Star Peak is the highest point in the Nevada Desert’s Humboldt Range and at merely 9,836 feet appears an ordinary Great Basin summit. Yet it holds a claim to fame of which I remained unaware until I discovered via some post-travel browsing that Star Peak ranks 41st among 57 summits in the lower 48 states with ultra prominence. An ultra prominent peak is a mountain with a clean topographical prominence of at least 4,921 feet (1500 meters.) There are only about 1500 of these mountains in the world, some of which, such as Everest, are renowned, while others, like Star Peak, are virtually unknown except to climbers. Although I am not a climber, I enjoyed this little discovery and now regard the mountain with slightly greater interest, much as I would a familiar neighbor whom I discovered was secretly a virtuoso violinist.
In the context of local history, Star Peak remains a fixture in a landscape of change. During the late 1800’s, the Humboldt Range boasted a booming mining industry. Star City, located in Star Canyon, had a population of about 1,000 residents. The Sheba Silver Mine there is reputed to have mined millions of dollars worth of silver within a five-year span, whereafter the population, as is true of so many western mining towns, promptly disappeared. Unionville, another boomtown situated on the Humboldt Range, grew to 1,500-3,000 inhabitants. It is famed among other things for one of its residents, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain,) who prospected for gold and silver there. A historical marker now indicates the remains of Clemens’ cabin, although some sources indicate locals dispute that locale.
Termed a ghost town, Unionville today is extraordinarily beautiful, a hamlet replete with lush lawns and sprawling trees the likes of which are rare even beyond high desert boundaries. It is difficult to imagine a more surprising or pleasing oasis. With rustic chic architecture, Unionville is reminiscent of a miniature Carmel Valley and no less captivating, if without ready refreshment. There is a bed and breakfast in Unionville that I have yet to visit. No store, gas station or post office exists. The population of Unionville is now estimated at 20, while all that remains of Star City is a few crumbling foundations and some discarded mining equipment.
These photographs of Star Peak were taken on the north side of the Humboldt Range, which is bordered by the Humboldt River and Rye Patch Reservoir.