The Cactus Patch
September 2016

Caves, part II
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On the 18th of June we had coffee at the motel in Fallon and set off down the loneliest road.  It is not only lonely, it is boring. As it cuts across Nevada from west to east, it crosses a series of basins and ranges.  The basins are a repetitious series of sagebrush. The ranges are just as repetitious with shrubby piñons and junipers.

There are a few places of interest, however.  Our first stop was at Cold Springs Station which is just past the site of an old Pony Express Station.  Cold Springs has one cafe/store. There were a couple of prickly pears planted in front.  These were the only succulents we saw all day.

Next, we stopped for breakfast at Austin, an old mining town with a peculiar stone tower.  Next we stopped at another old mining town, Eureka, and had ice tea at the Owl Club.  Each table had a ceramic owl holding the salt and pepper shakers.  The bar had two stuffed jackalopes, one mature and one little.

Finally, at 12:58 we pulled into the crowded parking lot of the White Pines High School in Ely. We then picked up our registration packets for the 75th National Speleological Society convention.  It was still not two (the end of lunch), but they did not have any lunch for us. We therefore drove back into town and ate at the Silver State Restaurant which has good food at a reasonable price.  Across the street we checked into the Main Motel.  It was a good thing we had reservations as all the hotels in town were fully booked! (Imagine 1080 cavers in a town of just over 4,000!)

At 3:45 we checked out the High School again and visited all the exhibits at the Convention: bookstore, art to be auctioned, cave supplies, used goods on concession, etc. 

At 6:20 we drove to the campground on the golf course where most of the cavers were camping.  They had a big double tent set up and we had our “Howdy Party” (the opening dinner) there.  For entertainment we had the New Christy Minstrels.  (The younger people weren’t quite sure who these were.) They were great –especially a new number about peace after 9/11.

On the 19th we had coffee at the motel and then breakfast at 7:30 at the convention.  Sessions began at 9 and we went to the series on exploring caves in the U.S. The opening paper was on lava tubes in Lava Beds National Monument.  We thought we did well by visiting one - they mapped one hundred in their study! We had lunch and heard more presentations, but at 4 we headed to the train station.  They run old steam trains as a tourist attraction and put on a special geology trip for the convention.

When I saw the black smoke billowing up I remembered what my mother said about them!  When I was three and four we lived in Ely and our house was by the tracks.

Mother said when she hung white laundry it came back black!  I hope our trip didn’t upset too many of the present residents. Our trip took us out to the copper mine at Ruth which is the main reason for the existence of Ely.  At the end of the trip, we were each given a bag of rocks from the area. We had dinner at the Happy Garden, a Chinese Restaurant.

Next day we heard more lectures –this time about exploration in other countries.  The huge caves in SE Asia are unbelievable. After lunch we went to the Art Bank and saw an exhibit of Pictures of Lehman Caves.  Old pictures had been found in the Smithsonian archives and matched up with recent ones.  There was remarkably little damage!  John bought a fantastic book, “An Un-conventional Murder” by C.A. Cox.  It is signed by the author, but her real name is Gretchen Baker.  She works for the National Parks at Lehman Caves!  The book describes the Ely convention quite well – especially considering it was written well in advance!  Nearby we saw a mural of Lehman Caves which had been painted for the Convention. 

After a bit more sessioning at the Convention, we stopped at the Pizza Factory for a takeaway.  We changed to eat in as other cavers came and had a back room set up.  It turned out five of us had been on the cave expedition in Botswana.  We met two others at other times during the convention.  This meant that seven out of the ten of us were at the convention!  And this year is the tenth anniversary of that trip!

On Thursday we listened to talks on the history of caving and then watched cavers climb ropes in the gym at the HS.  The kids (Junior SS) were almost as good as the adults. We had dinner at Margarita’s, a Mexican restaurant, and then went to the Central Theater where we watched award winning art, maps, picture, videos, music etc.-- all related to caving.

I’ll finish the convention and get us home next month.

Meanwhile: on the 9th of August we had dinner at the Old Hacienda.  The food was good, but the service was extremely slow.

On the 13th Polly, Anne, Daniel and I went to the L. A. Arboretum for the 31st Inter-City Show and Sale.  We met a bunch more from Bakersfield and even more from Fresno.  We went into the show and toured one of the most fantastic displays I’ve ever seen.  Nick had some great Euphorbias- a giant E. obesa and a huge multi-armed E. bupleurifolia, just to cite a couple of examples.  The sale books were bargain priced and I bought Gordon Rowley’s “Succulent Compositae” which I have wanted for quite some time but felt it was too expensive.  It was well worth the cheaper price.  My main criticism is the small size of the pictures, but, of course, it would have been even more expensive with large pictures.

We then took the tram ride around the arboretum.  It is amazing how much it has grown since I first saw it as a B.C. botany student in 1962.  Next we stopped at the Peacock Café and had a light lunch.  Finally, we went back to the Inter-City Show and bought a few sale plants.  On the way home we stopped at Chuys in Stevenson Ranch.  Then we turned off at Smokey Bear Road to look for garden rocks.  Unfortunately we went to the west of the freeway instead of east as before.  As we were busy looking at rocks a park ranger pulled up and informed us we were on State land – the Hungry Valley Preserve.  We left the rocks and proceeded with just a warning.

Owl Club in Eureka, Nevada

Caving Convention

Caving Convention

New Christy Minstrels

All Aboard!


Lehman Caves Mural

Inter-City Show

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