Under the "Fiends of Gold Butte's" plan that whole area would be considered "wilderness" and automatically off-limits to motorized vehicles – but… fortunately for us (and hopefully forever) the road is still open and we were able to visit several of the mines in the area. [For a free Google Earth file of this route see: Ride 08: Nevada Mica Mine]
The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.”It was a bit brisk because of the recent snowfall but that made the air incredibly clean and clear. It was almost as if you could have seen forever – if those mountains weren't in the way. And, like the well-behaved snow that we have down here does, it was on the mountains where we like it.
The sandy road was only slightly damp which was great to hold down the dust; but not enough to cause any troubles. With the clean air and no dust the ride even smelled better! We waved at the "Nada Mine" as we went by – Did I say it was a great ride?
At the Cottonwood Wash intersection we took a bit of a detour to see Bill's Spring and the mining camp remains, which was interesting. The cement foundation was an extremely long building looking more like a bunkhouse (or motel) than a cabin. Like most other places we've seen this year, there was no water in the troughs. [You do know that you can click on these photos to make them bigger – don't you?]
Next was Snowflake mine, a bit difficult to find even with a GPS. The road takes a dip right where it turns and you can miss it – like we did. The shaft is collapsed but there is a good view and a bunch of interesting tailing rock.
On the way back down we stopped at Vermiculite Mine. There is a bunch of old rusty equipment and some odd looking sculpting of the terrain, which was fun to sit and speculate about what they were doing and where things were placed.
Then it was down onto the old Gold Butte townsite for lunch. There is so much history about that place it deserves a posting all of its own, which I probably will do shortly.
An unmarked corral and watering complex next to the road deserved a reconoiter (both going and coming) but it gets dark down here by around 4:30pm so we didn't spend long.
Then it was down to Nevada Mica Mine. Really, it's worth the length of the ride. You need to look carefully at the mountainside as you come around a corner and you will see a quartz tailings pile at the shaft.
There are several tailing piles lower, along with a rusty car and camp trailer. And, the views – both up and down – are worth seeing. There isn't much at the surface but one or two outcroppings of mica deposits clearly were what the miners were seeking.
The ride back seemed quite a lot shorter than we anticipated, possibly due to being completely preoccupied by the views. The continued green of the lower desert plants, the dusty browns of the deserts, the brilliant red of the Gold Butte mountain rocks and the stunningly pristine-white of that beautiful snow.