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JOHN C. EVANOFF

Visitreno.com is excited to present this first in a hopefully long series of articles by noted author and poet, John C. Evanoff. John will tell us about Nevada history and cover some of the more remote and unusual things to see and do in Northern Nevada.

John C. Evanoff

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Peavine, A Mountain of Memories

by John C. Evanoff
June, 2005

Many millions of years ago, a granite spear of earth grew up from the muddy bottom of the vast Pacific Ocean to create the Sierra Nevada range. The planet's plates constantly moving against each other and pressing the land upward along Reno's western front and along the Carson Range including Slide Mountain and Mount Rose still moves and is constantly growing and changing the landscape. Some of the mountains built from these tectonic fault pressures throughout Western Nevada were created somewhat erratically away from the main Sierra ridge. Because of the many faults throughout Nevada, these many mini-mountain ranges make Nevada one of the most mountainous areas in the world.

One of these erratic fault scarps instead of moving north and south abutted the massive Sierra fault line and moved east from Verdi and Crystal Peak to Spanish Springs. What mountain-building took place is clearly visible from around the Truckee Meadows to the north as Peavine Peak. This mountain at 8,266 feet, stands alone as the smallest range in Nevada, but it is by far one of the more historic and talked about in the area. Many life-long residents do not plant their tender garden plants until all the snow is off Peavine.

Peavine has a history that dates back far into the Pleistocene, a span encompassing 1.8 million years. The bones of Mammoths, saber toothed cats and other mammals of the period have been found along the white chalky cliffs on the south side of the mountain. These cliffs are remnants of inland sea mud and fossilized shells and fish left there by receding oceans and rivers and retreating glaciers.

The mountain is biologically diverse including conifers such as incense-cedar, Jeffery Pine, Ponderosa, hemlock, white pine, mountain-mahogany, Utah and Western juniper and other trees and bushes including the Great Basin sagebrush, mountain alder, dogwood, cottonwood, quaking aspen, bitter cherry, choke-cherry, elderberry and several varieties of willow. If you look up to Peavine from the valley, try to imagine the entire hill covered with trees. Approximately one hundred and seventy five years ago, Peavine was as wooded as the Dog Valley area above Verdi. Most of the conifers were cut down for use in the many mines and towns along Peavine's girth.

The sagebrush, willow and alder were important sources to early man who lived on Peavine's slopes beginning around 10,000 years ago. Petroglyphs and large granite bowls in granite outcrops left from early man still remain on the mountainside. The Paiute Indians in the area known as the Washoe Tribe date back thousands of years. Several families lived on the southwest side of the mountain in the vicinity of the Seventh Street pits. They moved around the hillside and crossed the Truckee River around Mogul in the summer following the herds of deer, antelope and mountain goat that made their home in the area or where major migration routes intersected. The Indians used the sagebrush and willow for their living quarters along the many streams and springs on Peavine. Indian women made baskets, foot gear and other garments and appliances with the willow and Indian men were resourceful in fashioning alder, willow and slate or obsidian into spears, bows, axes and arrows. The Indian tribe that lived in the area was said to have as many as 150 members and traded heavily with the Washoe Paiute of the lower Truckee Meadows and the Washoe and Carson Valleys. The primary trade items were unusually well made mud beads produced by the women from natural black clay indigenous to the area and a form of red obsidian, hard black slate and jasper quartz found in the area that was napped by the men for their tools including well made arrowheads. The clay beads are unusual in that only this tribe had the ingenuity to bake the beads to harden them. They then painted them to give them color and were heavily sought after by other tribes in the area. Even though some Pinion Pine was native to the mountain, most of the pinion nuts the tribe enjoyed came from trades with the Virginia and Carson Range families.

This tribe also spear fished the Truckee River in the spring during the runs of the giant Lahontan cutthroat trout, a landlocked salmon species. I spent many days fly fishing along the same areas they frequented and imagined the Indian braves from this tribe bringing out dozens of fish in the twenty to thirty pound range. The tribe was also very resourceful during deer, antelope and rabbit hunts. They normally left early in the morning moving up the hill where the white painted "R" is now positioned on the hillside and hid a line of young braves along the many lava outcroppings along the ridges. Then, a band of braves would move the deer up the trails that went next to the outcroppings providing easy access to arrow and spear shots. These hunts provided all the game meat the tribe needed for an entire month or more. Much of the meat was dried for the winter and the hides were thoroughly scrapped and stretched to provide garments and protection from the winter and spring winds. Strips of hide were also used to produce the twine needed to place their heavy well-made axes on alder wood staffs. Along with the amazing strength and heartiness of the tribe members and these axes and other weapons, some of the deadliest ever brandished by western Indians, this individual tribe became one of the more respected in the entire region.

When white-man first visited the area, they were only interested in the grasses of the valley restoring their animals to further their pursuit of California riches. In fact, Peavine got its name from the purple and white Lupine type flowering shrubs, inedible by livestock, which grew in abundance across its upper slopes in the spring and early summer. It wasn't until the riches of the Comstock were unearthed in the 1860's that men moved into the area and began to look for silver, gold and other important medals. The gold, copper, and iron deposits found on Peavine are the result of hydrothermal activity forming veins of quartz and minerals. The faults along both the north and south sides of Peavine are still active and earthquakes happen from time to time to remind us of their presence.

Several mining towns sprang up along Peavine's girth including Wingfield, where the Desert Research Labs and Truckee Meadows Community College now reside; Poeville on the backside of the mountain just above the Stead area; Keystone on the southwest side near the Seventh Street pits and Copperville near Anderson Hill. All of these mining ventures lasted no more than a few decades. Poeville, which was originally Peavine City, had a population of over 500 at its peak production and had several hotels, bars and churches. Keystone had a population of over 200 and four bars and two churches. An assortment of narrow gauge railroads and stage coach roads moved miners and rock to and from smelters and mines in the area. A toll road moved goods from Reno to Peavine Valley which is now called Lemmon Valley and up the mountain to Keystone. It took three hours to make the trip to Poeville and two hours to make the trip to Keystone. The Paymaster and Golden Fleece mines near Poeville were once noted as the next Comstock but because processing was almost impossible because of lack of water most of the year, the town of Poeville went belly up. Copper remained as the number one mineral of note and a smelter just above White Lake on Anderson Hill produced tons of the metal through the early 1900's.
Another point of history is on the southwest side near McCarran Blvd and Seventh Street. That area was the location of the first air field and landing strip in the region. The area around the hillside just above Mogul is also noteworthy because it was where the California trail went over the Donner Summit by way of Verdi Peak. That same area is also part of the original Lincoln Highway and the first steep grade for the railroad over the pass.

Today, Peavine is a favorite with off-road enthusiasts and trail bikers as well as hikers and horse riders. The top of the mountain where several communication and microwave towers now stand can be reached by a service road off old 395North between the Stead and Red Rock exits. The view from the top is spectacular and a highlight is the Dog Valley area west of the peak. Many people like to hike the area in search of quartz crystals and other rocks and others appreciate the many canyons full of wildlife.

Several new large developments along Peavine's southwestern edge have compromised deer, bear and mountain lion migration routes. Several golf courses and thousands of homes have been built and more are on the way. Some residents have taken up the fight to save those routes and much of the mountain from more encroachment but as the area grows, only a few spots on the mountain will remain undeveloped because of forest service protection.

Fifty years ago, my father and I used to hunt sage grouse, chucker, quail, dove, deer and rabbit when the area only had a little used access road where Seventh Street now goes up the hill from Keystone Avenue. The dirt road was single lane and full of ruts but the trip was always worth it because we always filled our bag.

The memories are many of this majestic mountain peak and if you have a chance, you should take a walk, ride a mountain bike or drive an off-road vehicle along the many forest service roads to explore it more. Peavine Mountain will grow on you as you learn of its many secrets.

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