MAPWAS WHAT IS
Transportation options in the nineteenth century were a bit more limited than they are today, particularly in the Great Basin. A trip from Fallon to La Plata to Wonder to Fairview and back to Fallon- a 130 mile day trip today- was a two week journey by ox or mule-powered freight wagon. A stage between Fallon and Fairview, leaving Fallon at 7:00 a.m. and changing horses at Grimes Ranch and Sand Springs would reach Fairview about 6:00 p.m. If the roads were dry, an automobile of the day could make Hazen to Fairview in about five hours.
Just as you plan your route today by the availability of gasoline and drive-up windows, the nineteenth century driver planned his route by the availability of good roads, water, and hay, all scarce in Churchill County.
While you munch french-fries in air-conditioned comfort, think of the men struggling to drive heavy freight wagons in the blistering sun and stabbing wind, their eyes filled with sand, as they plodded along at 3 miles per hour.
When you reach into your cooler for an icy-cold soft drink, think of the men who combed the canyons and valleys accompanied only by a mule or two and their dog.
Even as late as 1916, it was a bit tougher to get around than it is today. Firmin Bruner wrote about returning from a trip to the big city of Fallon to pick up a few things:
" I passed West Gate at dusk and had driven about four miles into the canyon toward Mud Springs when an axle broke. I walked back to West Gate and asked Mr. and Mrs. Salisbury, who tended the water pumps for Fairview, for lodging. They fed me and placed a cot in the front room for me.
"The next morning Mr. Salisbury drove me out to my truck, taking with us tools and plenty of blocking. About noon we had replaced the broken axle with a new one which I carried for emergencies. He charged me $5.00 which included the $1.50 for lodging.
The truck wouldnt pull the last little pitch at the top of Mud Springs summit, so I had to unload and take the potatoes up in two trips. By the time I had re-loaded the last five sacks, I was so hungry and weak that I hardly made it, but after stopping at the Mud Springs Station and filling up on some of Mrs. Kinneys good food for fifty cents, I felt like I was a brand new boy." (Bruner-Some Remembered... Some Forgot- Life in Central Nevada Mining Camps)
Now there is a guy who's prepared- he brought an extra axle. This is an excerpt of travel experiences on what is now a very dry, level, and straight Highway 50 East out of Fallon:
" When we left Fallon we had before us a very trying drive. The country east of Fallon, past Salt Wells Ranch and as far as Sand Springs, was in bad condition because of recent heavy rains. We met heavy wagons drawn by ten, twelve, fourteen, and sometimes sixteen horses and mules, struggling madly and almost hopelessly through the sticky mud.
The drivers were cracking their whips, yelling and swearing, and the poor animals' flanks and bellies were thick with mud. The heavy wagons were piled high with bales and boxes. In some instances the horses of one team were being unharnessed to be added to another team where the wagon stuck hopelessly in the mud.
A new road had been made by travelers, far away from the regular road, which ran close to this inland sea and which was a hopeless quagmire. " (Gladding- Across the Continent by the Lincoln Highway)
You would be wise to prepare for poor conditions whenever you travel to any of the sites we mention here. Unless they traveled it yesterday, you would be wise to take with a grain of salt any advice given to you about road conditions, particularly in canyons. Comments like these are the rule rather than the exception:
"There was formerly a road up the canyon to the mines, but it has been completely washed out, and the mines at present can be reached only on foot through a steep-walled canyon."
(University of Nevada, Nickel Deposits In Cottonwood Canyon)