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Lonely Doesn't Equal Nothing

If you need to travel across the middle of Nevada from California to Utah, chances are, you might spend 350 miles on the loneliest road in America, Route 50. You can drive 60, 70, or 80 mile stretches without seeing anything or anyone. You might be as nuts as I am and do it in an almost-12-year-old car, but that's not really recommended. (I did have the Nitro checked over thoroughly in California before I left.) Or you might be a bit smarter about your choice of vehicle, but either way, you'll find a surprising number of things to do despite the desolation.

road sign for route 50 in Nevada

First up, the wild horses of Lagomarsino Canyon. I love wild horses. I've seen them several times in Wyoming and couldn't pass up the chance for a hike in a canyon where I was almost guaranteed to see them. I passed a few beautiful ones clopping along the road on my way to the trailhead. Given it was mid-day, I wasn't sure I'd see any horses out, so I was already happy. When I got to the trail, I was even happier to see I was the only person there. My happiness was short lived.

I began the trail and immediately noticed horse poop everywhere. Tons and tons of it, so clearly I was on a popular route for the horses. Had it been bear scat, I would have turned around. But when you think horses, you don't really think you're in danger...until one gets a little too close and you remember just how big they are, how hard they can bite, how powerfully they can kick, and how terrifying it would be to have one rear up above you and stomp down on you over and over and over. Yeah...

So when, not even a quarter mile in, I saw this guy standing in the wash, I froze. He looked at me, I looked at him, he whinnied loudly, and then he started coming my way. I don't know the protocol for dealing with wild horses. Run? Play dead? Yell? I started backing away but the more I moved in the other direction, the more he came at me.  

The trail is in a canyon surrounded on both sides by private property. I headed upward toward the barbed wire fence, looking for a spot that was saggy enough that I could get over it. Fortunately, I found a spot and then scrambled up some rocks and watched the beast go by. My heart pounded, but once I was out of his path, he just kept going. I waited a good ten minutes since he was, presumably, between me and my car, and then I ventured out. When I got to my car, he was on the other side of the road, just eyeballing me, so I jumped in my SUV for the protection of my own horsepower. Not much of a hike after all, but certainly an adventure!

Having avoided death by hoof, I continued on my way and passed Grimes Archaeological Point, which I previously stopped at on my Tucson-to-Bend trajectory in May, and then I was really out there beyond the reaches of civilization. Well, except for the paved road. 

My next stop was the singing dune of Sand Mountain. This site has at least 150 campsites, but no one wants to be there in the 100 degree heat. There were only two other parties there when I showed up. It was too hot to explore the dune but made for a picturesque lunch stop.

white SUV in front of large sand dune

Keep Austin weird! No, not Austin, Texas but Austin, Nevada. The truly weird place. There's a random "castle" and an international cafĂ© that celebrates Serbian Christmas and a smattering of unusual buildings and businesses. It's not on the way to anywhere, but well worth a weekend's stay. 

ruins of an old castle

old west style restaurant
My time on the Nevada portion of Route 50 ended at Great Basin National Park for a hike up Wheeler Peak, the second highest mountain in Nevada. Even if you aren't a big hiker, the scenic drive up to the trailhead is lovely and there's a shorter hike to a nice lake. Plus, you get some cred for visiting one of America's least visited national parks, with just 120,000 visitors last year compared to Great Smoky Mountain's 12,000,000 visitors. That's a whole lot more zeroes. As you leave Great Basin, be sure to gas up in Baker because when you cross over the Utah state line into Mountain Time, it's almost 90 miles until the next anything at all.
woman on top of a mountain

What I've described here is just a small bit of everything you could see on Route 50. I skipped over a lot due to lack of time. I wasn't just driving 350 miles but a full 1,200 from Redding, CA to Silverton, CO in a single weekend. In retrospect, I should have taken a day off work to give myself more time. If you plan on driving the Loneliest Road in America, some other places you might want to check out are the historic buildings of Eurekathe steam engine in ElyHamilton Ghost town, the Ward charcoal ovens, and all the roadside markers for historical sites, many related to the Pony Express.