June 2: East! At last!

You don’t have to camp to see critters, apparently. This morning, I looked out my motel room window on the north shore of Lake Tahoe and saw a bear! A big lumbering black bear. He didn’t stay long, fortunately, and was gone by the time I was ready to pack up and leave. But still. A bear!

This morning's bear.  Sorry about the window screen, but I wasn't about to open the door to take the shot.
This morning’s bear. Sorry about the window screen, but I wasn’t about to open the door to take the shot.

I headed around to the east side of the lake, crossing my third state line into Nevada, stopping at a viewpoint to take some better photos, and drove down the steep eastern escarpment of the Sierras. I arrived in Carson City in the middle of the morning, where I have to say that the signage for east on U.S. 50 was not the clearest on the planet. I did finally find my way out of town, though.

A better view of Lake Tahoe.
A better view of Lake Tahoe.
Another better view of Lake Tahoe.
Another better view of Lake Tahoe.

I hadn’t realized until I’d pulled my map out while I was trying to figure out the aforementioned way out of town that Virginia City was only a few miles off of U.S. 50, just a few miles east of Carson City. I hadn’t been to this Virginia City since the weekend I got engaged to my first husband, thirty-mumble years ago. Since I visited another Virginia City (the one in Montana) early on during my first Long Trip, it seemed like a good idea to visit the other one this time. Besides, it was getting on towards lunchtime.

Virginia City, Nevada is kind of a hoot. It’s a tourist trap extraordinaire, but it’s also the home of one of the richest strikes in mining history, as well as where Mark Twain got his start as a newspaperman. It was fun to wander up and down the board sidewalks and peer into shop windows, and eat lunch in a saloon. I do have to say, though, that it wasn’t where I expected to see anything Seahawks. At this point I’m a lot closer to Forty-Whiner country <g>.

Virginia City, Nevada, and I suspect Mark Twain would be rolling his eyes at his "museum."
Virginia City, Nevada, and I suspect Mark Twain would be rolling his eyes at his “museum.”
The Storey County Courthouse at Virginia City.
The Storey County Courthouse at Virginia City.
Sea-HAWKS!
Sea-HAWKS!

After Virginia City, I kept going east! finally! (after almost a week of going south) on U.S. 50, which in Nevada is known as the Loneliest Highway in America. Once you leave the outskirts of Carson City behind, and the town of Fallon about an hour further on, it does get pretty empty, at least of human stuff. It was 110 miles from Fallon to the next town, Austin, a tiny old mining camp perched on the side of a mountain, and I think I saw one human habitation along the way. Oh, and a rest area with an exhibit about the Pony Express, the route of which crossed what would become the highway several times.

There’s a reason they call it the basin and range country. The geology is such that from the air, the state of Nevada looks like a piece of fabric stretched then rumpled repeatedly in neat rows. Across the plain, over the mountains, across the plain, over the mountains, lather, rinse, repeat.

The Loneliest Highway in America, or so it's called.  AKA U.S. 50.
The Loneliest Highway in America, or so it’s called. AKA U.S. 50.
A mountain range in basin and range country along U.S.50.
A mountain range in basin and range country along U.S.50.

I’m in a forest service campground just east of Austin, where I think I may have camped with my parents when I was a kid. It looks vaguely familiar, anyway. The altitude is 7200 feet, where it’s nice and cool, as opposed to the 90s I left behind in Carson City. There are wildflowers, too. My old friends mules’ ears and lupine, and my favorite wildflower of all, alpine phlox. My neighbors are friendly, too. It’s a good place to be for the night. I wonder if I’ll wake to find critters peering in my window again.

Alpine phlox at the Bob Scott campground just east of the hamlet of Austin, Nevada.
Alpine phlox at the Bob Scott campground just east of the hamlet of Austin, Nevada.