During our trip last week to the Nevada desert my husband and I camped in a canyon above Unionville, Nevada. We chose the location for its beauty and its proximity to Kyle’s Hot Springs, which we visited for a soak before and heading over to Unionville to set up camp. This region of the high desert of northern Nevada is characterized by vast plains separated by canyon-filled ranges, many of which contain a little or a lot of water–everything from springs to streams to rivers. Unionville is a hamlet which benefits from a watershed in the Humboldt Range. Remarkably, a few residences clustered on the south side of Unionville are as majestically landscaped as a Carmel Valley ranch or a Napa vineyard. At least two of these estates extend into small pastures of sheep or cattle. It is impossible to exaggerate the element of visual surprise that this lush scene lends to the east side of the Humboldt Range or, for that matter, the east end of Pershing County. Even if you love the desert as we do, Unionville is a refreshing sight for the few minutes it takes to roll up its small dirt road slowly enough to avoid raising the dust. Along the route, bits of Unionville’s history are juxtaposed with its grandeur. Unionville, now unincorporated and with a population of approximately 20, was during the late 1800’s a booming mining town of 1,500. It is a ghost town which is rich in history and worthy of a visit. During one period, Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, resided and mined there. The cabin where he lived still stands, although some locals dispute its authenticity.
Drive around the bend above Unionville’s residences and you instantly enter a canyon wilderness. We had identified this canyon as a possible camp site during our May trip to the Nevada desert and after camping there last week, could not have been more pleased with our choice. Desert camping is without amenities so the location defines the experience. The Humboldt Range watershed which makes possible Unionville’s luscious landscapes and pastures, provides its canyon with enough water to foster a visibly vigorous desert flora and evidence of desert fauna. Followers of Where God Takes Me will recall the profundity of the silence we noted while camping at the edge of Black Rock Desert. By contrast, in the canyon above Unionville, sunset marked the advance into the night air of the prolific voices of crickets and owls. There were other sounds, too, which I could not identify but many of which sounded like birds. To my surprise we did not hear any coyotes. We did find, however, while setting up camp, a small skull and a rib cage, perhaps those of a sheep, maybe a sheep which fell victim to a coyote. We are wary of coyotes because our dogs could fall prey to them. The dogs, bred to hunt bear and wild boar, are aging and whereas once they might have had a fighting chance against coyotes, now it does not seem likely so.
It was dark by the time we finished setting up camp. After a quick evening meal warmed on a single burner, my husband and I retired for the night. I awoke at first light and grabbed my camera. I left my husband asleep in our roof top tent, roused the dogs from their beds in the back of the Land Rover, and descended around the bend toward Unionville before ascending a hillside with a view.