The Cactus Patch
October 2016

Caves, part III
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On Friday the 22 of July we set off on highway 50 once again.  As usual, just past the Shoshone with their gas station for revenue (no casinos for them in Nevada) the road left Egan Range, crossed Goshute Valley, crossed the Schell Creek Range, and dropped down into Spring Valley. In Spring Valley there were wind generators (but not as many as Tehachapi, etc. in California). Apparently they had to adjust the timing on these so as not to interfere with the bats from a nearby cave.  There are also problems with a proposal to pump underground water from Spring Valley to southern Nevada. At any rate the road went back up over Sacramento Pass and we reached the small town of Baker.  Here the road went back up into Great Basin National Park where we had reservations for a tour of Lehman Caves. 

We entered the cave through an artificial tunnel as the original entrance was vertical.  They also put doors on the tunnel to regulate temperature and humidity. We got to see lots of formations, especially the “shields” for which it is rightly known.  There is also a bit of graffiti which has been let stand as it is historic.  What we saw was great, but we didn’t get to see all of it.  John, for instance, had been there on a cleanup of an area where the ceiling collapsed.  That area is no longer open.

After the cave John and I took a nature trail above it.  Just near the natural opening (which is now fenced off) John found a plant of grizzly cactus. We found several more nearby.  This was the first “wild” succulent of the trip.

We then picnicked in a piñon grove and stopped back by the cave to look at an orchard of tiny but tasty apricots.  We don’t know who planted them, or why.  The road back to Baker was lined with artwork on the fences.  We stopped to look at some metal birds and found another stand of grizzly cactus.

Back at the Schell Creek Range we saw a couple of elk (without antlers).  We then took a side road into the Egan Range where there are huge charcoal ovens used to smelt the ore from the mine at Ruth.  These are no longer used as coke replaced charcoal.  We arrived back in Ely in time for the closing dinner which included an award ceremony for over achieving cavers.

On Saturday the 23rd, we headed south on 318, another lonely road.  This one follows the White River and stays fairly level.  After a long drive we came to the “Narrows” where the river and road pass between picturesque cliffs. At that point the vegetation began to change.  There were chollas and short yuccas. Just before joining highway 93 we reached the town of Hiko and across the junction (we were still headed south but were now on 93) we stopped to check out “E.T. Fresh Jerky” complete with billboard size paintings of little green men.  I asked the proprietress if it was legal and she said she didn’t know of any law against it. It was hot, so we bought drinks and ice cream. Polly had an actual ice cream cone which was appropriate as it was the anniversary of the first ones served at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904

As we proceeded south the short yuccas got taller and were recognizable as Mojave yucca.  These were now joined by Joshua trees.  We were definitely leaving Great Basin Sage and entering the Mojave.  We stopped for a picnic lunch at Pahranagat National Wildlife Reserve which was also appropriate as the first such preserve was established on this day in the early 1900s.  There was a lake and we saw a heron, mudhens and ducks.  We also saw a beaver tail.  Further south we saw inflated buckwheat, a different variety of grizzly, hedgehog cactus and barrels.

We finally reached Henderson and went to the hotel John had booked there.  Unfortunately he had booked the wrong Saturday and the alternative room was much more expensive.  We had drinks at Taco Bell while we searched the internet for another room.  We finally settled on driving down to Needles!  We had dinner at the Jokers Wild Casino in Henderson and then drove south. It was dark by the time we checked into the Americas Best Value Inn in Needles.

Our last day, the 24th, we drove through typical Mojave succulents past the Mojave National Preserve (which was blanketed in smoke from the Sand Fire in Santa Clarita) and stopped for breakfast at Ludlow. 

From the monument at the Ludlow Café we learned that the Bristol Mountains to the north of there had been used for atomic testing.  I thought all that was back in Nevada.

We had lunch at Kramer Junction.   I almost lost my camera and all the trip pictures by leaving it on the front of the car as we left. Fortunately when we went back we found it and the case (separated) at the side of the highway at the junction.  It still works! We reached home at 3:32, totally exhausted.

And now to more recent events:

We did not go to the members plant sale in Fresno, but did drive up on the 10th of September for the memorial service for Herb Thorne.  It was held in the backyard of his daughter Katie which is beautifully surrounded by trees.

On the 11th we went to a production of the “Scottish Play”.  (It is considered bad luck to actually say the name, although the fellow introducing it did so!)  It was very well done, even though the actors all sounded like Americans who “dinna ken Scottish”.  It was produced by the Motley Players and the Women’s Club.

On the 13th, of course, I heard Gunnar Eisel talk on hobbyists.  It was good to hear someone agree with me that there is not one soil mix that fits all succulents.

Lehman Caves

Metal Birds


E.T. Fresh Jerky

Ludlow Cafe

Memorial for Herb Thorne at Daughter Katie's

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