This day was one of the funnest days of our trip. We covered a lot of miles and saw some stunning scenery.
We left Ely, NV, and started heading to Utah. Before we left the area, I had Tim stop again at the Comins Lake. It was such a great place for birding.
This morning I saw completely different birds than I had seen the evening before. Which I loved!
After birding for a short while, a Great Blue Heron came flying in. I love these elegant birds.
Great Blue Heron
He wasn’t too sure about me walking along the shoreline. So he flew to the other side of the lake. I captured a few photos in flight. When I was editing the photos, I saw an elusive warbler flying in the photos as well. Looked like a Yellow Warbler – so bright! Wish I could have gotten some good photos of that warbler.
Great Blue Heron – see that bright yellow warbler!!!
I also saw a tiny bird feeding along the edge of the reeds. It’s obviously a juvenile. But I had a heck of a time identifying this bird. My conclusion is that it’s a juvenile Virginia Rail. But if someone knows the correct identification of this bird, I’d appreciate knowing.
Juvenile Virginia Rail
Too soon we were on our way. I never want to leave a good birding spot! We started heading further south. One of our planned stops on this trip was Cathedral Gorge State Park. It’s a small park comprising about 1600 acres, but just beautiful! We had a good time exploring all the small slots formed in the rocks. I could easily spend a day investigating all the cracks and crevices. Very unique!
Cathedral Gorge State Park
Interesting holes and cracks
Kelly exploring the slots
View from inside the slot canyon
My handsome husband!
Kelly inside the deepest slot canyon
Tim spotted a lizard among the formation. Yay!
Plateau Fence Lizard
We next headed east toward Utah. We headed up a scenic highway called Cedar Canyon that was truly breathtaking at every turn. We climbed very quickly with some steep grades at times. One of the most scenic highways I had ever seen.
River along Highway 14 Cedar Canyon
Gorgeous rock formations along the scenic drive
We soon had gone from 4,800 foot elevation at Cathedral Gorge to 10,000 feet. The views were so expansive!
Views from 10,000 feet
I saw on the map that there was a National Park just ahead of us: Cedar Breaks National Park. Of course we just had to stop in. And I am so glad we did. Just breathtaking!!!
Cedar Breaks National Park
View from 10,000 feet
From 10,000 feet the bottom of the canyon is 2000 feet below
The views looking down into that canyon were breathtaking. I would have loved to see what the views looked like from down in the bottom of that canyon.
While there I saw (and heard!) and Clark’s Nutcracker. These birds are big and loud. Sadly it flew away before I could get a photo.
Further up the road was another turnoff that showed a different view of the park.
Tim and Kelly
At the parking area of Cedar Breaks there were lots of wildflowers with butterflies busily feeding. Along with the familiar butterflies, I actually got a new one!
Milbert’s Tortoiseshell – a new butterfly for me!
Heading down the other side of the mountain, we saw a beautiful lake, mountain meadows and small ponds.
Sheep grazing in a high mountain meadow
Navajo Lake – a high mountain lake formed by lava
We stopped at one pond that was full of ducks. As we watched the ducks an osprey flew over looking for some lunch. He circled a couple times but didn’t see anything worth trying for and flew away.
We finally made it off that mountain and to our destination of the Zion Mountain Ranch. It’s an actual working buffalo ranch. The buffalo were there but way far away. I had hopes of seeing them up close before we left.
We stayed in a private cabin overlooking the horse pasture. A very peaceful setting.
Our cabin at Zion Mountain Ranch
Tomorrow we see Zion!
P.S. I just learned this was my 100th post!!! 🙂
It was finally time to leave Winnemucca, NV. Tim found 3 nuggets over the last couple days, so he was pleased. Upon further reading on the internet about the Rye Patch area, we learned that in September 2015 they had a nugget hunting rally in the area. This place is small, about 2 square miles. Last year they had over 600 people out there over a 3-day period swinging metal detectors looking for gold. So for Tim to find two nuggets there makes you realize he’s pretty good at finding elusive gold.
The night before when we were heading to the Mexican food restaurant, I told Tim I had seen a sign for a brothel. He said it couldn’t be for real. So the next morning we drove over there before heading out of town.
Sure enough, it was an active brothel! Of course, I wanted to take a picture of the sign before we left. While we were out taking pics, the owner came out to ask if we needed anything…really?? LOL!
Brothel in Winnemucca, NV
We told him no, we were just curious. He introduced himself as Mike and proceeded to tell us all about the place.
Mike – owner of the brothel
Next thing we know, we are getting a tour of the place. Sadly I was not allowed to take pictures inside. The brothel has been open nonstop since 1864 in that location. He showed us where the original building walls were and what had been added on over the years. It was a fascinating tour!
Sign at brothel
Tim being lured in!
He has a working girl that is 64 years old. She even married her latest husband there at the brothel and continues to work there. He said she keeps the lights dim so she looks better. LOL!
We asked him about rates. He said a basic hour, with no special requests, starts at a minimum of $400 a hour. Some girls charge more. If you want extras, like a party in the hot tub, it can cost $1,000 an hour. If you want a date outside the brothel, it starts at $700 a hour. He takes 50% of the fees and then charges them room and board. Crazy right!?!
Soon we were on our way to Ely, Nevada. Tim wanted check out an old ghost town outside of Ely called Osceola. The largest nugget ever found in Nevada was found there.
We saw some Sandhill Cranes in the lush valley while heading south to Ely. I’m sure they are in the process of migrating to my home state of New Mexico to the Bosque del Apache NWR.
To get to Ely you have to travel the “Loneliest Highway in America”. And I survived! according to the literature I came across 🙂
Eureka was a cool old town. It’s creation was attributed to the large silver deposit in the area. Today there is still a large silver mine in operation. We liked this town because it had a lot of its old buildings still in use. We enjoyed stretching our legs and walking main street. We also stopped in at the local saloon for fries and a root beer 🙂
Jackson Hotel in Eureka
Famous opera house in Eureka
Tim checking out the old mining equipment
Tim in front of the saloon where we had a snack
Next stop of Ely, NV. Another great town that was started due to a large copper deposit in the area. The Kennecott Mine is still in operation today.
Before stopping for the night in Ely, we drove on through to visit the old ghost town of Osceola. It is located in the Great Basin National Heritage Area. It is a fascinating town. You can learn more about the history of this area at this website Osceola District – Great Basin Heritage.
The highest peak in Nevada is known as Wheeler Peak – the same name as the highest peak in New Mexico.
Wheeler Peak – highest peak in Nevada at 13,065 feet above sea level
When we got to Osceola the wind was blowing at 40 mph+. Needless to say, I wasn’t too keen on spending much time out exploring and taking photos. But we did take time to walk around the famous Osceola cemetery.
The view from the cemetery was beautiful. I couldn’t think of a nicer resting place for these souls.
View from Osceola cemetery
There’s not much left of the old gold mining town of Osceola. But what was left was great for photos. Especially that old truck. I love rusty old trucks!
Osceola Ghost town
Stone foundation of old home
Great old truck!
There is still one gold claim still in production in the area. You can see the extensive workings from the road up the canyon. Tons and tons of earth have been removed to get to the elusive gold in the area.
Current mining operation at Osceola
This canyon has been worked for well over a 100 years
I saw several birds as Osceola. But with the strong winds, it was almost impossible to get a photo. I did manage to get a couple decent pics.
On the way back from Osceola, just outside of Ely is a small lake called Comins Lake and is part of the Steptoe Valley Wildlife Management Area. Of course I just had to stop there that evening so I could photograph some birds. By now I was in birding withdrawals as I hadn’t seen hardly any birds since we left Provo, UT!
At a long distance away – I believe these are Wilson’s Phalarope in winter plumage
We had dinner at hotel Nevada. It opened in 1929, was the tallest building in Nevada well into the 1940s and was the state’s first fire-proof building.
Great historical hotel and very popular with the bikers
It was nice touring the old part of town. There wasn’t anybody around, so I got some nice photos. I think they turned out nice in black and white.
The main building of the railway was built in 1910.
A lot of the original constructi0n is still standing and in great condition
We were up again early in Winnemucca, NV. Tim decided to check out a new gold area north of Winnemucca called Dutch Flat. Evidently it was small area that produced good gold. It was a pretty drive there. Farm land with a river running through it with surrounding hills.
Driving north of Winnemucca to Dutch Flat
As we were heading into the canyon, we came across an old boxcar. Not sure what it was used for, but it’s useful days are just about over.
You can see the old diggings as we drove in.
Once parked, Tim didn’t take long getting his detector out to hunt for gold. While he prospected, I went exploring and birding. Once again, I just wasn’t seeing or hearing very many birds. Northern Nevada is a very quiet birding spot.
While exploring the area, I noticed Tim had made his way up a hill. I took a picture of him detecting. When I got home and was editing my photos, I realized there was an antelope on the hill looking at Tim. I never heard or saw any large mammals that day. Amazing how quiet they can be.
Can you see the antelope in the upper left looking down at Tim?
The view from the area was very nice.
I did manage to see a few birds in the area.
I did see a lizard! 🙂 Those have been scarce on this trip as well.
New Mexico Whiptail
There wasn’t much evidence left of the old gold works in the area.
Foundation of old mill
Old foundation of large building
Old tailings pile
Tim did finally find a piece of gold. It was a nice sized piece. He was hoping to find more, but luck wasn’t with him that morning.
Looking hard for that yellow stuff!
After spending the morning at Dutch Flat, we decided to head back over to Rye Patch for the afternoon. As we were driving through the farm land, we saw a coyote run by.
Tim was driving pretty quick down this dirt road. I saw a dark spot in the open area along the road and told him to turn around. Upon closer inspection, we saw it was a Burrowing Owl.
He was hiding out…I’m surprised I saw him from the car
I got out of the car and was surprised it let me get pretty close.
As we hit the highway, we saw some people having fun on ATVs in the sand dunes outside of Winnemucca.
Sand dune fun!
As we turned off the highway, I noticed a hawk roosting in an old dead tree. He was quite a distance away, but I did manage to get a good enough photo to identify him. When I entered my bird sighting into eBird, I saw the Harris’s Hawk was considered rare for the area. I even got an email from eBird asking me about my sighting. They were thrilled I had a photo that showed it was a correct ID.
Back at Rye Patch, Tim wasted no time getting out prospecting. Tim found another piece of gold which made him very happy.
I didn’t see any birds as it was late afternoon. But I did manage to see another lizard!
Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard
We had just enough light to explore another gold area. We drove out to Willow Creek in the East Mountains (creative name huh? LOL!). We came to a locked gate and we realized someone had an active gold claim and was working the claim. There’s a long history of people looking for gold in these mountains. So you can see old buildings and machinery along with modern items.
Old stamp mill
Old trommel for separating gold from dirt and rocks
A new wash plant for separating gold from dirt and rocks
After playing all day, we were tired and hungry. I was really craving Mexican food and margarita!
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.
I woke up bright and early on Day 2 in Provo, Utah. We stayed at a hotel that was next to the Provo River. There was a beautiful bike trail along the river. I headed out first thing to see if any birds were out along the river.
It was barely light which made it tough for photos. I noticed later my pics have a lot of noise as I had to set my ISO so high. Why didn’t I think to use a flash??? Ah well…live and learn.
There was a bush along the river that was covered in berries. The birds were all over this bush. They were busy eating and not minding me too much.
After breakfast we headed over to Utah Lake State Park. I had n0ticed on eBird that a lot of bird sightings are posted here. Sounds like my kind of place!
The lake was a beautiful place. If I lived in Provo, I’d be there all the time! Along the road to the lake, there was all kinds of fun stuff to see and do. One of my favorites was a Zipline Park. Lots of ziplines to ride.
The owner of this storage rental place was using the property to store and display his old Americana collection
When we got to the lake, we drove out onto one of the jetties that was alongside the marina. The first bird I saw was this Clark’s Grebe. He popped up briefly for a photo.
Then out along the beach area were lots of Black-Necked Stilts, White-Faced Ibis and seagulls. Most of the birds were too far away for any decent photos. But I had to take a few pics anyway as some of the gulls were new birds for me. 🙂
We then drove over to the marina. This was a really nice place. I saw several birds in this area enjoying the beautiful morning.
My handsome husband Tim at the Utah Lake Marina
Great Blue Heron
American Avocets – with the lighting and their winter plumage, this photo almost looks like a water color painting
We headed around the marina to the jetty on the other side. Along this jetty there was the Provo River flowing into the lake. There was a large area with cattails that was filled with birds. You could hear and see them, but it was almost impossible to photograph them. I barely got a pic of the numerous Marsh Wrens.
View of the extensive cattails along Provo River and the river delta beyond.
While trying to photograph all those Marsh Wrens flying about, an Osprey flew right by us trying to catch a fish in the river. As you can see, he missed. We saw him fly by again looking for another target.
Osprey missing his breakfast
As we neared the end of the jetty, we saw where the river flowed out into the lake. There were so many birds here! Sadly most of them were very far away. I had my 800mm lens fully extended to get any photos.
There were flocks of American White Pelicans, various seagulls and Caspian Terns.
American White Pelicans
Various Gulls – Ring-Billed Gull, Herring Gull, California Gull
Caspian Terns with a Herring Gull juvenile in the back left (both new birds for me!)
And among these flocks there were quite a variety of shorebirds. I have a lot of difficulty identifying these little guys. Especially when they are in winter plumage. So if I’ve misidentified any, please correct me!
Along the jetty was a large flock of Northern Rough-Winged Swallows. There was a favorite tree they liked to perch on. Lucky for me! 🙂
Northern Rough-Winged Swallows
As were were heading back down the jetty, I saw this Snowy Egret busily feeding in the shallows. And my first photo ever of a successful catch!
Snowy Egret with breakfast!
There was a nice park and trail along the Provo River.
You can just barely see Tim on the right bank. He was caching grasshoppers and feeding the fish. There was some giant carp in this river.
I loved this place! I could bird here for hours at a time!
Lots of birds here too! By now the cloud cover had really started closing in and rain was threatening.
After a really fun and successful morning of birding, it was time to hit the road and head to Nevada. On our way out, we passed by the Great Salt Lake. I noticed that lots of people had stopped along the highway to write things on the white salt flats with black rocks.
You can see “Trump” spelled out in rocks in the lower right
We also passed a Morton Salt collection facility.
We had a 5 1/2 hour drive to Winnemucca, NV. After passing the Great Salt Lake, the scenery was pretty dull. When we were getting close to Winnemucca, we noticed a large fire off in the distance. When I looked it up on the internet, it was the smoke from a fire than had consumed over 122,000 acres of grasslands. The wind was blowing that day, so I’m sure it consumed even more acreage. Hopefully they got it put out by n0w.
Smoke from a 122,000+ acre fire in northern Nevada.