This was the sixth year in a row we’ve done the Ghost Town Tour – and the best one yet!
Our route took us through nearly 300 miles of dirt. With my trip odometer showing 409 miles from last gas fill up in Ely, NV, to filling up again at the same station a few days later.
We had a total of thirteen rigs on the trip.
As usual, I was driving the only Jeep in the group, lol! Dan was in his battle proven Ram and Eric was in his F-150. Everyone else was in a Toyota.
With no services, no gas, no groceries, no anything available after leaving Ely until returning 400 miles later, everyone making the trip had to be prepared for extended fuel carrying and self sufficiency for whatever may occur during the adventure.
Special thanks to Eric for carrying extra fuel in the bed of his truck for many of the participants!
Caravan To Ely
The trip got started when eleven rigs left Delle, UT at 10am on Thursday morning, and caravanned to Ely, NV. In Ely we topped up our fuel supplies and headed out of town for a few days in the dirt!
We left the pavement in Railroad Valley and drove over to skirt southward along the west side of the Grant Range. Then up Troy canyon, crossing the flowing stream several times, to the mining camp of Troy.
Troy was established in 1868, had a revival in 1904 and faded out for good by 1915. Today it’s a delightful place to visit.
It was at Troy that Paul noted his 200 series seemed to be running rough. A quick look under the hood showed a broken off fan blade or two which was causing the vibration. No biggie, he rode it out the duration of the trip.
From Troy, we headed further southwest to approach Lunar crater from the south via Chuckwagon flat.
After checking out the craters, we headed over along the side of Palisade Mesa to circle the wagons for the night.
The second day began with heading over to where we were to meet Dan and Jeremy, the remaining two vehicles of the official GTT party. Then it was off to Tybo! By the way, a true irony, auto spellcheck changes “Tybo” to “typo”.
Tybo was founded in the late 1860’s. A smelter was built in 1871 and by 1875 a twenty stamp mill had been added. Tybo’s boom years were 1875 – 1877, when the population peaked at around 1,000 souls. Tybo is not quite a ghost, as there are a few residents even today.
After that, we headed for the site of Mountain View. Hidden away at the end of a narrow overgrown track that is guaranteed to scratch your paint, high in the Hot Creek mountains.
Not much seems to be known about the history of Mountain View. Stanley Paher mentions a mill being built in 1908. The remains of the mill are still there. Little else is known. It’s difficult to get to, but worth the effort.
It was while coming out from Mountain View that I noticed a strong smell of gear oil. I had gotten the transfer case rear output seal replaced only a few days earlier and it was leaking again. I checked it frequently for the rest of the trip to make sure it was STILL leaking – that is, the case still had oil in it. It got me through the rest of the trip and home without any drama.
Our next stop was the Project Faultless site. The site of an underground nuclear bomb test in 1968. The hole capped by the big pipe was drilled almost a mile deep at 4,650 feet. The bomb was detonated at a depth of 3,200 feet. The test explosion on January 19, 1968 was just under a megaton. Almost 50 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
The explosion ripped a trench 4,000 feet long up to 20 feet deep and up to 100 feet wide. A 12 acre area immediately surrounding the drill hole casing dropped 12 to 14 feet! At the time of the explosion, the top of the pipe you see was level with the ground! Or more accurately, the ground was level with the pipe. In Ely, 90 miles away, the aftershock caused buildings to sway and windows to crack.
This was more than bargained for and two more tests that had been planned for the site were scrubbed.
We continued on to the ghost town of Morey. Morey was founded in 1869, had a post office by 1872 when the population peaked at about 100. The post office closed in 1905. The town was deserted by 1909. A landslide in the 1950’s obliterated most of the buildings. But what is still left today, is thoroughly delightful!
Next stop was to visit some ancient petrolyphs scattered along a cool rocky gulch.
Much of our path followed the route of the Belmon-Tybo-Eureka stage line that ran in the 1870’s and 1880’s. The remains of many stage stations along the route can still be seen today. Including Moore’s station, Pritchard’s, Pogues and Hick’s.
At Pritchards we took a break to stretch our legs and imagine what have been like to climb off the stage coach here for maybe a plate of beans and a tin cup of warm water while the horses were exchanged for a fresh team before continuing on the rough, dry journey.
Camp, End Of Day Two
Eventually, we made our way across Little Smoky Valley and into the Pancake range to make camp for the night. We had seen no other vehicles all day since leaving Tybo. We did see many bands of wild horses throughout the day.
Belmont Mill and Mine
After breaking camp on Saturday morning, we lined out the rigs and rolled out to see what day three of our adventure would bring.
The White Pine district got it’s legs in the late 1860’s when the “White Pine fever” created the “White Pine rush”, with 13,000 claims filed in two year period. Spawning many short lived but colorful and vibrant camps and towns, including the Belmont mill, Shermantown, Eberhardt, Hamilton and Swansea and many others. At it’s peak in the early 1870’s the district was home to over 30,000 men.
With Hamilton alone as the main hub of the area and seat of the newly created White Pine county topping out at 12,000 souls and Treasure City home to another 6,000.
The Belmont Mill was our first stop of the day. One of my favorite sites to visit, it is a true gem! Originally built in 1866, with a refresh in the early 1900’s, the mill is still very intact, including a 1.5 mile long tramway still standing.
While in this area, Bryan got a sidewall gash in almost the same spot he lost a tire last year. But it held air this time, for the duration of the trip. Dan’s truck got a little bit friendly with a rock here too, I think it was this rock.
Little cab corner and rocker denting occurred. Nothing to slow him down.
From the Belmont, we made our way over the canyon and down to Swansea and Shermantown, stopping to look at whatever took our interest along the way.
Not a whole lot of Shermantown remains today, but in the early 1870’s it was home to 3,000 people. It was primarily an ore processing and milling town, but when Treasure City took off and the big mills at Eberhardt got going, Shermantown faded into the dust. Stone walls poke up here and there out of the sage brush.
In a strengthening rain, we made our way over to the other side of the mountain and the site of Eberhardt.
Treasure City And Hamilton
From there, in a heavy, wind driven rain, we made our way up to the top of the mountain and the site of Treasure City. There are prolific stone ruins at Treasure City at almost 9,000 feet elevation.
Treasure city was founded 1867 and had a population of 6,000 two years later in 1869. Fantastically rich ore was being taken from the mines of Treasure hill. But the boom was very short lived as ore values quickly plummeted and the town shrank as fast as it had grown – with a population of less than 500 by 1870. Talk about a meteoric rise and fall! Today numerous ruins and mines litter the landscape on Treasure Hill.
Earthquakes and time have destroyed most all of the once picturesque remains of Hamilton. Along with current mining activity, it just isn’t the ghost town it once was ha-ha! But still worth the time to visit!
Hamilton was founded in 1868 and had a population of 500 by the end of the first winter. A year later, in 1869, the population had exploded to 10,000 and would peak a couple years after that at 12,000.
The usual suspects were to blame for the eventual decline and near demise of Hamilton. That is, namely, veins pinching out and a series of disastrous fires in the town. Hamilton never did quite die though. A few people have always lived here and some renewed mining activity in the area taking advantage of newer methods for extracting fine gold has meant that Hamilton has refused to totally fade away.
Unfortunately, the weather conspired against us during our visit to Treasure City and Hamilton. The wind was howling, the rain was pouring and it was cold. We really didn’t even get out of the vehicles.
Hamilton is where we saw the first other vehicles in a couple of days though. One of them a SxS with a flat tire. Kurt and a couple others tried to help them repair it, but the sidewall was gashed pretty bad and they had a rescue party with a trailer on the way so they left them knowing they were going to be fine.
So, with the weather and all, everyone bailed for Ely where we once more topped off our tanks. Some of the group called it a trip and headed home from there. Dan and Brooke headed off to find their own spot to camp for the night over by the Rubies.
The rest of us just headed north out of Ely to look at the weather and play it by ear. To the north and east we could see nothing but storms. But to the west, it looked clear. So we headed west off the highway, passing through Cherry Creek.
Some of us have been through Cherry Creek numerous times, but none of us had ever visited the museum there. So, we all pulled up in front of it to take a look. There was a note with a map taped to the front door, with instructions to go to the house on the map to get someone there to open it up. Kurt volunteered to go see about getting the museum opened. The rest of us got acquainted with the next door neighbor, Jerry who had a very interesting collection of his own in his front yard – including some rather unusual artifacts with a neat story about how they were found.
When John, the museum curator, arrived we all went in for a fun and entertaining tour. John is a miner from the area with a wealth of knowledge and a lot of great stories to go with the artifacts in the museum. We all had a great time there, meeting some really cool locals with plenty of local knowledge they were willing to share.
This rifle took on this shape when the local indians burnt down Fort Peirce.
After the museum tour, we headed up Cherry Creek canyon, over the summit and into Butte Valley where we drove semi-randomly until a suitable flat spot to circle the wagons for one more night was located.
We all enjoyed a great feast, and a great roaring camp fire. Some of us enjoyed adult beverages. We had a really good late night around the campfire. With such a group of diverse experiences, and a preponderance of inquisitive minds, the discussion was lively and entertaining! But eventually we all succumbed to the beckon of bed and hit the sack.
Next morning, we broke camp and did an impromptu dirt tour of Butte Valley heading more or less north most of the time. Eventually hitting the pavement again near Curry, NV. From there, it was just an uneventful drive home.
Another great Ghost Town Tour, in the books! Already looking forward to next year!