When Nolemana and I lived in Twin Falls, Idaho, we made a number of trips through Nevada to California where our folks lived. We drove at night, we drove in the day. We drove through enough desert in Nevada to fill up my lifetime quota of desert, sand and sagebrush.
Heading East and West along Interstate 80, we would always see a sign for Pumpernickel Valley, just East of Winnemucca, and we’d smile at the name. How did it get a name like that? Where were the pumpernickels? Did they bake bread there? But because of time constraints, we never got off the freeway to find out more about either the name or the town (if there was one). But everytime we passed the sign, we’d wonder what was there at the end of that beckoning road. There was some part of me that always wanted to drive down that road, and because we never did, there’s always been a sense of “I wish we’d done that” in my life.
Time passed, and we moved to Oregon; I mostly forgot about Pumpernickel Valley. But every once in awhile I’d think about that undriven road and that unfinished part of my life would rise to the surface.
Then yesterday, while reading Lika’s “Holoholo” post and seeing the photos she took of the barren hills, I remembered that sign and the road that seemed to lead nowhere.
And ho! Today I get Internet!! I get GoogleEarth! I quickly pulled it up, and shazam! There was an aerial shot of Pumpernickel Valley! I could see exactly where the road led. Nowhere. I could see the scenery. Desert. And more desert.
Here’s the sign for the turnoff.
You know, it’s amazing the small kine things we just forget, but all it takes is a photo or something to bring it all back. When I saw this photo, I remember the hours of driving through the Nevada desert, coming up to an exit, and seeing those orange da kines gradually closing off the left lane. I never could figure out why they were there. I mean, how much traffic is there in the middle of the desert, anyway? Yet at exit after exit, this is exactly what we’d see.
Even though I’m living in Oregon now, thanks to GoogleEarth, I can now take a virtual drive down Pumpernickel Valley Road. So I decided to do just that. And this is what I saw.
The freeway exit to Pumpernickel Valley:
Further down the road. The freeway is visible in the upper right-hand corner.
Ho da dry! What seemed like miles and miles of nothing but barren desert.
It’s hard to imagine any kind of life in this place. I think of snakes and tarantulas and scorpions.
I like how I can make place marks with GoogleEarth. This is a closer view of the one above, where the road splits and veers off South.
I decide to follow Pumpernickel Valley Road. And I do. Clear to the very end, where it abruptly ends. That’s it? Why would the road even go out there?
End of da road:
So I turn around in my virtual car, and holoholo back to where the road splits. I decide to take the other road and see where it goes.
More desert. What a surprise.
More desert, still heading Southwest.
Oh! Try wait! Oh my gosh! Crop circles! Okay, okay, not official kine crop circles; circular fields of irrigated wateva. Out in the middle of the Nevada desert. Who in the world could possibly stand to live out there, much less farm it?
My imagination runs wild. Aliens growing some kind of pakalolo where no one can find it? Heh heh. But I just did! How about some deranged farmer whose wife kicked him out of the house and threatened him with bodily harm if he ever showed his face again? Nah. Let’s see. Okay. The government is trying to signal aliens. Nah. I know! A farmer was going to try to eke a living out of the land and decided to plant some alfalfa in nice straight rows. But somehow, the steering wheel on his tractor jammed up, and it could only go ’round and ’round. Not wanting to waste the alfalfa seed, the farmer just decided to keep going.
I zoom in closer and move the map sideways. I see something over to the left of the crop circles.
Buildings! People actually live out here! The buildings are not too far from the crop circles.
Just left of the buildings, I see what look like lakes:
I tilt the map to see if I can see anything else.
I tilt the map again, zoom out, and find out that Pumpernickel Valley really is a valley, though not like any valleys I know from back home in Hawai‘i or here in Oregon.
Another valley view:
I Googled some more, and found this:
Nevada Geothermal Power Inc. through its wholly-owned subsidiary Nevada Geothermal Power Company has a 100% leasehold interest in 6720 acres/10.5 square miles of geothermal lands in Pumpernickel Valley, Nevada. Sierra Geothermal Power Corp., a TSX Venture listed comapy has an option to earn a 50-per-cent joint venture interest in the Pumpernicekle goetheral land under lease to NGP. Under this option, Sierra Geothermal is required to make certain cash payments and to issue common shares to NGP as well as to undertake C$5-million in project expenditures over a 5 year period.
- 3D resistivity survey outlined a 4 square mile geothermal anomaly
- A near-boiling hot spring occurs on the Pumpernickel geothermal leases
- The chemistry of several hot springs, which occur along a one-mile interval of a prominent fault, indicates probable source temperature of 150 – 200 degrees C (300 – 425°F)
- Geothermal fluids at 150°C – 180°C (300°F – 355°F) are currently used to produce electricity on a commercial basis at other locations in Nevada such as Steamboat, Brady’s Hot Springs, Beowawe and Desert Peak
- Previous work on an adjacent property dates back to 1974; Magma Power drilled a 920-meter (3071-foot) offsetting the hot springs about 150 metres/492 feet
- The temperature on bottom was reported to be 135°C/275°F with the last 90 metres (300 feet) having a gradient of 160°C per kilometre.
Wow. I had no idea! I snagged this photo from the website:
Edited: I took down the photos because I need to get permission first.
I guess that close-up Pumpernickel Valley does have its own kind of beauty.
I know that if Nolemana and I had had time to drive along Pumpernickel Valley Road 25 years ago, it probably wouldn’t have been as satisfying as my journey today. I learned about things today that I never even dreamed existed out there in the barren desert.
I feel as though I’ve discovered something wonderful. And I am going to ponder this adventure, because I’m sure there’s a very profound life analogy just waiting for me to discover.
Pumpernickel Valley. I had no idea that a seemingly whimsical freeway sign could have had such an effect on me. Still yet, all these years later.
5/12/2014: Update! Just found out here that Pumpernickel Valley was named for a “nearby bread loaf-shaped mountain”. Ho, what did we ever do before the Internet?
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