We hit the dusty trail again yesterday afternoon, following the infamous Hastings Cutoff backwards. Not far from the canyon overlook we explored last week, we traveled west of the small one-bar town of Jiggs in Huntington Valley, where we hoped to find some wagon rut remains where the trail cuts across Huntington Creek.
My kids sat in their seats and boosters, anxiously peering out the car windows, expecting to see real canvas covered wagons led by oxen. My wife explained that we were looking for the wagon trail, but there would be no actual wagons amongst the sage and sun-cracked soil. Nevertheless, they continued gazing out in the distance—hopeful. Even if there weren’t any emigrants atop buckboards holding leather reins to teams of oxen, horses or mules, a certain special quality came over us as we geeked-out chasing this old trail.
After turning around once or twice, stopping to snap pictures a couple times, we referred back to three different maps, including our Benchmark road atlas, a fold-out topographical map and a topo app on my Android. We knew were on the right track, so to speak, as we came to an obscure historical marker. The wind was picking up and small dust devils swirled out on the horizon. A rough, washed out dirt road branched off our path, catching our attention. It ran diagonal to the marker, and according to our maps, Hastings Cutoff ran in both directions. We turned down the washed out road and parked out car, letting the oldest two kids out to explore.
It was here, we believe, we found old wagon ruts. History geeks unite!
From there we headed over the Rubies on Overland Pass, joining a part of the Pony Express Trail. Two historically significant trails in American history in one afternoon!
We took many more photos and read many more markers as the day wore on into evening. Once over the summit, we descended into Ruby Valley, turned left, heading north to Secret Pass, which is lies between two ranges—the Ruby Mountains and the East Humboldt range. We looped back to Elko via the interstate and made it home before dark. We drove over two hundred miles within an afternoon, something that would have taken wagon trains ten to fourteen days to do without problems. We bid the trail and phantom covered wagons adieu with fast food awaiting us in town.