Traveling along Highway 140 on our way from Goose Lake to Winnemucca, we discovered one such gem yesterday. It was pure happenstance, as so often occurs when there’s a bit of spaciousness in our journeys.
We pulled off the road for a quick rest stop, where there happened to be a kiosk for the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Eric picked up a brochure and looking at the map, we were intrigued by a small photo of the Virgin Valley Campground and hot springs. At only a few miles away, it was worth checking out.
Forty-five minutes later, we had set up camp at this beautiful, peaceful, remote wildlife refuge campground, replete with a warm spring natural pool and showers. And it was free! For this, we’re happy to pay taxes.
We spent a leisurely afternoon driving several miles up the road where a handful of rugged souls have staked out mining claims. Opal mining is popular here, and we stopped at a little homestead that advertised a free rock garden tour. We were treated to a deluxe tour of rocks mined in the area—feldspar, obsidian, and dozens of others—and saw opals mined on the property that was worth thousands, stored in little glass jars. Best of all, we got a glimpse into life on a high desert mining claim. All water has to be hauled in, the nearest town for supplies is more than two hours away, and the temperature regularly exceeds 100 degrees in the summer. Pat, our friendly tour guide, told us that her husband hauled in all of the soft sand for her garden pathways that make it possible for her to go barefoot in the Nevada desert.
Heading back to our campground, we encountered wild burros, swam in the warm springs pond, and had close encounters with several elusive American bitterns, which spend most of their time fishing in the pond.