Where the Wild West and mining collided – Virginia City, Nevada

In just on 30 years it gave up over $300 billion of gold and silver in today’s money. And the town above it helped turn a budding reporter into a world-wide literary phenomenon. The Comstock Lode and the town it helped create, Virginia City, saw the world’s richest gold and silver run during the 1860s, 70s and 80s, making several of the men who worked, and then later owned the mines, some of the richest in the world. Young Samuel Clemens visited here in 1863 and stayed for just on a year as a reporter for the local paper. After writing much about the mining going on underground, he left to write about his adventures, selling many stories over the years. And the rest, as they say, is history. You may know him as Mark Twain.

Located 25 minutes south of Reno is Mt Davidson. It looks much like the other mountains around the area and is no where near as spectacular as the Sierra Nevadas that lie on the other side of the long, sweeping valley to the west. But in the late 1850s it finally gave up its secret, and what happened next was one of the biggest and most prosperous ‘rushes’ in the history of the world.

Julie and I visited over the weekend, the same weekend as the famous ‘international’ Outhouse Race where teams of people push an Outhouse up the main street. The crowds came for the big event, filling the narrow streets with cars, but that didn’t diminish from the experience of walking around town through the multitude of shops and saloons. In fact, it brought many people to the town who visit each year just to live out their gold rush-themed fantasies. From a pistol packin’ Sheriff, to several self confessed lawman, the town was full of people with boots, spurs and revolvers. Even Stinky the local miner was there with his faithful donkey. It’s lucky that Nevada is an open carry state, allowing anyone to openly carry a side arm. But in a town like Virginia City, which makes Deadwood look like a holiday park, packing a revolver was as common as wearing boots.

We visited several of the saloons and shops, with Julie and I sharing a Bloody Mary at the Silver Queen Hotel, one of the oldest in the town. You can still see the blackened wall where fire tore through the original saloon in the late 1800s, and where it has been rebuilt and modified. It contains Nevada’s oldest chapel, and for $150 the Pistol Packin’ Preacher (yes, that’s his name!) will marry you. In fact, there were two weddings booked that day. We met several nice couples, with one from Texas who had driven in for the event, and another couple from Tennessee who had come for the cowboy music that fills the town in the afternoon and evening.

After a walk around town and shops where we purchased a few things, lunch was a hot dog in the street and a Pale Ale beer whilst the Outhouse Race parade opened what was no doubt a big afternoon for the town. After lunch we made the winding drive back down to Reno and then into California where we are staying while Harrison is on his camp. We’ll pick him up today just before lunch and make the drive back to Elko.

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