Abandoned Dreams in the Sagebrush

On our latest outing we visited our first ghost town in Nevada. From Ely we traveled roughly 30 miles west on US 50, known as the “loneliest road in America”. We then left the pavement behind and traveled the rest of the way on dirt forest roads. Less than two miles from the highway we made our first stop and had a warm, but pleasant picnic at the picturesque Illipah Reservoir. We were surprised to not have the place to ourselves;  there was a fair amount of campers and fishermen also enjoying this small desert lake.

July 22 Hamilton (1)

After our picnic we continued on the dirt road another 10 miles as it wound its way up and around the mountainside until we reached the ghost town of Hamilton, sitting at an elevation of 8,000 feet. Along the way we passed many patches of these pretty white flowers, which, based on my best identification efforts, are desert poppies.

July 22 Hamilton (5)

There is not much left of Hamilton. It first became a town in 1868 when silver was found in the area. It was originally called Cave City because of the numerous natural caves in the area, some of which were used as shelters by early settlers.

July 22 Hamilton (19)

By 1869, the population swelled to 12,000 people. In it’s heyday, Hamilton boasted 200 different mining companies, 60 general stores, and almost 100 saloons. This remote town in the mountains was even the first county seat of White Pine County.

July 22 Hamilton (25)

Just one year later, it was discovered that the silver ore deposits were shallow. People abandoned their ambitions and fled their newly- created town. The population quickly dropped to less than 4,000. In 1873, a large fire swept through Hamilton and most of the businesses chose not to rebuild as the town was already dying.

Looking at the place now, it is hard to imagine that thousands of people once lived here. It was not an especially smooth drive getting to the town site today. I wonder what the access road was like in the 1800’s. Now all that is left to see are the crumbling remains of a very short- lived boom town nestled in the timeless sand and sagebrush.

July 22 Hamilton (67)

After driving by some of the ruins, we parked the car and set out for a little hike. The first several minutes were spent unintentionally chasing a sage grouse family down the trail. The mom and her babies didn’t like to fly and lacked the good sense to just move off the trail. I felt bad about wasting their energy, but we kept walking forward. They were moving pretty slow so we quickly gained on them and at the last moment they finally did some sort of awkward run/ fly combination and scattered into the sagebrush. Their moving abilities weren’t that impressive, so it is a good thing that their camouflage was spot on; you could hardly tell them apart from the sandy dirt.

July 22 Hamilton (35)

We followed the path for a while and then headed off- trail up to a rocky ridge. The view on the other side was, of course, more mountains.

July 22 Hamilton (45)

July 22 Hamilton (55)

Did you know that Nevada is home to the largest number of wild horses in the country? We were fortunate enough to spot a herd of them grazing on the side of this mountain. The scene was perfection- the wild horses truly highlighting the wild beauty of the area.

July 22 Hamilton (66)

I just can’t get enough of the Nevada landscape. Over every mountain is another mountain or valley that is different from the last. There may be a cave or rock formation or interesting plant to discover. Then add in a bit of history and wildlife to the mix. This land is so rich and varied, there is no limit of what there is to explore.

July 22 Hamilton (74)

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.
~John Muir

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