We finally made it to Winnemucca, Nevada. You’re probably scratching your head asking, “Where are they? Why did they go there? How do you pronounce that?!” All valid questions! LOL! We got that a lot when we would tell friends and family where we were going on our trip.
As you know, my passions are birding and photography. I’m happiest outdoors with camera in hand. Well, my husband is happiest when he has his metal detector in his hand. He’s a geologist and loves to hunt for gold. There aren’t too many hobbies out there that actually make money instead of spending it. 🙂
Tim had read about a well known area in northern Nevada that was known for shallow placer gold. It’s called Rye Patch. And it’s located about 40 miles west of Winnemucca, Nevada. It was discovered in the 1970s and has been a popular destination for gold hunters ever since.
So we got up early and drove out to Rye Patch State Recreation Area, a man-made lake which is fed by the Humboldt River. We crossed the dam and headed to the Majuba Mountain range. The gold is reported to be at the base of these mountains.
I wasn’t sure what to expect the countryside to be like when we were planning this trip. I had imagined beautiful forested mountains with a peaceful lake. It definitely wasn’t that.
The terrain was actually high plains. There wasn’t one cactus that I could see, which was great! It made for much easier walking through the grasses. There wasn’t one tree in sight.
Rye Patch gold area in the foreground with Rye Patch lake in the background
Golden grasslands for miles
When we finally parked after driving for 15 miles or so on dirt roads, Tim noticed right away we had gotten a punctured tire. Drat! But fortunately, he had a mini compressor in the truck and we were able to air up the tire which would give us time to drive the 30 miles to a little town near Rye Patch to get it fixed. So with no worries, we each started exploring the area.
So glad Tim had this compressor or he would have had to change a tire!
There weren’t any trees, but I did notice a thick stand of bushes about 100 feet away. So I headed in that direction hoping to find some birds. I figured any birds in the area would be drawn to those bushes. It turned out to be a good idea. I saw most of my birds in this small area. I was excited to see a warbler as my first bird sighting of the day.
The most prolific bird of the day was Sagebrush Sparrows. They were everywhere and didn’t limit themselves to the little area of bushes. They migrate to New Mexico for the winter and are not easy to find there. So I was thrilled to have so many subjects to see.
Here are the other birds I saw in that little area of bushes. Birds were scarce!
My friend Valerie texted me to see what I was up to that day. So I took this picture just for her. LOL! She tells me I take photos of every rusted thing I see. 😉
Rusty soda can circa 1970s 😉
I had thought I would see lots of lizards. Back home in New Mexico I usually see lizards often when I’m out hiking. But not so in this part of the country. I had gone most of the day without seeing one lizard. Then finally I spotted a tiny lizard sunning himself on a rock. I slowly crept closer to get a photo.
Western Fence Lizard
I soon realized he was very tame and didn’t seem to mind me coming closer. Before I knew it, I was 3 feet away taking photos of all angles. 🙂 At one point I reached out a finger to see if he would move. And he licked it! LOL!!
Western Fence Lizard
I noticed some movement on the ground while photographing this lizard. When I turned, I saw there was a sparrow foraging on the ground. So I quickly got a pic.
While I was entertaining myself with birds and lizards, Tim was busy looking for gold. I could tell he had covered a lot of ground.
Tim working hard looking for gold
At one point, Tim got my attention and pointed to the sky. There we saw a Red-Tailed Hawk looking for brunch.
I decided to head back to the truck for a cold drink. The day had gotten warm at 90 degrees. As I neared the truck, I saw a giant lizard run under a bush. I quickly forgot about that drink. I wanted to see this lizard! I stayed still and watched the opening at the base of the bush where I saw it run in. Soon I was rewarded with my patience! He started creeping out of his lair. This big guy was easily 12 inches long if not longer.
Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard coming out of his lair
I guess he decided I wasn’t a threat and quickly started hunting. I was able to take quite a few photos of this beautiful lizard. A real treat!
Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard
Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard
Then I heard Tim calling me. He wanted me to video him digging up a target. Now I always tell him every time he asks me to video him, the target usually is trash. It’s like I jinx it.
Narrowing down the location of the target.
Using tweezers to scrape in the cracks of bedrock.
He then uses a straw (or in this case a dismantled ball-point pen) to blow out the dirt and hopefully reveal the gold in a crack
Sure enough, this target was trash…a .22 bullet. Sigh…. But in the end he did find a nugget. And what he thought might be a silver nugget. But when he was able to clean it up, he decided it was a piece of lead.
While exploring the area, I came across a lone blooming bush. Most of the area’s bushes were done blooming. So this was a very popular bush with the bees and wasps.
I like the green eyes
A busy bee 🙂
While photographing the bees, I noticed this spider lair. The opening to the hole was about an inch in diameter. That’s a big spider! I caught a few bugs and threw them in the web in hopes of getting a photo of this spider. But he was just too fast! I didn’t think to video him at the time. Ah well….
Funnel Web Spider lair
After a full day of fun, we aired up the tire and headed to Lovelock, NV, to get the tire repaired and get a bite to eat. We stopped briefly at the campground along the Humboldt River to see what birds might be about. We couldn’t stay long as the tire was losing air!
But I did get a few more bird photos. 🙂
A hot Horned Lark
As we entered Lovelock Tim spotted a nice group of Wild Turkeys in a farm field but I didn’t have my camera ready and missed the shot. Dang!
We still had some daylight left after visiting Lovelock. So we decided to explore the area some before heading back to Winnemucca. I had seen on the map there were Tufa Formations nearby. We didn’t know what these were, so we went looking for them. We drove, and drove, and drove and climbed up a mountain…but no Tufa Formations. We were on a very curvy dirt road. At one point we had a horrifying experience! A Sheriff’s SUV came flying around a curve going about 60 mph and saw us at the last minute. He slammed on the breaks and turned sideways sliding towards us, dirt flying, and me screaming! Thankfully he narrowly missed us and just kept on going. He didn’t have any lights or sirens going, so we had not idea he was heading towards us at such a breakneck speed. I’m so glad we escaped what could have been a horrible accident.
Along this dirt road, Tim spotted a cool rock formation. It’s handy having a geologist in the car. 🙂
Soon we were at the top of the mountain. Tim asked me, “Where are these Tofu formations supposed to be?” I laughed and said it’s “Tufa” and I think we passed them.
View from the top of the mountain outside of Lovelock, NV
So we headed back down the mountain, with one eye looking out for that crazy sheriff. When we got back to the highway, we realized the Tufa Formations were right there. Pretty nondescript and not worth hiking to them to get a photo. But during our day we had seen a squirrel that moved as fast as lightening. Now I had tried to get a photo of this speedy guy, but he was just too quick! We saw another one of these squirrels as were we heading back to the highway. This one ran lickety split to a far hill and stopped briefly. Long enough to get a quick pic. Then off in a flash he was gone!
Harris’s Antelope Squirrel – it holds it’s tail over its back to shade itself.
We then drove to the Humboldt Mountain range looking for an old ghost town called Willow Creek. We didn’t find Willow Creek but we did find Star City.
Road to Star City
It was a beautiful drive up the mountain on a skinny dirt road following a stream. Most of the time you couldn’t see the stream as it was hidden by thick vegetation. But at the base of the mountain, the stream was dammed and rerouted. We passed a few folks camping by the stream.
Small dam on the way to Star City
We didn’t see but a few crumbling foundations at the site of Star City. We were running out of daylight to explore for more ruins. But the drive was beautiful and the views were grand.
View from Star City
By now it was almost dark, so time to head home. We were treated to a beautiful sunset.
Beginning of a beautiful sunset
Stay tuned for Day 4!