Grim Reaper Real Estate
The Great Basin, made up of many mountain ranges and valleys has no natural outlet to the sea. Two main rivers of the Great Basin are the Humboldt River which comes from the east and the Carson River which comes from the west. These rivers are fed by snow melt and run strongly in the spring. Flowing inland, these two rivers converge in this area and disappear in what is called the Humboldt sink and the Carson sink. Separating these two sinks is the 40 mile desert. An arid area with no drinking water. This desert proved to be one of the most difficult crossings for emigrants on their way to California. Historical documents from 1850 listed it this way. More than 4,900 horses, 3,700 oxen and 1,500 mule skeletons were located along this 40 mile stretch. Conclusions were drawn that because over 3,000 abandoned wagons were also located, 3 out of 4 who attempted the crossing didn't make it.
The California Trail, Carson River Route is clearly marked along U S Highway 95 south of Interstate 80. Our hike starts here. You can clearly see the old roadbed as it runs diagonally across the highway and thru the desert. To the east lies the Humboldt sink, a playa covered with salt and to the west is the 40 mile desert. Flat and featureless with nothing more than a little scrub for plant life. Entering the 40 mile desert the hike starts to the southwest heading towards double wells, a settlement that developed on the edge of the desert due to the availability of limestone is this area. The earth crunches at every step and an impression of your foot remains. Its kind of like walking on a beach in sand. It definitely slows your pace. While this stretch of trail can be driven it would be strictly 4 X 4 and do not attempt it by yourself. Have safety equipment such as a winch is a must. There are several areas where the ground is so soft you would easily get stuck. At about 1 mile there is another historical marker in the form of a sculptured railroad rail marking the location of double wells. A half mile further is the ruins of a limestone kiln. The kiln was built out of necessity. After roasting the limestone to a powder it can be used to neutralize the acidity in the local water. Lime was also used as a building material and an ingredient in making glass. After admiring the ingenuity of the pioneers continue on to the salt creek crossing then return the way you came.
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This hike is listed as One-Way.
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
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