Nevada History by John C. Evanoff is excited to present this 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.

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Favorite Treks fo Reno #9 of 10

May, 2009
By John Evanoff

My ninth favorite on my top ten-list of Treks around Reno and the Truckee Meadows, takes a little getting used to because it is dry and relatively tough. Because I spent a few decades living on the side or near Peavine Mountain, I developed a sense of oneness with its many canyons, trails and roads. When I was young in the early 1950’s, it was my nearby hunting ground for quail, chucker, sage hen, dove, rabbit and deer. I also spent time exploring the old foundations of the mining ghost towns on it slopes. A couple of mining sites in particular were not exceptionally well preserved. They were Poeville (once called Peavine) and Keystone. Poeville had 500 people for a time and Keystone only had 200 people living in it at its height in late 1863. Both had bars, small hotels, livery stables, dry goods stores, one big shop in Poeville and one small shop for repair of freight and mining wagons and Chinese laundries. For less than a decade in Keystone and a decade and a half for Poeville, the townsfolk of these two tiny mining towns worked several areas around the south and east side of the mountain and opened four fairly large mines looking for gold and silver. What they found was mostly copper and quartz bearing rock, the quartz being what they were hoping would hold the gold flakes they had found throughout the region. One mine, the Golden Fleece, was especially interesting in the amount of shares sold because of the initial abundance of gold bearing quartz ore. The fairly rich find led to more shares being sold. The thought was they would find even larger gold veins embedded in the quartz deeper into the mountain. The quartz veins played out and so did the enthusiasm and money, so the miners up and left for other strikes in Nevada, notably Virginia City, Tonopah and Austin.

When it comes to exploring and providing a way to stay in shape and enjoy Reno and its surroundings, Keystone Canyon and Peavine Mountain is a definitive yes on my list of all time favorites. This place didn’t always look like this though. I remember when there were only a few small jeep roads from the edge of town at what is now the corner of Seventh Street and Keystone. McCarran was not there, nor were most of the homes northwest of University Terrace. The only homes and farms were oddities on the slopes of the mountain in and around what are now Elmcrest Drive and Kings Row. One pig ranch was in the current canyon where Elmcrest goes up the hill and two homes were on the slopes where Kings Row is now located and where a dirt airfield was located once. On the Raleigh Heights side of the mountain where Poeville resided, the only road was a dirt one leading west up a canyon from where the Bonanza Casino now sits. Virginia Street was Highway 395 North and was only two narrow lanes.

Nowadays, you can go straight up Keystone Avenue right to the Keystone Canyon trail or from North Virginia Street past the University of Nevada campus to a left on N. McCarran Boulevard and then right on Keystone to just northwest of the large water tank. The trail is relatively easy for about a mile and a half past the backside of the hill where the Nevada “N” can be viewed and then rises up from a slight jeep trail to a single dry creek trail. The creek trail rises to meet the jeep road above Hoge Road well west of North Virginia Street around Parr Boulevard. If you do not have the time to take the entire route from the base of Keystone Canyon, this spot might be a way of cutting your time by an hour. From the top of Hoge Road there is a menagerie of mountain bike and hiking trails and you can pick any one you wish, but the best is the steepest straight west up to the top where it intersects the Peavine Road (a road itself used by many mountain bikers) and climbs to the very top of Peavine. The rise is swift up some rocky stream beds along jagged granite and quartz canyon walls and old lava outcrops.

There are some neat saddles in-between the canyons and each ascending hill, a couple of small springs and of course, lots of wildlife along the way. The trek is relatively relaxing if you take the time to look around and gather in the sights. Some of the trails seem to branch off here and there, so if you seem to be heading downhill, you’re going the wrong way. Keep heading up hill until you reach the Peavine Road. Once you’re on the Peavine Road, it’s an easy romp up to the top of the mountain. Watch for traffic going both ways, especially if you’re on a bike. There are three trails quite easy to discern that are not part of the heavily driven Peavine Road and I liked to use any of them instead of the road simply because it was more direct and free of dust. A good topo map of the mountain will show them up quite nicely and you can mark each one as a challenge to archive your climbs and mount for display one day.

This trek will get to you quickly if you are not in shape. My best advice is to make sure you can put on the miles up hills before you attempt it, but be forewarned; it’s well worth the effort. Once you are on top of Peavine, about 3,500 feet from where you started, you can plant yourself for a short picnic or find a spot in the aspen grove below the radio towers at the top to bed over for the night. There are two peaks on Peavine just a few hundred yards apart, both a bit over 8,200 feet and they both make great spots to look over the entire Truckee Meadows and the North Valleys. The journey down is much easier, but tougher on the shins. I advise you to take the road down the side of the mountain till it reaches the intersection facing Hunter Lake (Las Brisas Road on Google Earth) and then head straight down to Roxbury Drive north of Las Brisas which comes off of North McCarran in the Robb Drive area of northwest Reno. This is the spot where the town of Keystone got its name. A large rock face sticking out of the ground above the old Seventh Street Pits is all that is left. The two large mining shafts have been filled and covered at Poeville and Keystone, but several mining shafts remain across the mountainside. It is a good measure of safety you should stay well away from the edges of these shafts so as not to fall into them.

Try to get to the departure trail sites early in the morning so the ascent is cooler. The southern flank of Peavine is mountainous and you must be prepared with good hiking boots and appropriate clothing. Mountain Bikers must be ready to take on extremely tight turns and rocky dry creek trails. Depending on your level of ability, take as much water as you can for the journey because there is none anywhere on the route. Fruit and snack bars are light and full of nutrition and energy. Please take a camera. You will definitely take lots of pictures.

This walk is approximately five to seven miles in length uphill depending on where you start. The trek to the top and down to Seventh Street is a full day and an additional five miles. Take your cell phone and have someone pick you up to drive you back to the canyon parking lot. In my day though, we just walked along the hillside past the “R” on the hillside all the way back to the base of the canyon at the University of Nevada Campus where we used to start.

By the way, if you just want to walk the Keystone Canyon Trail, it’s only a couple of hours round trip and enjoyable as a quick morning or evening trek. Either trail is gratifying. If you become infatuated with Peavine from one or more of these walks on the mountain, you can join a group of folks in town who feel the same way. The Friends of Peavine is a group dedicated to saving the mountain from overuse and destruction. I hope you discover my ninth favorite on my list of all time favorite treks of Reno because I think you will be pleasantly rewarded with the gain in elevation and your spirit.

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