Thursday, 26 January 2017

Over Overland Pass

Sunday October 2nd   The Ruby Mountains are part of the 6.3 million acre Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which is somewhat unusual in that rather than being in one block, it is scattered in sections through Nevada and part of east California as can be seen in the map below....
We were now in the Ruby Mountain Ranger District heading west towards Austin, and as Lady and I made our way to Overland Pass at the southern end of the Ruby Mountains, we passed weekender camper vans parked up in pretty little camping spots among the trees. ATVs indicated that many of them were evidently out on hunting expeditions.  This was probably for elk at this time, but other big game commonly hunted in Nevada are antelope, black bear, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and mule deer.  Licences to hunt are issued on a quota basis and hunting seasons for the different species, which can vary from one to several weeks, are generally in the late summer/autumn period.
A view looking south to Big Bald Mountain on the way to Overland Pass...
The name of this pass is slightly confusing in that it was a less elevated version of a more significant, higher and steeper Overland Pass in the Diamond Range which we to cross the following day.
Through this pass the Pony Express Trail briefly merges with the Hastings Cutoff section of the California trail where it loops south round the Ruby mountains. The Cutoff was pioneered and promoted by Lansford Hastings in 1845 as a more direct emigrant route to California, though it did not prove to be so.  At the junction ahead the Hastings Cutoff turned to the right, following the Huntingdon valley north to join the Humboldt valley, while we would carry on to the left and over the Diamond Mountains on the horizon...
It was to the right that the doomed Donner party of California-bound emigrants turned in 1846, their delayed journey on this cutoff leaving them snowbound in the Sierra Nevada. Many died of starvation though some survived by resorting to cannibalism of dead bodies.
The water tower across the sage brush to the north of the track probably marks the site of Jacob's Well Pony Express way station, with the Diamond Mountains behind....
This station was not mentioned by Burton, but may have been built shortly after.  Edna Patterson writes "There was one station in between and that was Jacob's Well which lies in the valley between two ranges of mountains. This valley of sagebrush was dry and desolate, but a change station was needed every ten or twelve miles, so a little cabin was built of stone to serve as a station. It was built by men under General Frederick Jacobs, of Indian War fame, who had been charged with the construction of the road and building. A well was also built to supply water at this station and it was then given the name of Jacob's Well. Today nothing remains but a few old stones from which the old well has long since caved in with rock and dirt."
On Monday October 3rd Lady and I set out from our camp spot at the foot of the Diamond Mountains to tackle the next and more significant Overland Pass, which in Burton's day was called Chokop Pass. At 7449ft it was considerably higher than the one we had just crossed, and is the second highest pass on the trail after South Pass. The weather on this high plateau was becoming appreciably colder and snow had fallen on the Diamond Mountains overnight. Snow laden clouds obscured the crest of the mountains and I was keen to get going in case they enveloped the pass.
The track grew increasingly steep as we climbed up the mountain flank and what Burton called a "bad steep dugway". I got off to lead Lady and found I was frequently having to stop and get my breath back.    It was much steeper and rougher than it looks below (we were on an uphill slope in the photo), and I was amazed how people ever managed to get wagons up here!
The summit of the pass was bleak and bitterly cold with flecks of snow whirling in a biting wind.  I was thankful to be descending the rough track down Telegraph Canyon on the other side with a sunny view ahead in Diamond Valley, which Burton called "Moonshine Valley"..
  You can see Lady's saddlebags which were carrying water containers in case there was no water en route, but in fact at the end of the canyon we came to Diamond Ranch where there was a large trough of clean spring water. A little further on we found the monument to Diamond Springs Pony Express station where I decided to stop for a lunch break..

Here are ranch owner Daniel Venturacci (on the left) and sidekick Ben Reed who came over to chat..
Dan has not long moved onto the ranch with his wife, and runs about five hundred head of cattle on several thousand acres of land. 
The exact site of the Pony Express station seems to be rather confused. Most sources seem to put it in a cottonwood grove about a mile north of the ranch. But the plaque on the monument located it 350ft southwest of the monument, and Dan told me the stone building at that spot (shown in the photo below) apparently dates from the mid 1800s and is believed to incorporate the former station.....
As he pointed out, it is not in its original state, having been converted into a garage (not by him he was keen to add), but if you look carefully at the gable end you can see the port holes used for firing at attackers.

In fact Diamond Springs was another station that escaped Indian attack, though Burton rather smugly commented that the Mormon couple who were running it when he passed through and were "not particularly civil", and afterwards "had to fly before the savages - which perhaps they will be pleased to consider a 'judgement' upon them".
A view across the rabbit brush near Sulphur Springs after ten miles trudging across the flat Diamond Valley...
The aptly named rabbitbrush is a yellow flowering shrub commonly found in arid areas in North America, particularly lining the roads. It is eaten by the jackrabbits (or desert hares) which flourish in this area - they lolloped across the track every few minutes.. Dan told me they had shot about five hundred on the ground near the ranch on one occasion, but that they don't taste too good!
Sulphur Springs Pony Express station was sited off to the right at the base of the Sulphur Springs Range.  It was probably established as a way station as late as July 1861, and was then used as an Overland stage stop until 1869.  The trail ran round the tip of the promontory to the right in the middle distance, and we camped just the other side of it. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

To Ruby Valley

Saturday 1st October.  The Maverick Range lit up by the morning sun as we set out along the Pony Express Trail from our camp spot in Long Valley Wash.....
....and not a sign of human presence in any direction.
A hazy view looking back down Murry Canyon along the trail as we climb over the Mavericks with the ranges we have crossed  in the distance....
Soon after I took this photo I met a couple of hunters scrambling down the track on an ATV.  They were after elk, not with much success I gather. 

There was a Pony Express station at Mountain Springs on the way over the Mavericks, though the exact site is unknown.  I had been unable to find out if there was still an accessible water source here, which was why it had been so important to make sure I had some back-up for the section from Egan Canyon to Ruby Valley.  Burton mentioned a 'sinking creek' where they stopped for lunch.  Today I carried my Ortlieb foldable bucket, and water bottles for Lady in my saddle bags.  However, on arriving at Mountain Springs I discovered a muddy pool and a couple of spring fed cattle troughs of clean water, so I would have been OK ....

They were on private land owned by the Blue Jay Ranch, but owners Ray and Sandy Rosenlund turned up in their pick-up just as I was walking down and were happy to let me water Lady there.
On the gravel road leading down the western flank of the Maverick Range to the wide Ruby Valley.... the distance are the Ruby Mountains.

The Pony Express station site is off to the right of this junction behind a fence....
...but the sign shows the current trail leading off to the left.  You may remember that the original log cabin is now outside the museum in Elko - quite a change from this lonely site!  The Pony Express trail continues west through the wide gap in the Ruby Mountains ahead.

Ruby Valley was fertile spot capable of supporting agriculture, and as such was an ideal location for a Pony Express home station. A Government model farm was established here, superintended by local Indian agent Colonel Rogers, better known as 'Uncle Billy'. As Burton relates, he "had served in the troublous days of California as a marshal, and has many a hairbreadth escape to relate".  He had left his wife and children behind in California to live in a stone hut at the station, apparently side by side with a small band of Indians consisting of an old chief, nicknamed Chokop by the whites, his wives and a few followers. Chokop had in fact killed five emigrants, but in a tale typical of the era, it was in revenge for "wantonly" shooting his sister.
Dining with the Colonel turned out to be quite an experience - "after us Chokop and five followers sat down with knife and fork before a huge tureen full of soft pie, amongst which they did terrible execution, champing and chewing with the noisiness of wild beasts, eating each enough for three able-bodied sailors".
Ruby Valley station was never attacked during the Indian wars, perhaps due to this relationship with the local tribe but more likely because as a home station it was an established centre with a small community of mail riders and other employees, and between May to October 1860 a military company from Camp Floyd was based here.

Nick Wilson's first job with the Pony Express was on the dangerous stretch between here and Egan Canyon, as with another renowned rider, Billy Fisher, who was born in Woolwich (England)...
On one occasion during the Indian troubles when several of the stations had been burnt down, Fisher rode the whole 300 miles from Ruby Valley to Salt Lake City, using eight horses.  He was accompanying Lieutenant Weed's company when it came to the rescue at Egan Canyon.
He was later moved to ride between Rush Valley and Salt Lake City. A curious story has been passed down through his family of how he nearly fell asleep and perished while resting in a blizzard on this route, but was woken by a rabbit licking his face!
Another interesting snippet is that he is the second person connected with the Pony Express to have a descendant who became an astronaut - in his case his great grandson Dr William Fisher who was aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985. The pioneering spirit obviously lives on through the generations!

This mustang made a lovely sight galloping across the valley in the hoofsteps of the Pony Express ponies....
...Lucy was waiting on the county road having taken the long way round, and told me a small band of them had come right up to the rig as she was sitting outside reading.
She produced a delicious stew that evening, but I would like to think that we dined in a more ladylike fashion than Chokop and his muckers.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

The Ghostriders of Ely

Friday 30th September    I knew we were now going to tackle a remote section of the trail, crossing three mountain ranges and wide desert scrub areas with no guarantee of water on the way. In addition I had had difficulty loading a route onto my GPS and was going to have to rely on paper maps in strange country where we would be miles from help if anything went wrong.  I had anticipated that Lucy's 2WD vehicle would not be able to access this section and that our next rendezvous would be at Ruby Valley, about forty-five miles away.   So I was extremely grateful to elicit the help of Pony Express faithfuls  Wendy Anderson, Gino Okhart and Anthony Zamora, shown below in their alta egos as ghostriders Cat Balloo, Blackjack Frenchi and El Capitan..... 
 In this guise they scare tourists on the Nevada Northern Railway at Ely by galloping up on their horses, holding up the train and robbing passengers (by arrangement only of course).
They turned up early morning with Wendy's elderly horse on which Blackjack Frenchi (aka Gino) was going to guide me, while Cat Baloo (aka Wendy) drove support in Gino's horseless carriage (aka his 4WD SUV).   They were only able to spare the one day, but suggested Lucy drive round the mountains and tackle a sixteen mile dirt track up Long Valley Wash to meet us where the trail crossed.  El Capitan would go with her to show the way and provide moral support.  I had previously ruled out this meeting point as too risky for Lucy to try!   The next day I would be on my own, but would only have a fairly straightforward twenty mile ride to Ruby Valley where there was a good road and Lucy could meet me with the rig.  
 Posing with the Ghostriders of Ely - from left to right, Wendy, Gino, Anthony. They run this section of the Pony Express re-ride so are familiar with the trail.

Following Gino over the Cherry Creek Range on the Pony Express trail....
The mountains had become more wooded as we crossed into Nevada, the upper mountainsides covered with juniper and pinyon pine. The juniper is characterised by its opaque white berries, while at this time of year the pinyon pine cones are ready to be harvested of their little edible pine nuts.
Wild mustangs ...
They survive largely on bunchgrass such you see in the photo. It does not look particularly nourishing but is in fact highly nutritious. All the mustangs I saw were in good condition though of course this was at the end of the summer.  Unfortunately large parts of the USA have now been invaded by the aptly named cheat grass or drooping brome which was introduced from Europe. It has no nutritional value to speak of and takes over wherever the environment has been disturbed. I have encountered it all the way through the US, and a number of times have been attracted by what appeared to be a good supply of grass in someone's yard only to discover it was worse than useless cheat grass. 
Following the Pony Express Trail into Butte valley... 
The wind makes it difficult to hear Gino, but he was talking about a herd of lovely palamino mustangs that inhabit this valley.  The trail goes straight ahead to White Rock which can just be seen as a small white dot in the distance on the Butte Mountains. This is the location of Pony Springs on a more rugged and difficult route which was used in summer by the Pony Express. We would be following an easier route slightly to the left, past the site of Butte Pony Express station.  This was used by the Pony Express in the winter and by the Overland stage.
Wendy drove ahead, pulling the trailer through steep, rocky and muddy terrain, but unfortunately took the SUV straight up the impassable road towards Pony Springs. We rode over to check she was OK, and then cadged a lift back to the trail, an experience in itself for a tenderfoot like myself....
....just to make it clear, at this point Wendy's horse and Lady were in the trailer behind.   During the National Pony Express Re-ride the three ghostriders haul their horses to locations virtually inaccessible by vehicle, so this was perfectly normal for them.  Lady emerged unscathed and added another T shirt to her large collection.
 Gino and me by the ruins of Butte Pony Express station.. camera had decided to add an artistic fishbowl effect this time.
It sometimes happened that when I was not expecting to find traces of a station it was there, and so it was in this case.  The extremes of Nevada climate are demonstrated by the fact that although Burton arrived less than a week later in the year than I did, he reported that the road was six inches deep in snow.  By comparison Gino and I are in shirtsleeves.  Or perhaps it is the result of climate change.
 Burton gave quite a detailed description of the station, which was run by Welsh Mormon Mr Thomas, and consisted of a stone cabin thirty feet long by fifteen, with portholes on the long sides, and roofed with split cedar trunks. There was the usual corral for the horses and a dirty pool.  Inside the cabin was divided into two by a canvas partition, one part containing bunks and storage space with heaps of "rubbish, saddles, cloths, harness and straps, sacks of wheat, oats, meal and potatoes" and "dogs nestled where they found room"  The cabin floor was of untamped earth, and muddy where water had seeped through the wall at one point.  However Burton applauds the presence of a roaring fire in a large fireplace with a hook and iron oven, and they were fed comparatively well with "added meat to our supper of coffee and doughboy"
On the trail over a pass through the Butte Mountains
As evening draws in we come down to the track junction in Long Wash valley, and it looks as if Anthony and Lucy are waiting....
Anthony had encouraged Lucy through some rough and sticky patches along the lengthy dirt track to arrive safely at this forsaken spot. We were able to make camp before the galloping ghostriders left for home, not before Anthony warned us to get the rig out of there pronto if it started raining!   Many thanks  ghostriders - It was a memorable day riding a stretch I would have found it almost impossible to negotiate without your support!
Lucy and I settled down to a late supper serenaded by the distant yelps of coyotes celebrating a kill.

A Dangerous Canyon

Heading along the Pony Express trail across Steptoe valley towards Egan Canyon on Thursday 29th September...
You can clearly see the canyon opening in the Egan Range straight ahead along the trail.
This peaceful little canyon was once one of the most notoriously dangerous sections of the trail during the 1860s. The narrow valley with its steep rocky sides was a perfect spot to be ambushed and trapped, and it witnessed many instances of violent encounters with hostile Indians.. 
Nick Wilson tells a tale of following a small emigrant train into the valley and finding the whole party including women and children massacred, apart from two men he passed running out of the canyon.  The mules and horses were gone.  These emigrants had been warned of the danger of travelling in a small party through this country, but mistakenly thought they were well armed enough to repel any attacks. 
 Howard Egan (most likely the younger Egan rather than his father Major Egan)came across a camp of Indians while riding through the canyon at night. He decided to use surprise tactics and 'run the gauntlet', galloping straight through the camp while firing his guns, and making a rapid exit on his fast pony. He later heard that the Indians had indeed planned to capture a rider, to find out what they were carrying with such urgency!
 An enigmatic sign by the side of the track..
What on earth would someone be doing with a rubber tub and red mat on a hillside in the desert, and more intriguingly what sort of person would choose to steal them?  Not the Indians this time methinks.
Egan Canyon Pony Express station was built where the canyon opens out, and was sited in the area of thick salt bush to the left of the creek in the photo below.  In the distance rise the Cherry Creek mountains.
The most notable event which occurred here was 'The Battle of Egan Station' of August 1860 when the station was attacked by a large number of Goshute warriors who overpowered station master Mike Holton and rider Wilson.  The Indians were apparently intending to burn both the station and the unfortunate pair, but in the meantime helped themselves to provisions and prepared to feast.  Fortuitously for the duo, pony express rider Will Dennis happened to be nearing the station from the west, and realising it was under attack, galloped back and alerted a military column he had passed on the trail.  It was quite literally the cavalry to the rescue as Lieutenant Stephen Weed and his party of mounted riflemen arrived in the nick of time to save the intended victims.  Pony Express rider Billy Fisher claimed eighteen Paiutes were killed in the ensuing battle, but Lieutenant Weed's report puts the number at only one.

When Burton passed through the canyon at the beginning of October, it was a bleak and threatening journey. Fires on the hillside warned of possible Indian attack, and they sped on at full speed to the end of the canyon to find that Egan's station "had been reduced to a chimney stack and a few charred posts".  The station had been burnt by Goshutes two or three days previously in revenge for the death of their warriors. "We could distinguish the pits from which the wolves had torn up the corpses, and one fellow's arm projected from the snow".  The station was subsequently rebuilt, and continued to serve as a Pony Express station and then as a stage station up to 1869.

We camped a little further on by Fort Pearce cemetery which contains the graves of several unidentified individuals from the nineteenth century.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Following the sheep

 I needed to organise a rendezvous point with Wendy Anderson, Gene Okhart and Antony Zamora of the NPEA who had kindly agreed to help me through the isolated stretch between Schellbourne and Ruby Valley. They were only available at the weekend and we were well within schedule so decided to take another day off and make use of Hank's phone and internet.
 Climbing up the eastern flank of the Schell Creek Range on Wednesday 28th September  we met up with a couple of Hank's Peruvian shepherds moving a large flock of sheep uphill to find pasture....  
Notice all the dogs - the black and white border collies are used to drive the sheep whereas the large white Pyranean Mountain dogs mingle with the herd - their job is to protect the sheep from predators such as coyote and cougar.  Hank told us he had in fact shot a cougar just below the ranch house.
Many sheep ranchers in the American west such as Hank use H-2A 'temporary guest visas' (which apply to foreign agricultural workers with job offers) to employ Peruvians as shepherds. Under this programme ranchers are responsible for flights, board and lodging  but have been able to take advantage of the fact that such workers could be paid below the minimum legal wage.  Labour laws are now tighter, and Peruvians on this programme can earn considerably more than they can earn in their own country, even in professional jobs.
At the top of Stage Canyon looking out across the Steptoe Valley to the Egan Range which we will cross the following day...
 A reminder of why the Pony Express ended.....
 ...the telegraph line also came this way.
Looking back up Stage Canyon to Schellbourne Pass. Chorpenning sited a stage station on the bench of land straight ahead (where Schellbourne Ranch is now located), and this became Schell Creek Pony Express station, although nothing remains from this period...
After the demise of the Pony Express, the Overland Mail took over the station and a small military post was also established to protect the route.  Following the discovery of silver nearby in the 1870s  this expanded into the little settlement of Schellbourne, butl the ore had ran out by 1885.
Burton noted about the station "Nothing could more want tidying than this log-hut, which showed the bullet marks of a recent Indian attack". so it seemed Nick Wilson could not escape trouble as this was his home station for a while! Attacks came on June 8th and August 29th 1860, but the details are confused as to whether stock was stolen or anyone killed.
It was from Schell Creek that Wilson carried the mail to Deep Creek one time to find his relief rider had not arrived. He had to ride on to Willow Creek (Callao) where he discovered the rider had been killed by Indians in the desert.
After a few hundred miles of wilderness, we were suddenly transported back into the twenty first century when we crossed Highway 93, with its stream of traffic hurtling along the Steptoe valley between Ely and Wendover.  Disappointingly the Schellbourne gas station and restaurant has been abandoned, so no beer and burger, but we found a sheltered spot to park the rig at the back where there was even a bit of cell phone reception!
There is still a parking area for semis (articulated lorries) and a rest stop here, though the warning against rattlesnakes on the rest room door might make one a tad reluctant to use it...

Dream on Lady...the spirit of the Pony Express haunts us....
....though I doubt my rather portly mount would be able to compete with the dashing young figure in the background.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

To the Wilderness... the next leg was described by Burton.  On Sunday 25th September we set out into Nevada across "another grisly land, if possible more deplorable than before" (according to Burton), riding across the Antelope Valley towards the Antelope Range (not the Spring valley range as I mistakenly say)...
On the current maps Prairie Gate is marked several miles further along the road from Eight Mile, but older accounts (eg Howard Egan) apply both these names to the same Pony Express station.
We had been following the line of the Pony Express trail as well as the old Lincoln Highway, but at the current Prairie Gate the Pony Express trail strikes out in a more direct line across the sage brush desert to the left towards Antelope Springs.  The main reason we were not able to take this more direct route was that we were now riding through the Goshute Indian reservation, and the land on either side of the Lincoln Highway here is restricted Indian land which must be respected.
The Goshute are a small tribe now numbering well under a thousand.  They are related to the Shoshone, and traditionally inhabited the area west of Salt Lake City westwards to the Egan range, in other words, the area we had been travelling through.  They are now divided between this reservation and another in Skull valley to the southwest of Salt Lake City (near the Dugway Proving Ground).
 Trying to survive in such a barren region originally meant living at a minimum subsistence level on wild vegetables, seeds (particularly pinyon pine nuts), insects and small desert mammals and reptiles, as well as larger animals such as coyote and deer when available. They wintered in the well watered Deep Creek valley.   It was thus not surprising that tensions grew when Mormons moved into the area and their domestic livestock competed for the limited resources. This contributed to the Indian troubles which have already been referred to. The Goshutes were brought under control and forced to sign a treaty in 1863 which allowed for the incursion of whites into their tribal lands.
The present reservation was established in 1912 on just over 122,000 acres, and some of the Goshutes that remain farm cattle and grow hay on better land near Deep Creek. 
Leaving the Goshute reservation, and you can see the boundary signs with dire warnings concerning the penalties for trespassing or poaching on Indian land - "to the full extent of tribal law including confiscating vehicles and equipment"!...... 
We stayed on the straight and narrow and emerged with vehicle and equipment intact, not that that any of the threatened patrols were evident. 
Far from the Madding Crowd - our remote camp spot at Antelope Springs at the foot of the Antelope Range, here looking east to the Deep Creek Range - we didn't see a car all day ...
The  small pond shown here is just below the springs and pile of stones which mark the site of the former Pony Express station......
The station was originally built as a stage stop by Chorpenning in 1859.  It later served the Pony Express, though it was burnt down by the Goshutes in June 1860 though the inmates escaped.  It was subsequently rebuilt.   Reportedly quite a large band of mustangs roam the area near the springs, but we saw neither hide nor hair of them.
Monday 26th September.  I had intended to follow the Pony Express trail over the Antelope hills through Rock Springs Pass to Spring Valley, but Lucy was struggling a little with map directions, so I decided to play safe and follow the road around the southern spur of the hills and through Twelve Mile Pass.  This in fact was a route used by the Pony Express during the winter, although I doubt it was as scenic as the mountain route.  My new Canon camera seems to have a mind of its own, and I sometimes find it has mysteriously employed video or special effects, though in this case it gave a suitably bleak and wintery effect to the Antelope Valley road heading towards the low pass..... 
There were two Pony Express stations in the Spring Valley area, though nothing remains and Burton does not mention either.  Rock Springs station is thought to have been on the shorter summer route over the Antelope Range.  Spring Valley station was on the longer winter route that we were following.  Riding down into Spring Valley we came to Stonehouse, where there is unsurprisingly an old stone house.  It dates from after the time of the Pony Express, but the Overland Mail had a station somewhere here which may also have been used by the Pony Express after July 1861.  This was sited in the vicinity of the photo below..
If this is truly the site of the station, this is also the setting for another Indian attack which almost cost the life of Pony Express rider Nick Wilson, the same rider who defended Eight Mile station.
 Elijah Nicholas Wilson was one of the more fascinating characters in the history of the Pony Express.  Emigrating to Utah in 1850 with his Mormon family, as an eleven year old boy he ran away to live with the Shoshone Indians for two years, initially tempted by the promise of a pretty pinto pony which he was allowed to keep when he returned to his white family.  He was fluent in the Shoshone and Goshute languages, and thus later in demand as an interpreter and guide. While with the Shoshone he became an accomplished wild horse tamer, and Dr Faust subsequently persuaded him to become a pony express rider. He rode parts of the route between Ruby Valley and Deep Creek, as well as between Carson Sink and Fort Churchill, experiencing many adventures which as 'Uncle Nick' he recounted to rapt young listeners in later life. (See his autobiography White Indian Boy).
On this occasion he had stopped for lunch at the station when he saw a couple of Indians making off with the horses. In chasing after them he was shot above the eye with a arrow and left for dead by the station boys. Realising he was still alive the next day, they called for a doctor who removed the flint arrowhead but did little else. It was only when Major Egan discovered him still alive six days later that the doctor made an increased effort, and after another eighteen days Wilson came out of a coma and began to make progress. He was eventually back in the saddle, though he continued to suffer from the effects of his wound.   After the end of the Pony Express, he became an experienced stage coach driver, before settling near Jackson Hole in Wyoming where he pioneered the settlement which became known as Wilson.
 I had identified a ranch in Spring Valley that I hoped was still occupied and where we might find water and be able to camp for the night.  Lucy drove on ahead and I was delighted when she returned with sheep rancher Hank Vogler bearing very welcome cool refreshment!
On arrival at the Vogler Ranch Lady was ushered into a spacious corral and was soon tucking into feed and hay...
 ..while Hank invited us in for shower, dinner and wine -  I was able to parade my equine traveller's version of 'glamming up' for the occasion, complete with elegant footwear fit for Cinderella...
...cannot believe I managed to have my eyes closed in both the photos Lucy took. 
Some people are most impressed when I mention we used to keep around 500 ewes on our farm at home in Wales, but next to the 10,000 sheep Hank runs on his ranch we seem like small fry in comparison!  They are mainly Rambouillet merino sheep, a breed I was not previously familiar with, but which were first introduced to America from France in 1840.  A dual purpose wool/meat breed, developed from Spanish merino, they are well suited to the dry conditions of the American west. 
Thrice married Hank is a larger than life character with a wealth of knowledge, and not slow to express his opinions on a variety of subjects. His latest squeeze is a very beautiful Chinese lady (we saw the photos) he quite literally bumped into in the supermarket in Elko. She broke her eggs, he paid for her grocery and they soon became an item.  Fortunately for her she was back in China visiting her family, so did not have to suffer my appalling attempts at Chinese, but it was a pity to miss her.
Hank counts himself very lucky to be alive as he has recently survived major surgery from which he was not expected to recover, but I am sure it was his indomitable spirit which pulled him through.