2011 Nevada-Mojave Trip


Part One: a new adventure!

Every year I spend my five-day vacation camping and exploring the desert, mostly in Nevada but also in the Mojave Desert. I explore old ghost towns, mines, mining camps and anything else of interest, while enjoying the beautiful scenery and wide open spaces. Here’s the scoop on my August 2011 adventure:

Skip to:   Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four

Atolia, CA

My first stop was this former tungsten mining area located in the Mojave desert near Randsburg. I had been there before, most recently in 2010, but previously I only had access to a small part of the site. This year I had the opportunity to document the main site, full of old mines and mills.

I saw many ancient, wooden headframes and ore bins, such as this one (left). I also saw a relatively modern steel headframe and mill structures, which date to the early 1940s and may have been in use up until the 1950s or ‘60s. Atolia’s best years were during WWI and WWII, when tungsten was in great demand.

Darwin, CA

My next stop was Darwin, CA. Although only a few dozen people still live in Darwin, there are numerous old buildings remaining from the town’s glory days, including this former gas station and post office (right).

The Vizo gas pumps in front of this building can be seen in detail on my Vintage Machinery page, along with the Chevy tanker truck (below).

Keeler, CA

My last stop before dark was Keeler, CA, formerly the southern terminus of the famed Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge railroad. Despite the fading light I was able to photograph several interesting buildings, including the Sierra Talc Co. mill (right) and the Keeler depot (below).

Sierra Mines, NV

I spent the night at the Sierra Mines, a group of mining camps in western Nevada. It had been at least 10 years since the last time I’d visited this site, and the elements have taken their toll.

The mines are reached via an extremely rough trail. The first camp is about halfway up the canyon and consists of a crumbling miner’s cabin (left), and a couple small mining structures. The  once-picturesque cabin has lost its front porch and roof since the last time I saw it, and the walls are beginning to collapse.

There is a larger camp at the top of the canyon (below) and a third camp a short distance to the west.

North Star Mines, NV

After leaving the Sierra Mines, I headed north across the Silver Peak Range. Near the Oasis Divide I came across a pair of mining camps at the North Star Mines.

The lower camp is little more than this solitary, yet interesting, cabin covered with rusty metal cut from cans (right).

The upper camp has several small buildings and has been occupied from 1930 into the 1990s.

The miner who worked this site and maintained it all those years must have been an quite a character. He left handmade metal plaques on many of the structures and “contraptions” showing the dates he built them.

A Storm, A Change of Plans, and A 40-Year-Old Tragedy

Thunder was rumbling in the distance as I left the North Star Mines. I continued roughly northward into the Clayton Valley and found a growing thunderstorm. By the time I reached the valley floor, the dirt road was flooded in many places and more water was flowing out of the canyons.

I had planned to turn west, taking a trail up into the mountains to visit the Mohawk Mine, but that trail was too badly flooded. So I continued north towards the town of Silver Peak, NV.

The storm hadn’t quite reached Silver Peak yet, so I took the opportunity to check out something I’d seen on previous trips. Just to the west of Silver Peak is Vanderbilt Peak, rising like a massive stone wall out of the desert floor. I’d driven by it many times and notices bits of shiny debris scattered across the mountainside.

I drove as close as possible to the base of the mountain and hiked up to the lower edge of the debris field. As I suspected, an aircraft had crashed here -- a military aircraft. I spotted a newly-placed monument on a hill a short distance away. It gave the pilot’s name and the date of the crash.

When I returned home I used that information to search online and found the following newspaper article with an account of the crash. It also told how the pilot’s widow had been located, and how she had come to see the crash site for the first time in April of this year:


Left: Memorial with Vanderbilt Peak crash site in background.

From Silver Peak I turned east, arriving in Tonopah, NV for a brief refueling stop. While I was there I photographed this rusty corrugated metal garage (below). Click the photo to see additional images of this structure.

Belmont, NV

My next stop was Belmont, NV about 40 or 50 miles northeast from Tonopah. Belmont was founded in 1865 and was once home to some 4000 people. A handful of people live there now.

This beautiful ghost town is bookended by two brick chimneys. As you approach from the south, you’re greeted by this tall, square chimney (right), part of the ruins from an old mill. If you come to Belmont from the north, the first thing you see is an even taller round chimney, a remnant of the Combination Mill.

In between, you’ll find lots of fascinating old structures and ruins, including the large, brick courthouse which was built in 1874.

Belmont has experienced a minor “boom” over the past couple decades and now there are several new homes in the area, but it still retains its charm.

It began to rain again while I was in Belmont. From Belmont I headed north, driving through sometimes-heavy rain for at least an hour. I reached Eureka after dark, refueled, and traveled east towards the Hamilton mining district, where I spent the night at a mine.

Go to the next page to read more about my 2011 Nevada trip:

Nevada Trip 2010 Part Two

See the Mary Ellen Mine, Cherry Creek, the Nevada Northern Railway Museum and 4-6-0 steam locomotive #40 in action as the adventure continues!

Skip to:   Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four


Note to modelers:

Many of the structures I’ve photographed would make great additions to your model railroad. It is my hope that these photos can be a useful reference resource. If you need larger, higher resolution images, just let me know. Also, in some cases I have additional detail photos that have not been posted online.

Return to Ghost Towns Page

Return to Photography and Graphics page