Coming out of wonderful Lassen Volcanic National Park we drove out St. Rt. 36 over to US 395 to spend two nights at the Susanville (CA) RV Park. In my notebook I marked this as a nice campground but for the life of me I can’t picture/remember it now, but if you RV’ers are ever in Susanville….. 🙂
After spending a day deciding and plotting our next week and a half’s travels we left Susanville on US 395 S on down to Reno Nevada. Our son Kevin had recommended we try Stone House Café for brunch. We had the Apple Cinnamon French Toast and like our kid, we certainly recommend this very busy, very good, small restaurant! After stuffing ourselves we headed to the Grand Sierra Casino’s RV Park. We have stayed at several casinos mostly out of necessity. This one however we actually headed for because it has full hook ups (many do not), and is rated higher than the other RV options in town. One of the plusses to casino camping is they all have restaurants offering generally a decent meal. Grand Sierra has several and our second night we opted for Charlie Palmer Steak. It was excellent, best dinner at a casino by far, although not cheap we enjoyed ourselves and Ed only lost $2 in the slots. 🙂
I had noticed on the map that Virginia City was just a short 34 miles from Reno and even though it’s a tourist town (something we generally avoid) I told Ed, it’s VIRGINIA CITY, a part of “THE WEST” I’ve heard about my whole life, we’ve got to go! From US 395 we picked up State 341, the Geiger Grade, which gets very twisty, windy and steep even though most of it is newer than the original road. The old road was laid out and built by Dr. Davidson Geiger in 1862.
A more direct route to haul the silver from the Comstock Lode in Virginia City to the Central Pacific Railroad line in Truckee Meadows sections of it are still visible and if you have 4 wheel drive and guts, still passable. The current route is a fun drive and the view down into Reno and the valley from the now closed Geiger Lookout Wayside Park is well worth a stop.
Virginia City is not a place I would make a destination but when in the vicinity it is a big part of the history of the west and I’m glad we went. Springing forth from the desert as a boom town with the 1859 discovery of the first major silver deposit in the United States, Virginia City mines, in particular the Comstock Lode made a lot of folks rich. By the mid 1870’s there was a population of 25,000 people but that went into decline by 1878 when production began to slow way down. It is on the side of a mountain, so there is some exercise in walking around. We went up and down the main drag’s wooden sidewalks along with lots of other folks.
Like many old western towns, Virginia City burned several times and the last “Great Fire” in 1875 left 2,000 people homeless. We walked up and around B Street and down to E where we got back in the RV to drive out to the Comstock Cemeteries.
Not actually a single cemetery the Silver Terrace Cemeteries as they are known is actually a collection of cemeteries all in the same general area. Grouped by religious, civic or fraternal affiliation and scattered in terraces across the hill side these cemeteries were originally like parks with trees, flowers, shrubs and grasses. With clover lined graveled pathways each cemetery was surrounded by white picket fences and as was the custom most individual or family graves were marked with a stone boarder or wrought iron fencing.
There was the Catholic Cemetery set to one side and The Masons, Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows, Virginia City Firemen, and County and City Cemeteries all laid out separately from each other. Groups we’ve never heard of before, West Coast Pioneers, Improved Order of Redmen and Wilson Brown (the local undertakers) each had their own cemetery. Over time theft, vandalism and neglect has turned what was once called the most beautiful burial ground in the state into a sad and dusty relic of a time long past. The good news is the Comstock Cemetery Foundation is working hard to protect and restore this most unique place.
The next morning we had a lovely visit with Ed’s high school friend Andi Cook and her husband Dave before heading out for Lake Tahoe via Rt. 341S over Mt. Rose which at 8,911 ft is the highest year round Sierra Pass. A pretty drive but photographically the light was very flat and clearly Tahoe is a resort area for what I am guessing would be big bucks.
We drove out the eastern side of the lake on Rt. 28 to Rt. 50 and down to the southern end and Lake Tahoe Nevada Beach Campground. We were told at check-in that there had been nightly bear visits so when I went for my afternoon walk around through the meadows and woods I kept my eyes open! At night, this is a lovely dark campground and our site was off by ourselves. We highly recommend it. The only negative….no bears for our visit!
Next catch up blog post we’ll take you back to one of our favorite places, Bishop CA. Please stay tuned 🙂