Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Exploring Central Nevada-Part 2: Ghost Towns and Fossils

Second post of a three-part series. Find the first installment here.

After enjoying hot springs, it was time to head to Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park. We followed the signs off Highway 50 west of Austin into Reese River Valley and kept driving and driving. And then we drove some more! It was a long way, mostly on gravel roads, to the state park. We drove up a long gravel slope and saw the flags blowing in the distance. Whew, we had finally made it!

Did I mention a long way on gravel roads? Here's the view from where we had just come from.

We found a campsite in the campground (beware the fiberglass picnic tables, which gave us nasty splinters!), and then set off for a short hike to the fossil site. Along the way, Desert Girl smelled the fragrant blooming cliff rose.

We reached the fossil house, which protects about nine ichthyosaurs, marine reptiles. The house is only open during guided tours to protect the fossils.

Outside is a life-size replica of the ichthyosaur Shoshonis popularis. It was the largest predator around, with teeth like sharks', that could regrow as needed.

We peeked into the windows of the fossil house to see the in situ fossils. We knew we wanted to learn a lot more, so planned to come back the next day for one of the tours.

After an early dinner, we headed to the entrance, where the ghost town of Berlin is preserved. This cabin serves as the visitor center and park offices.

We looking into some of the other cabins to get a glimpse of what mining life was like.

I really liked how the afternoon light lit up the bottles inside this cabin.

Then we started on a hike around some of the structures. It was so beautiful walking around, imagining how different life would have been when the mine was in production.

The state park requires that dogs be on leashes. That was a little bit of a struggle with all the jackrabbits around!

One of the cool things about Berlin is how much of it is left. Nevada is nicknamed the Silver State, as so much silver (and gold and copper and tungsten and other minerals) have been found in it. Mining towns have come and gone all over the state. Most of the time when they disappear, the buildings are dismantled or moved so they can be put up somewhere else. But in Berlin, nearly everything was left as is.

Some of the cars didn't even make it out of town!

The machine shop was gorgeous in the golden light.

Inside we got a nice view of the mill.

I didn't know what a lot of the machinery was for, but it looked cool.

We slept well that night, then the next morning I went for a trail run and we packed up camp. We headed over to the fossil building and waited for a tour. We thought that since it was a Saturday, it might be really crowded, so we go there early. While we were waiting, we noticed a fossil on the ground. Turns out it used to have a shelter over it, but a big wind storm a number of years ago blew the shelter off and the roof off the fossil building. It cost so much to put up a new roof on the fossil building that there wasn't money left to recover this fossil.

With about eight other people, we went into the fossil house and learned all sorts of amazing things about ichthyosaurs, in particular about the Shonisaurus popularis fossils found here. (Click on the links to read more.)

Early miners used their vertebrae as dinner plates. Heavy dinner plates!

They are still finding more ichthyosaur fossils in the area. Ichthyosaurs are the state fossil of Nevada, and it was really cool learning more about them.

After the tour, we headed to the visitor center. When we had checked earlier, the tour to Diana Mine was full, but I just had a feeling we should go check if there was a cancellation. Luckily for us, there was, and we put on helmets and got flashlights to go visit this mine.

I usually don't go into mines, as they aren't as safe as caves, and I'm not a miner. But we thought it would be a fun opportunity.

We saw some of the tools of the trade.

It wasn't so reassuring when the guide pointed out the crack in the rock over our heads. That's why they put up the wooden beams.

Desert Boy was enthralled.

We saw several dead ends, where the ore vein had ended, and then the miners started in a different direction.

Our guide demonstrated how they mined, including how they made holes for the dynamite.

This was our emergency exit if the adit entrance we had come through somehow collapsed. By now we were a couple hundred feet under the hillside, so we were all hoping not to try it.

The guide mentioned that he had explored more of the mine, but we weren't allowed to go further because of bad air and collapsing tunnels.

A close up of the front of the ore cart.

On the way out we took some more photos.

It was great to get back to daylight!

We felt like we had really experienced Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park. So it was time to start heading home. We returned through Ione, Nevada. Their motto is the "The Town That Refused to Die." Population 41. We saw some nice buildings in town.

As we returned along the gravel roads, we saw an awesome dust devil in Reese River Valley.
Soon, though, we'd be exploring the mountains...

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

blogger templates