ely Outdoor Enthusiasts, of the kids running:

I snapped a photo of the ovens during the race.

And then after the race, we went over to take a more relaxed look at them. Dogs are allowed on leash.

We went into the first charcoal oven.

It's so big! They could make a lot of charcoal in each oven, which was good, because sometimes it took 30 days of heating to make the charcoal. Then they had to let it cool, and on a calm day open the door. If it was too windy, they risked having the charcoal ignite and all their hard work literally go up in flames.

When the sun is shining, it makes for some spotlights in the ovens.

Another cool part of the ovens is the amazing lichens growing on them. They are now very colorful.
The entrance fee to Ward Charcoal Ovens is only $5 per vehicle. These are some of the best preserved charcoal ovens in the American West. I'm already looking forward to my next visit!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Quick Trip to Ely, Nevada

On a recent trip to Ely, Nevada, we saw they had new posters up with "10 Places to Explore in White Pine County." These places are:
Great Basin National Park, Cave Lake State Park (and in winter), Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park, Lehman CavesGarnet Hill Recreation Area, Ely Art Bank, White Pine Public Museum (and McGill Drugstore Museum), White Pine Golf Course, and Ely Renaissance Village.

You can see my take on these great places by clicking the links above. I still need to visit the McGill Drugstore Museum. I've only been to the White Pine Golf Course when I camped on it during the NSS Convention. And I've had a quick trip through the Ely Renaissance Village that I didn't blog about, but have seen it from the train a few times--I definitely need to do a proper visit there! A post on Ward Charcoal Ovens is coming soon.

The Ely Art Bank is a place I go to regularly, as they sell my books and photographs there. I love going, as every time I see something different. This time I saw this fun painting by Katherine Rountree. I recognized some of the people in it.
So cool!
I even found a piece of artwork I really liked and bought to grace one of the walls in our house.

In the basement of the adjacent Garnet Mercantile is the Cuchine Collection, a lovely collection of Nevada artists.

Also on display was a White Pine County art contest. Every person in White Pine County was invited to submit a piece of art.

Katherine Rountree won second place for the beautiful painting of a cattle drive.

Laurie Cruikshank made this bench.

You can vote for your favorite.

While we were there, we were told we should go check out the new gate at the Renaissance Village. It's just a few blocks away from the Art Bank.

The gate was made by the Rountrees and looks quite lovely. We wanted to check out the village, but realized we didn't have enough time on this particular day.

Partly because we still needed to eat a proper lunch, and it was already two in the afternoon. These two gals had helped sell a framed canvas I brought into the Art Bank, and the kind buyer gave them a commission to cover the cost of their milkshakes, so we went to Economy Drug to enjoy! They have the best milkshakes, plus great sandwiches. And while lunch was being prepared, the girls so enjoyed looking at the amazing toy selection downstairs.

 Our last fun stop was a newer one in Ely: the Aquatic Center. It was time to play in the water! And on the climbing walls--where we all had multiple races to the top. I even got them to do a few laps with me. This is such a nice facility, we try to stop here whenever we can.
So if you're looking for something to do in White Pine County, there are lots of great places to start! Scroll back up to the list at the top and check out the links if you want some suggestions. Let me know what you like doing best in WPC!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The New Forgotten Winchester Rifle Exhibit

 In November 2014, Cultural Resources Program Manager Eva Jensen was doing a survey in Great Basin National Park. She happened to spot an old rifle leaning against a tree. The rifle was a Winchester Model 1873 Lever Action Rifle  The story went around the world, as I reported in this blog post. Who had left it? Why had it been left behind?

No one knew the answers. Trying to find out more, the park sent the rifle to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming. They learned it had been made in 1882. They x-rayed it and found a bullet in it. They also stabilized it so that it would last longer.

Then it was put on display prominently in the Lehman Caves Visitor Center (LCVC).

This winter, the LCVC will have new cave and astronomy exhibits installed, so it was time to find a new home for the rifle. The Great Basin National Park Foundation and The Fund for People in Parks helped fund a new exhibit space in the Great Basin Visitor Center. The day came when it was time to move the rifle to its new exhibit space.

Cultural resources staff carefully took it out of its display case and put it into a travel case.

Exhibit specialists had spent days getting the new spot ready. Here's Eva, ready to put the rifle in its new display case.

This display case is really cool, with a photo of the juniper tree in the background, and then the rifle slightly forward of that. Lighting in the case makes it stand out better than the photo shows.

 The exhibit also includes information about the rifle and its place in the American West.

My favorite part, though, is the model Winchester. You can actually work the lever and understand better how the gun works. This made me look even closer at the Forgotten Winchester. 
It's a great new display! The Great Basin Visitor Center is in Baker, Nevada, just north of the main part of town. It's open 8 to 4:30 every day in summer. Check out this cool exhibit and step back in time!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Strawberry Creek Reopened

Strawberry Creek, in Great Basin National Park, closed in August 2016 when a big wildfire burned about 4,500 acres of both park- and BLM-managed land. Since then, the gate at the park boundary has been closed until May 1, 2019, when it was opened to day use. We wanted to see what had changed, so we went for a lovely visit.

At the lower elevations, there are lots of grasses and forbs growing. Unfortunately, many appear to be non-natives (cheatgrass and mustards), but there are a good number of natives in there. Plus, the vegetation has helped stabilize the soil, which means flash floods are less likely (they are still possible, so stay out during storms).

The bridge has been reinstalled. It had been taken out because it was thought that a big flood after the fire would have wiped it out. Big storms over nearby burned areas (Hampton Creek and Lexington watershed) created some massive floods. But Strawberry Creek lucked out. There were small floods, but nothing major.

We went up to the trailhead to start the Strawberry meadow loop, about 2 miles long. The first obstacle is getting across Strawberry Creek, since the foot bridge is gone. It's not too hard, and I have a feeling it will be improved in the near future.

A short ways up the trail is this sign that survived the fire. It has an illustration of the scenery pre-fire. You can see some changes post-fire.
The Nevada parsley was in full bloom!

The buttercup really decorated some hillsides.

Here's a view from near the top of the meadow looking down canyon.

Then we came to another obstacle: crossing the creek again without a bridge. We added some big rocks to the streambed to make it easier for ourselves and those who follow.

Desert Girl stands near the sign at the junction. To the right, the trail goes up to the Osceola Ditch (used in the late 1800s to carry water from nearby creeks to the mining town of Osceola) and to Willard Creek. To the left is our loop.

As we hiked down, we followed some pink flagging. We also saw some places where water was running in new channels. The 170% snowpack we had this winter is creating some new streams.

here's a view of the main creek, with the tall, dead trees next to it.

Another creek crossing without a bridge! Altogether there are four creek crossings without bridges. Peak stream flow will be about mid-May to the end of June, so be extra careful then.

Then we lost the trail. We knew the general direction and kept hiking that way.

Aha, we found the trail again! Can you tell this is the trail? It looks a lot different now.

Then we reached a part where some flooding had wiped it out again. Fortunately the vegetation is all low enough that it's not hard to cross.

We found another little impromptu stream.

We're getting close back to the trailhead!

And then we were totally surprised by the last bridge being in place.

Can you tell what Desert Girl has in her hand? It's a snowball, as we found a little snow patch. She couldn't wait to throw it.

This landscape has changes so much. The Bonneville cutthroat trout in the stream have really suffered from the fire, but most of the rest of habitat will rebound and actually be healthier.

It's great to have this opportunity to go up into Strawberry Creek and see how this watershed has changed. Some interpretive signs should be installed this summer, sharing even more information about how this area is coming back.

To see more photos of what this area looked like pre-fire, check out this 2013 post.
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