Nevada Toiyabe Ranges in five days. Mountains, Valleys and Atomic Bomb sites

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by KarmaSect, Oct 1, 2017.

  1. KarmaSect

    KarmaSect The Dude Abides

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    This September I led a seven rider crew through an awesome five day loop from Eureka to Lund to Tonopah to Gabbs to Carvers to Austin and back to Eureka. Basically, the goal was to chris/cross the Toiyabe ranges. Along the way we saw desert valleys, 10k’ mountain passes, wild horses, crazy geothermal formations...and a Nuclear Bomb Site!!!

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    No get offs, no flat tires, only one hole in an engine case, and only one case of stuff getting stolen off the bikes in Tonopah. Actually...while there were no real get offs, we did have one rider break a finger after getting smacked by a tree branch. Ouch!

    814 miles total -- about 163 miles per day.

    The bikes — all with 200+ mile capacity (on one leg we assumed 240 -- some folks had to carry extra gas temporarily):
    * The KTMs:
    * 690
    * 500
    * 530
    * 450 (3)
    * And…a lowly:
    * DR650

    The riders — Ages 52 to 65, all skilled single track riders with the knowledge, tools and spares needed to repair their bikes in the field. Pic of us at the top of Ophir Pass, NV, EL 10080’:

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    Support — Over the past few years, my loose group of friends on these rides have adopted a practice of having a designated “monitor” — typically a rider who can’t make the trip — act as our “benevolent overlord”. This person’s role is to oversee our progress (more on that below) and act as our focal for any needed coordination, external support or extraction. This year inmate Mastermarine was our overseer.

    Monitoring — There was zero cell service for almost all of this trip. All riders on the trip had either Spot Messengers or Delorme/Garmin Inreach units, with tracking services enabled. Each was then linked to a dedicated monitoring page setup by Jason at Spotwalla. Via the Spotwalla page or checks of any of the seven individual device sites, Mastermarine was able to see the progress of all seven riders real-time (ok, with about a 15 minute delay). This, combined with Inreach messaging, meant that we could stay connected as a group, even in the case of riders being separated from the pack (one time intentional…on time unintentional).

    I neglected to get a screen shot of the combined tracking page on Spotwalla, but here is the individual page showing only my Inreach tracks. The group page only showed the current (i.e. last) tracking transmission from each rider’s device.

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    Route planning — As usual on these trips, planning the route and logistics probably took 80+ hours. To do it well and not have problems in the field, it takes a LOT of time. I developed the route in Basecamp, combining details from my previous trips, tracks provided to me by friends, tracks from http://www.gpsxchange.com/ (Countdown’s rides mostly), plus a few sections newly developed via available maps: Toiyabe NF paper maps and Google Earth.

    Overall, the planning was a success, with only three reroutes necessary (two due to new private land fences and one due to extreme overgrowth). As is typical with these trips, terrain and difficulty can be a surprise. While there were some long sections of graded gravel suitable for a big GS, several of the passes presented brutal rock climbs and descents barely suitable for the biggest thumper in the group, the 690. I’ll try to call out the truly difficult sections in the course of this report.

    This elevation profile shows a few of the extremes. For example the blue peak second from the left is Ophir Pass. A steep west to east accent up maintained roads, followed by the 10080” peak and a severe and steep decent back down to 5000’:

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    Here are a few teaser pics. I will start writing day one tomorrow.

    Diana’s Punch Bowl (a boiling caldron just waiting to be ridden into!):
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    Project Faultless Nuclear Test Site (a unique and somewhat unsettling place). The arms-over-the head is supposed to signify a mushroom cloud I guess:
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    Ranges (ha ha, in Current, NV)
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    One of many herds of wild horses (One herd almost uses us for traction).
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    Berlin, NV.
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    Weird ground fog in the wake of a brief thunderstorm
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    And…crankcase surgery at the top of a technical pass!
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    #1
  2. mortimer

    mortimer Been here awhile

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    :lurk
    #2
  3. thirsty 1

    thirsty 1 Rider

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    Mind if I join ya?
    :freaky :lurk
    #3
  4. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

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    In. :beer Brought enough to go around...

    I like your take on planning.

    #4
  5. Gregarious

    Gregarious Been here awhile

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    Whoa there - don't rush me. I'm only 51! I'm not dead yet... even if I was the slowest.
    IMG_1347.jpg
    Appropriate pic from Belmont.
    #5
  6. MasterMarine

    MasterMarine Long timer

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    Sweet! I can't wait to see more.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
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  7. liv2day

    liv2day Been here awhile

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    Definitely in for this one :D

    Great start thus far, looking forward to reading it :thumb:thumb
    #7
  8. KarmaSect

    KarmaSect The Dude Abides

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    Sorry, Gregarious. But given you are the youngest, shouldn't you have ridden some super trick, lightweight, single track machine and slept on the ground with nothing but a Bivy?
    #8
  9. KarmaSect

    KarmaSect The Dude Abides

    Joined:
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    Day One.

    After the long drive from the Seattle/Portland areas (13 hours/840 miles), we spent the night (Labor Day 2017) at the Sundown Inn in Eureka, NV. Great hospitality and free parking out back for the duration of our trip. I neglected to shoot a picture, but here are a couple I got of the internet.

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    We ate at the Owl Club across the street.

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    I usually get a group shot before departing, but got distracted by a last minute dead battery and forgot (GPS and lights left on while putting on my gear). A single kick and we were off and going however.

    Here is a map for the day. Head southeast into the mountains and an old mining area, then out to Lund for gas, then southwest as far as day light would allow.

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    The first shot from the local Eureka hills looking back at town.

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    Our route paralleled highway 50 for about 15 miles in the local hills, dropping out into a desert valley in a place called Secret Canyon, then crossing a paved road and heading east.

    This is where we encountered our first reroute due to encountering a private ranch. On my maps, I showed the ranch to the south of our route, but as it turns out, we were to run right through the middle. We stopped and I went up to the barn and asked about routing. Seeing lots of dirt bikes around, I thought we might be ok. As it turned out, the new owners preferred that we not ride through, but suggested that we detour around the perimeter. This was a pretty minor detour and we were soon back on route. The reroute offered us a brief opportunity to go “HP” (rally racing term for off trail) through the bushes and scare off a decent herd of antelope in the process. I kick myself for not stopping and shooting some pics.

    Map of our first (and second) reroutes.

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    The second reroute was more significant. Apparently since the last time this track was used, a mining company has staked a claim and put in fencing in a fairly large area. If you look closely at the above track, you see several little stubs where we tried to see if we could yet ride around the fencing. Finally, we stopped, took a break and used maps to route several miles to the south and then loop back north. As it turns out, this lead us into some low hills with a really nice sand track through Juniper trees and back out into a broad valley.

    Back on route headed east:

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    As it turns out, the above two detours were the only ones we would encounter for several days.

    After crossing this valley, we turned south and headed into the our first section of the Toiyabee NF ranges, Babylon Ridge, Hamilton and the Belmont mill/mine.

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    Here is a map of this area. Lots of twisting around through old mining operations and ruins:

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    Old cemetery:
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    For those who know me, I am a decent rider at speed. But with a combination of 5+ gallons of gas, camping gear, a 31” inseam and a passion for taking pictures, I tend to tip over a lot. Apparently I took this picture while falling at the cemetery:

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    I forget the name of this “town”:
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    Hamilton:
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    If look at the map of this area, you see that our route looped back on itself several times. At one of these I lobbied to cut off a section and makeup some time. Put to a vote I lost and we motored on. I’m glad the group prevailed, as Belmont mile and mine were not to be missed:

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    Belmont mine is a climb out of the valley and up the side of the mountain. IIRC, the elevation was over 9000’ at that point. Under a ominous set of thunderclouds, it started to sprinkle. Fortunately, it never got worse and only received a slight cooling from the shade and humidity. Without shade, it was about 80 degrees, even at that elevation.

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    From the Belmont mining area, we progressed down through a series of valleys (Hamilton Pinochle road) until we eventually crossed Highway 6 and hit Lund for gas.

    Along the way to Lund:

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    As we dropped in elevation, the temperature rose. If I recall, it was about 95 degrees by the time we got to Lund.

    Our route into Lund avoided the pavement and dumped us right into the center of town, so we began looking for a gas station…getting increasingly concerned when we didn’t see one. We specifically routed to Lund as there is not other gas in the area — except for Ely 35 miles to the north and Tonopah 156 miles to the southwest. And given our planned route, we were going to need enough gas to go about 200 miles in the next leg.

    Fortunately, we found Whipple’s County Store, a small store with gas, water/snacks, burgers and one woman behind the counter. Amazingly, she served the normal locals, plus cooked all seven of us burgers and sold us gas in about 45 minutes. In Eureka the night prior, we had waited for over an hour for food in a fully staffed restaurant. Again, no pics, so i resort to shots I found on the web….

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    Apparently, there are two sources for gas in Lund. Because of our route into town, we completely missed the larger gas station and store, the Preston Truck Center:

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    If I recall, it was pretty late in the afternoon by the time we left Lund. So we tried to make some time. Our goal was to get across several valleys and find a camp spot at a higher elevation, away from some of the heat and afternoon wind.

    Here is a map of the last section of the day — From Lund to camp:

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    A shot looking back east at Lund on our way west:
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    As we continued west, we were in and out of cloud cover, but not actual precipitation. Lots of cool lighting on the mountains and rays of light:

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    A final shot looking west into the hills we would camp for the evening. I believe we hit camp at about 6:30, and it was pretty dark by 7:30. In the twilight, a pair of wild horse ran past our camp. It was an awesome day one!

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    #9
  10. Bonnie & Clyde

    Bonnie & Clyde Wishing I was riding RTW

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    Excellent
    #10
  11. tundradirtbiker

    tundradirtbiker Been here awhile

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    Some pictures behind the Sundown Inn on Day 1 start. Pictured here, Greg rode a 690. The SD let us shove all the trucks in one corner for the trip. The hotels in Eureka were full for the week we were there.
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    Mark in his trailer getting set up
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    Bill was loving the 530 for this trip. He rode a KLR on the 1300 mile ride in 2013
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    Scott with Mark and his 500 EXC. Scott & Bill are in the same league of rider ability. Scott rode his DR 650
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    Bill leaving Eureka
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    Kip on the 450 XCW - (6 Punkins + the DR on this ride)
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    Tough to see, but it's Doug on his 450 EXC
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    Brief stop as it was hot
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    rare shade tree
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    Cloud cover was hit and miss
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    Scouting the junk yards- great places for a flat
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    All part of the mining ghost town loop heading toward Lund
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    Part of a restoration project
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    Must be two of these out there
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    I got a set of the Ropers after the trip. Could only use one hand for the demo glove at the time.
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    Mark did all the planning- this is Greg on the 690
    That came in handy on the Spring Oregon trip. All I had to do was point to the rocks.
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    Once we got closer to Tonapah and some full days in sand, roads like this were forgotten.
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    Scott on the mighty DR
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    Gate
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    Clouds were fairly scenic with the pocket cam (Bill approaching)
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    DR dusting it up
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    Approaching camp at almost 7:00 the first night
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    This spot is on a knoll in a bowl
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    Wild horses ran through the bowl above the road, but it was a long shot for the Nikon
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    My first day pics.
    #11
  12. Countdown

    Countdown Long timer

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    Great trip. Nevada along Hwy 50 is some of the best riding there is.

    Did you get to the top of the Tram from Belmont mill?

    Have you, can you post your GPS Tracks. Would like to see if you have any I don't have in my Nevada Statewide Motorized Trail System. I try to have every GAs to GAs in the state.
    #12
  13. KarmaSect

    KarmaSect The Dude Abides

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    Jerry, there were a set of cable lines that went from the mill up and over a hill, eventually leading all the way to the mine. Is that what you are referencing or did we miss something. There was a road taking off on the back side of the mill. We rode up it only far enough to loop back and see the mill from the back.

    Regarding the tracks, when I am done with the report, I'll have a cleaned up set of tracks to send you. Many sections of this ride I sourced from your site originally, then added to my own rides...and added some new stuff. There are several sections of day 2 -- including the bomb test site -- that I developed on my own.
    #13
  14. Countdown

    Countdown Long timer

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    Glad my Tracks were of help. Not many riders here (AdvRider) know about them.

    The Tram starts (upper end) at what looks like the Mary Ellen mine. A lot of cool stuff still there like an old forge in Black Smith shop. If you look at my SMTS file for Nevada, I show cable as a straight Green 2 point Track named (can you believe it?) Tram.

    Did you notice any of the "Lincoln Highway" signs? First Transcontinental marked road, I think in the teens or 20's.

    You read my mind, I an interested in the bomb site, never heard about it? Also waiting for Tracks from other northern NV ride to find exact location of "center of NV".

    We did 5-day ride from Middlegate or Gabbs to Ely and back, I think it is in "Invitational Rides" thread.
    #14
  15. tundradirtbiker

    tundradirtbiker Been here awhile

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    GPS center of Nevada
    Corner of Belmont Rd and NF 004. Not sure this is the official GPS center of NV without bullet holes through the pie plate.

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    #15
  16. Countdown

    Countdown Long timer

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    Looks like I have been there! Memory is not what it used to be.

    Attached Files:

    #16
  17. Countdown

    Countdown Long timer

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    Looks like sign replaced from another rider this summer.

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    #17
  18. KarmaSect

    KarmaSect The Dude Abides

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    Day Two. Atomic Bomb day.

    From our last minute, rock free hill/camp (technically Wood Canyon), it was on west and across another valley before approaching the first of several destinations clustered together along the east slope of one of the Toiyabee ranges.

    Looking out across Sand Springs Valley:

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    Don motoring by headed west

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    Looking back east with Greg coming down from the hills into the valley while we waited (spread out due to dust):

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    From here there was a fairly long gap in my picture taking for some reason, but the map shows our route:

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    After crossing Sand Springs Valley, we did a short climb into an area called the Confusion Hills, which were aptly named due to the large number of roads weaving between the junipers. At this point, we were starting to get into quite a bit of sand, a theme what would stick with us as we got closer to Tonopah.

    Our route toward at the nuke site dropped us down to Moore’s Station wash through a sand wash/road called Jumbled Rock Gulch. It was a great place to practice sand turns on the little bikes…unless you were on a 690. Then it was just hard work.

    At the intersection of these two — Moore’s Station and Jumbled Rock wash, we lost a rider for a bit, probably burning the better part of an hour. The sand wash spread us out a bit, and one rider missed a turn — partly because he was expecting someone to be waiting at the turn, and part because he had several GPS tracks turned on simultaneously. That is always a trade off in GPS navigation — having alternate routes available, but not having them confuse you as you follow a track.

    Thanks to our Inreach units and our “Benevolent Overload” Mastermarine (who was at work in Seattle watching our every move via Spotwalla), we were able to quickly assess where the rider had gone, were able to run him down and bring him back. Satellite texting is really incredible. Our transmit/receive lag times were under a minute.

    Even though we sat a Moore’s Station for quite a while, I never took a damn picture. Here is another shot I stole off of the web. Moore’s is a private residence, but was a stage coach stop in the 1870s.

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    This turn is about five miles south of another interesting canyon — and one that Mastermarine led us through in 2013 — Luther Waddles Wash. Pretty interesting entrance marker:

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    From Moore’s Station, we took a detour west up to a place called Morey Mine. One the way up the canyon, we first encountered these signs. Seemed very odd. The reality is that the warnings are a ruse. The contamination warnings are very real, but the source of the contamination is radiation, not petroleum. Were were getting near the nuke site.

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    From the mine, we turned southwest back down toward the Moore’s Station road. This is a classic case of where you never know what you will encounter. I didn’t have previous tracks of this area, so did my best to pick roads via available maps and Google Earth. Sometimes things don’t work out. The road I picked probably hadn’t been a road for 50 years. I eventually started to follow a small sand wash, with no real indication of a road outside of the faint track on our GPS units. Of course, everyone reacted differently. Our hard core single track guys were thrilled and wanted more. Our tamer riders (including me and our 690) were glad to be back out on real two tracks after the two miles of bushwhacking.

    Finally, we arrived at the Project Faultless Nuclear Test Site. I first saw this site referenced as a tiny little dot on a paper Benchmark Guide map for Nevada several years ago. It took a little while to get an exact GPS coordinate and plan the route. We tried to get to the site on a ride in 2014, but unfortunately a rider fell and broke his wrist, cutting short our attempt at a visit.

    Here is a synopsis of the site and the event:

    "Due to concerns about continued nuclear tests close to Las Vegas in the late ‘60s, a site to the north was selected for larger nuclear tests. Project Faultless was the first. It had a yield of 1.0 megatons, 67 times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb. It was detonated 3,200 feet underground on January 19, 1968.

    The results were devastating! The force of the explosion caused the ground in a radius of several miles to collapse. A steel pipe with a diameter of 7.4 feet had been drilled into the ground to place the bomb. Its top end was level with the surface before the test. After the explosion the top 9 feet of the pipe were exposed, due to the ground collapsing.

    The blast also created a huge cylindrical underground cavity, a so-called nuclear rubble chimney. It is approximately 820 feet in diameter, and 2,460 feet in height. At its bottom lies over 500,000 metric tons of highly radioactive rubble, with radiation levels similar to the core of a nuclear reactor.

    The completely unpredicted disastrous geological damage led to the cancellation of the entire project. The steel pipe was sealed with concrete, and all other sites that were being prepared for more, even more powerful tests were abandoned.

    The center of the blast, deep inside the ground, is contaminated with radiation for thousands of years. But it appears that the surface is relatively "clean", and it is safe to visit the site. However, the plaque prohibits digging in the area, or even picking up material from the ground."

    Pictures of us at the site. We were scrunched in the shade as it was over 90 degrees. While not much really to look at, it is CREEPY AS HELL. Without a Geiger counter, it was just plain unnerving.

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    Here are a couple of more detailed maps of the area:

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    There are a bunch of websites with more information on Project Faultless. A good one with lots of links is here: http://www.lazygranch.com/projfault.html

    I will stop there for now. The remainder of day two had plenty of additional adventure. Stay tuned!
    #18
  19. Countdown

    Countdown Long timer

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    Thanks, two new Waypoints in two days, this and Center of NV.
    #19
    KarmaSect likes this.
  20. liv2day

    liv2day Been here awhile

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    Sherwood, Oregon
    This was the perfect thing to read as I shifted between work stuff Monday morning.

    The bit on the nuke testing and site is crazy - hope someone maintains the info so future generations way down the road don't decide to dig there for any reason.

    Thanks for posting all the pics guys, looking forward to the next update :ricky:ricky:ricky
    #20