Founded on March 18, 1919, Pershing County was named in honor of Gen. John J. Pershing, Commander in Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces in France during World War I. Here in Nevada, France doesn't even come to mind. In fact to most people, little else comes to mind when the name "Pershing County" arises, little else than the thought of relentless desert and needed pit stops. Perhaps its knowing that you must force yourself off that darned Interstate to see the bigger picture. Like Humboldt County to the east, Pershing County depends on Interstate 80 as a vital link to the outside world. For these reasons and more, you are about to learn why Pershing is blessed and cursed by a concrete monster.
In the days before modern man, the Pershing County of yesteryear was a true wilderness in the Great Basin. Imagining this wilderness, however, is difficult when a person is stuck on the Interstate. An explorer willing to wait out the land and seek its inner sanctum can gain new perspectives on the county's harsh exterior. However, such bold new outlooks are usually only gained by heading away from the Interstate. That's just what a few stragglers have done. A single soul has the ability to breathe in Pershing's isolation by heading out into that beautiful vastness on its long and dusty dirt roads. Sprinkled throughout Pershing's boundaries are tiny smatterings of population, locals fastened to the land, many of whom have set up home next to old mine workings just to relive the old days of striking it rich one last time! Perhaps these die-hards just want to get the hell away from the Interstate and the society that the freeway brings. If it weren't for a spider web of lonely dirt roads spanning the county's expanse, these rugged individuals might likely disappear forever from the rest of the outside world. (Sounds like paradise to me.) Old railroad sidings, former mining camps and other remote locales sit dotted among the land, perfect refuge for such reclusive, but destined and intelligent locals, local people who enjoy the thought of having a complete desert to themselves. Frankly, can you blame them?
The endless blacktop of Interstate 80 is NOT Pershing County!
Defeating the Concrete!
Perhaps Interstate 80 laughs in the face of Pershing County, using its concrete as a transportation monopoly. But alas, my friends... the interstate bully can be put down! Incentives, for those willing seek simpler, more wonderful things in life, lie fruitful within the county's borders. Some of Nevada's best "ghost towns" make their home among Pershing's bleak terrain, "ghost towns" sitting patiently under the desert town for a bit of remembrance. Towns like Rochester, once a town of three sister districts, was both a railroad child and an "orphaned" mining camp right at the base of the Humboldt Range. Star City, higher in elevation, challenged many a miner's axe day-in and day-out for a few years of solid earnings! Of course, who can forget Unionville, a beautiful oasis in the shadow of the mountains? In 1861, it is rumored that a young Samuel Clemens began his mining career in Unionville before eventually quitting his job to move westward to Aurora, Candelaria and Virginia City. Still north from the bully lies Pershing's famous Seven Troughs district, home to a dozen old mining camps, some of which are still occupied by those die-hard locals. The ruins of Mazuma hold onto memories of a freak disaster that completely destroyed the town in 1872. The old camp of Vernon waits to tell its story to any and all passersby about its deceptive fortune, a place where men found gold veins and risked thousands to mine the material. Sadly, most of them never found what they were looking for. Vernon's fortune proved elusive even after a decade of hard, expensive and disgustful labor and now... it sits, and sits some more. Finally, there was Seven Troughs, the largest city in the district that prospered for close to twenty years. Before succumbing to its bust, the people of Seven Troughs left behind some gorgeous ruins, along with a cemetery and some provoking energy to tell the true story of the rich district. Still, simpler things lie away from the concrete, simple pleasures like the grand vistas in Sulphur, on Pershing's northern border. Sulphur, a former railroad camp, to this days offers excellent views of the Black Rock Desert -- vistas that command a grand perspective on everything and nothing at the same time. I hope most visitors to this land think twice before uttering the ridiculous, and overplayed encantation: "There's nothing here!" I hope most visitors will see, feel and breathe the land before them; I hope visitors take the initiative and leave that concrete bully behind and interact with the other kids in Pershing's vast playground. The covers of books can only be judged so much.
Look on any map of Pershing County and see for yourself: Pershing County is truly lonely land. As I've stated, the only way to get around the county is on those lonely roads. I repeat this only because based on the norms of our modern-day society, we find comfort in pavement, and find security by stoplights that tell us when to stop and when to go. A trip out here will remind the modern-day junkie just what our ancestors learned to love and hate, hopefully realizing that sometimes nothing at all is a beautiful thing. Ask any Nevadan and most will tell you that this stretch of Interstate 80 (through Pershing County) is the "worst." Even with the silvery-blue sliver of water brought on by Rye Patch Reservoir, many people would say there is little to break the relentless monotony of Pershing's barren mountains and vast emptyness. For some people like myself, a trip to Pershing's land is a nice reminder of what the true Nevada encompasses. The renewed perspective is still hard to take in because of that darned Interstate, an ugly, gray beast that always brings you back to the thoughts of civilization. Fortunately, there are three markers that force you off of that dreaded Interstate, putting you right into the heart of lonesome Nevada! Pershing's largest community is Lovelock also the county seat with two thousand year-round souls; although Lovelock is "the city" in terms of Pershing linguistics, my recommendation would be to use either Winnemucca or Mill City as a base for your marker hunting. During our conquering in 2006, we chose Mill City, because all but one of Pershing's markers is situated around this oasis. Ironically, the only isolated marker from the rest is in downtown Lovelock, a long fifty mile diversion from Mill City. From Winnemucca, Pershing's markers are only thirty miles away. Mill City is little more than a large travel station for truckers, but it does come complete with dependable gas, two restaurants, a casino, auto repair garage, a motel, even a trucker's church (a tractor trailer converted into a house of worship). If you like old-fashioned traditions, you can book a night in Unionville's only bed & breakfast, a lovely inn and experience that's worlds away from the Interstate. Whichever decision you make, hunting for Pershing's markers can be one of either adventure or monotony. Like its desert, the perspective is yours alone. Tabula Rasa, my friends.