Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Travel Tuesday: A Dusty Road

While taking a shortcut from Tonopah toward Eureka yesterday — no, wait, it wasn't a *short* cut at all — I purposefully came upon this former stage station on what was seemingly one of the worst roads for narrowness, a paucity of pullouts and turnaround points, and dust.

This is Pritchard's Station, and the road is so bad that the Ghost Towns website doesn't have a picture, instead explaining, "It is said the site is a definite must, and is well worth the hair-raising drive to get there. But it is four-wheel drive territory at best." Indeed. In fact, I could find only one website with exactly three photos of the place. I've been to Pritchard's Station a few to a half dozen time over the decades; what struck me this time was that it's built of ash-flow tuff (more on that later).

View Larger Map

See this Google Maps route showing my "shortcut" — Pritchard's Station is Point E. Moore's Station is Point D. Project Faultless is the disturbed area a little southwest of Moore's Station (Google Maps location).
At first glance, the road leaving the station to the northeast doesn't look that bad, though I had already crossed about eight to ten miles of powdery road, and was now driving uphill. See all those dusty windrows on both sides of the road? The road had just been scraped; the dust was deep and fresh with few tracks.
This is the kind of thick powdery dust that makes you wonder if you should stop and clean your air-filter en route so the vehicle won't choke and stop running (which does happen, sometimes with dire consequences to engines).
This part of the road — from Pritchard's Station to Point G on my Google Maps route, a mere 10 miles — is uphill. The Nevada road atlas says, "Impassable When Wet," and I'd venture to add, barely or not passable with two-wheel drive. I used 4WD and was still fighting through the powder, being pushed around willy nilly, almost like I was driving through sand or mud.
Here, at Point F, just before making a whoop-di-do into and out of a side drainage of this magnificent wash known as Pritchard's Canyon, you can see what the road is built on: dark brownish gray sagebrush soil over thick ashy silt. The ash is from weathering of the surrounding ash-flow tuff formations. You are just beyond the inferred boundary of the Williams Ridge and Hot Creek Valley calderas (part of the central Nevada caldera complex), and there is weathered tuff and ashy material everywhere.
Just around the corner from Point F, I spotted this coyote running away from me; I barely got this photo because the camera was still set to wide angle.
And, after getting onto a currently better road just past Point G (judging by the old ruts, maybe not always better), near the ruins of Summit Station, I scared up this small band of horses.

Some References:
Dixon, G.L., Hedlund, D.C., and Ekren, E.B., 1972, Geologic map of the Pritchards Station quadrangle, Nye County, Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey, Miscellaneous Geologic Investigations Map I-728, scale 1:48,000.

Ekren, E.B., Hinrichs, E.N., Quinlivan, W.D., and Hoover, D.L., 1973, Geologic map of the Moores Station quadrangle, Nye County, Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey, Miscellaneous Geologic Investigations Map I-756, scale 1:48,000.

Steve Ludington, Dennis P. Cox, Kenneth W. Leonard, and Barry C. Moring, 1996, Cenozoic Volcanic Geology of Nevada, Chapter 5 in Donald A. Singer (ed.), An analysis of Nevada's metal-breaing mineral resources: Nevada Bur. Mines and Geology, Open-file Report 96-2, p. 5-1 to 5-10.

Stewart, J.H. and Carlson, J.E., 1976, Cenozoic rocks of Nevada: Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, Map 52, scale 1:1000000.


Mihaela said...

Nice narrative, reading it felt I as I was there.

"This is the kind of thick powdery dust that makes you wonder if you should stop and clean your air-filter en route so the vehicle won't choke and stop running" -- loved this part :)

Gaelyn said...

Glad your air filter didn't plug up. Like the Old station building. You sure do get into some remote and beautiful countryside.

hgg said...

Did you get a new car since we met? Looks different from the one in my photos

Nice shortcut!

Silver Fox said...

Mihaela, thanks for choosing a quote you liked! For some reason, this one just fell into place, so maybe it flowed better than sometimes.

Silver Fox said...

Gaelyn, I wish I'd gotten some pics of the larger Moore's Station, too. Also, there are a number of these stations and other buildings here and there built out of the same rock, probably by the same person. Surprising I could forget that!

If I'd have know how remote, I might not have gone, so I guess that's a good thing. :)

Silver Fox said...

Hgg, good to hear from you! No, it's the same truck - maybe you just didn't get an interior look at it.

Yeah, quite a shortcut! In the traditional style, the shortcut is shorter but takes longer. This one was longer and took longer! :)

hgg said...

Or I didn't see the driver's side of it. Yes, I keep on reading even if my own blogging effort is on ice these days.

Dana Hunter said...

Rocks, awesome old stone buildings, and horsies! Mah heart is singing! Thanks, Silver!

Silver Fox said...

Hgg, the driver's side is a plain white with no enhancements, unlike the more decorated passenger side (which I don't photo for ye olde blog).

Silver Fox said...

Dana, don't forget the dust! :)

Dan McShane said...

I enjoyed the trip description. I don't think I'll try that in the Turcel.

Silver Fox said...

No, although high clearance is not needed for this trip, I'd not recommend any sedan (though I've seen Caddy's in amazing places!).

Silver Fox said...

Actually, you could come in from the north, downhill through the critical parts, but then you might or might not be able to get out, depending on the alternate southern escape route through a wash, which I didn't try.