July 15, 2011 – Cold Springs Station Nevada – The Pony Express Trail west from Cold Springs to Sand Mountain exactly follows Highway 50 so the ride today was a loop around the Cold Springs area rather than riding on the shoulder of the highway. Tomorrow, we will trailer west to Sand Mountain and then ride the pony Express Trail across the dry lake beds to near Fort Churchill.
Today Cindy and I rode Frank and Whiskey in the canyons and foothills around Cold Springs. We visited the ruins of the original Cold Springs Station. Many of the station ruins that we have seen are little more than stones on the desert. Some, like Hollenberg, Marysville, Rock Creek, and Simpson Springs were occupied for the past 150 years or have been restored. Cold Springs is one of the best preserved ruins that we have seen in the west. The separate rooms are intact and Cold Springs Creek still runs adjacent to the station. It is easy to stand in the rooms and look across the desert to see the same views as 150 years ago.
Visiting the station ruins and thinking about travel 150 years ago leads to some interesting projections. When the stations were active 150 years ago, the horse was the means of travel and the stations catered to horse traffic. A traveler could ride coast-to-coast and be somewhat assured of finding tack and saddle supplies and replacement horses at the various stage stops and stations. Today, motor vehicles are the means of travel and today's stations cater to automobile travelers. Today's stations provide fuel and automobile supplies and repairs. We don't know what will be the means of travel in 2160 and I wonder if today's stations will survive. Perhaps in 150 years it will be as difficult to travel Highway 50 by automobile as it is to travel the Pony Express Trail by horse today.
There are two trails days left. The members of our party have bonded and formed a cohesive group. We watch each other and each other's horses. Often, we do tasks and chores for each other without being asked. We support each other and we are united in getting all of the horses and all of the riders to Virginia City. Cindy and I are planning to follow the trail to the western terminus in Placerville or Sacramento, but today we are all focused on Virginia City. Like the pioneer wagon companies, we will part company at the end of the trail and we will never cross paths with some members of the 2011 XP ever again. We have shared the trail and we have shared the hardships. We have talked about how no one single day or mile has been all that difficult but putting 2000 miles together over eight or nine weeks has been grueling on the horses, on the vehicles, on the riders, and on the crews. We have traveled from St Joseph across the west on back roads and gravel roads. We have seen the seldom-traveled parts of America and talked with some genuinely welcoming individuals, families, and communities. We know some of our fellow travelers better than some of our friends back home. We are very lucky.