Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Finding a Thesis: On the Southern Route to the Top of Mineral Ridge

And so, we return once again to my seemingly never-ending thesis hunt. As you can see above, I've just arrived on eastern outskirts of Silver Peak, after crossing the Clayton Valley lithium brine fields.
Portion of the Goldfield 2° sheet, about centered on Mineral Ridge and what was then called "Silverpeak."
I took a close look at my maps, and noticed that not only did the Goldfield 2° sheet not show the Mary Mine that was on my list as a possible thesis area, but that there was only one route shown onto Mineral Ridge: a dashed light gray road north of town indicating a jeep trail I would presumably not be able to traverse in my '72 Opel.

I pulled out another map. No, make that two: The area was bifurcated by two 15' maps, Silver Peak and Lida Wash.
The Silver Peak and Lida Wash 15' quads, both from 1963, courtesy USGS.
Here I've joined the two maps together in a crude effort to create the effect of folding two maps together at the seam, as I probably did back in 1976.

On these combined maps, two routes to the Mary Mine became apparent to me: a southern and a northern route. The northern route took off from old Highway 47 (now S.R. 265), the paved road going north from Silver Peak, and headed westward along the northern side of Mineral Ridge. The southern route, Coyote Road, headed southwest out of Silver Peak and then turned westward along the southern side of Mineral Ridge toward and past Coyote Spring. Both routes are marked with double dashed lines. Another double dashed road heads nearly south for Oasis Divide, a pass over the Silver Peak Range into Fish Lake Valley.

Not knowing then what I know now—that my car would not have been able to make it up the mountain on either of these roads—I resolutely steered toward the southern route.
The end of pavement near the southwest end of Silver Peak, as seen in 2010. Coyote Road is the track going off into the center distance.
Coyote Road continues on as the bright track on the right. An unknown two-track on the left, not shown on any maps, including the 1987 7.5' quads, heads off toward some colorful volcanic hills.
Sign on Coyote Road just past the end of pavement.
Supposedly there was minimum maintenance on the Coyote Road when I drove it in 2010, although the road looked good to me. It looked as good as it did in 1985-87, when the county bladed it every time it got the slightest bit washboardy.
The Coyote Road is looking good as it descends back into Silver Peak from Coyote Springs, which is about 5 miles past the end of pavement.
I have no idea what the road looked like in 1976. I'm not even sure that I found the road.

From pavement in Silver Peak, I drove and drove down a wide, bladed but strongly corrugated dirt road for what seemed like miles and miles, surely at a slow speed, heading in a direction that didn’t seem quite right to me. I made it as far as some scrabbly-looking, knobby outcrops.

I drove back to Silver Peak. Was I on the right road?

Let's back up a bit on the Coyote Road―back into town, where it's still mostly paved―to it's present-day junction with the Nivloc Road.
Nivloc Road is on the left; Coyote Road is on the right.
The Nivloc Road goes to the defunct 16-to-1 mill, and the inactive 16-to-1 and Nivloc Mines (the junction on Google Street View).
What do our maps show? (See the maps, above.) The 1962 2° sheet shows two sub-parallel long-dashed gray roads going off to the Nivloc Mine, and no roads going up to Coyote Spring. One year later, the 1963 15' maps show double solid lines for the Nivloc Road and double dashed lines for the Coyote Road.

Which road did I take? That's a hard one to answer. My geographic memory (not always perfect but often fairly well oriented in north-south space) suggests to me that I was either on the often strongly washboarded Oasis Road or the often moderately washboarded Nivloc Road. Note: The washboard intensity of any given road means little as it will increase with time from its most recent grading (besides the other factors that affect intensity).

What about the outcrops I drove by? Had I been on the Oasis Road, it would have been more than 13 miles to the nearest outcrop, an unlikelihood given how long it would have taken in my Opel, and given that the maps said I didn't need to drive that far. On the Nivloc Road, it was about 4 miles to the first hills and a little farther, perhaps, to ones that might look "knobby." On the Coyote Road, it was about 3 miles to the first scrabbly hills, maybe a half mile or more to any exposures I might think of as knobby. Most likely I ended up on the middle road, the Nivloc. I'd have to guess that access to the top of Mineral Ridge was not much of a local or county priority in those days (as it would become by the mid-1980s), and that's why I didn’t find the possibly obscure turnoff I needed. But that is just a guess.

In any case, even if I had found the right road, in all likelihood I would not have been able to take my car much past Coyote Spring (maybe I could have made it about a mile and a half beyond the spring). I have seen some remarkable feats on that road, by people more experienced in off-road travel than I was back then, including a rather doubtful-looking but spunky Pinto driven to the top of Mineral Ridge by a driller's wife, who was delivering drill casings in the rear compartment of the hatchback, but I also know that Ford 150 4x4s of the era couldn't make the steep switchbacks on that hill in two-wheel drive, at least not without a lot of weight in the back.

At this point on my journey, it was noon or later, so I gave up on finding the southern route and drove into the town of Silver Peak.
Sign at the junction of the Silver Peak Road (road to Tonopah or Goldfield) and Main Street (S.R. 265).
To be continued...

Related Posts:
Thesis: Finding an Area
Finding a Thesis: Battle Mountain to Austin to Gabbs
Finding a Thesis: Pole Line Road
Finding a Thesis: Pole Line to Belmont
Finding a Thesis: Klondyke District
Finding a Thesis: A Joshua Tree Aside
Finding a Thesis: Into the Palmetto Mountains
Finding a Thesis: Farther into the Palmetto Mountains
Finding a Thesis: A Bit O' Geology in the Palmetto Mountains
Finding a Thesis: Future Stories from the Palmetto Mountains
Lida Summit Roadcut
Finding a Thesis: Next Stop, Silver Peak!
Finding a Thesis: Coming into Clayton Valley

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