As the newly appointed Nevada Area Wood Badge Coordinator, and not sure exactly what my new job entails; I thought I would drive out to Ely and Camp Success to see how this year's Eastern Wood Badge Course was going and maybe help them break down the camp. This would entail driving across the state on Highway 50, something I have always wanted to experience. Highway 50 is described as the loneliest highway in America. This name has actually acted as a tourist draw and many people want to drive the road. Just past Fallon (home of many Whitaker relatives) is a real honest to goodness sand dune mountain, aptly named Sand Mountain. The dunes rise 600 feet off the valley floor and are built by constant winds off the Carson Sink where the Carson River disappears into the desert floor in one of the driest parts of the driest states. Of course it was raining when I drove through. Past Sand Mountain is the Middle Gate Pony express station. The old station is in ruins but there is a bar and sometimes a gas station. Just past the station is the famous (for these parts) hanging shoe tree. This is giant cottonwood tree, probably the only one for 50 miles. It has hundreds and hundreds of shoes hanging from it's branches. I don't know why, perhaps the proximity to the bar has something to do with it. The miles roll by and several 6000 and 7000+ foot passes go by and we ( me and Pepper) go through Austin and the town of Eureka. Austin has about 300 people has a higher elevation than Lake Tahoe and is part ghost town and part Landers County Seat. Eureka is an hour down the road and has about 1000 people. We are in high country now. The country is very scenic.
After 340 miles we arrive in Ely. Ely has 4,000 people and a few smaller towns in the surrounding area. It supports three wards of the LDS church and is about 25% LDS. It is closer to Salt Lake than to Vegas or Reno. Certainly the biggest town since leaving Fallon and 259 miles. From Ely we headed up into the Schnell Range of Mountains reaching almost 12,000. The Scout camp was at about 8,000 feet. We passed through typical high desert chaperal, then aspens, then pine and fir forests. The vegetation was very lush at the camp. The grass in some places was four feet tall.
The Wood Badge course appeared to be a great success. The Council had 65 participants and 43 staffers at the two courses this year. That is probably a record. At the closing assembly I introduced Liz Finley as the Course Director for 2010. Then is was repeat the drive in reverse. We got home about 10:30 PM. I was very tired but enjoyed the chance to see the state almost from the west to east borders. I saw a band of wild horses, poney express ruins, along with pioneer ruins, ghost towns that were once thriving mining towns with populations bigger than today's Gardnerville or Minden. We passed through valleys completely unpopulated for a hundred miles and some of the last open range in the country. Lots of time to think, sing to Pepper, ( so to stay awake) and listen to numerous recorded blogs and a new Clive Custler book.