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  • Writer's pictureBriana DeSanctis

America on Two Feet: The ghost town district

The American Discovery Trail crosses the Sierra Nevada mountain range over a relatively easy route that has a few obstacles. I hiked along the Tahoe Rim Trail and saw the spectacular lake below, mountains rising proudly around the majestic perimeter. The trees were giant. I finished the daunting range, said bye to my Tahoe friends and made my way (by car) back to Eureka, NV, with a holiday stop in the Reno area. It sounds confusing, but I’d skipped ahead 300 miles of Nevada to hike over the Sierras in a timely fashion. They tend to get a lot of snow.

In Reno I was fortunate to eat two Thanksgiving dinners (and lots of leftovers) between Jeff’s house, and Peggie and Stu’s. Peggie has been following my hike on social media for quite a while, but I met Jeff while Betsy was visiting from Maine. New friends are everywhere!

Great view from the tent!

While Thanksgiving seems well in the past, walking into the Atlantic Ocean nearly two years ago seems like yesterday. Sense of time has become peculiar. Perhaps I’m in a peculiar moment of life. Nevada has, I believe, a sort of time warp. Is it because I’ve been walking for so long that other time to me has changed? Is it the dredges of daylight savings time? Did I become strange to the pulse, or have I entered the perfect tempo?

The ghost town of Belmont had been on my bucket list for years although from highway 82 it is eighteen road miles off-trail. I walked a total of 36.51 road miles to reach this historic place. The once bustling mining town seems to be slowly awakening once more. The icing on the cake for me to see this fabulous town riddled with well-preserved buildings from the 1800s was not an abandoned town at all.

Selfie on the trek to Belmont

Dirty Dick’s Belmont Saloon had running water, electricity, a shuffleboard tournament and a potluck on the day I arrived! It began as a one- room shack with cardboard walls and is now a cozy establishment where everyone knows each other and most patrons drive an hour to get there on the desolate and dusty roads. The food was great and the locals were even better. I made more new friends, including Larci, who was great chatting with and offered me a ride back to the trailhead before dark. She dropped me off and we hugged goodbye. She’s a kindred spirit and I look forward to returning in the future.

Larci and I parting ways.

I left the town of Belmont only wanting more. If the following weekend’s forecast hadn’t been showing a couple nights below 20°F I would have stayed an extra day to see the rest of the town and take more pictures. Alas, I never know where I’ll end up and I’m playing it safe in Nevada. I’m not on a strict time frame. I’m on an immersive time frame. I did not, however, expect to be traversing Nevada in December.

More mountains. Old stone ruins rose up intermittently. Water was abundant as I cautiously hopped back and forth over a creek. I noticed an old dumpsite to my left along the sometimes washed-out old road and knew I was walking into the ghost town of Jefferson. Some 20 acres of rough canyon filled with the remains of another mining town. These buildings were in pretty rough shape for the most part and I hiked on after snapping a few shots and imagining how life was in the 1890s.

Remains of a building in Jefferson.

I dug up a food cache and (frozen) water jugs and set up camp where my dad and stepmom had camped upon planting the 5-gallon bucket containing approximately enough food for 70 miles. I scurried around to collect more than enough firewood. This was (and will continue to be) mountain lion territory and I was set to have a big fire that evening. I collected 4 large pieces of old tin and made a wall around my fire for efficiency and to thaw the ice in the water jugs.

Nevada is pulling at my heartstrings. The people are wonderful, the terrain is challenging, and the weather is unpredictable. It’s a beautiful thing to expand your comfort zone. There is a sense of pride and accomplishment when I make it to the top of each mountain range. With every hard obstacle I gain strength and knowledge. With every new place, the obstacles change. Before I know it, my trek will be complete. I’m going to enjoy the heck out of it while I can.

An old hotel in Belmont.

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