Doing Peavine

That mountain is for more than dumping

Photo By David Robert

I can almost picture the Honda Civic careening down Peavine Mountain, rolling once or twice, coming to rest upside-down against a post. I recall F.T. Marinetti’s words in the Futurist Manifesto: “We want to sing the man at the wheel, the ideal axis of which crosses the earth itself hurled along its orbit.”

When earth’s orbit hurls you down a hill, you’d better buckle up.

Now held in place by barbed-wire, the Civic punctuates the otherwise staid scenery of the East Keystone Canyon trail.

I take its picture from the trail.

“Can we hike up there?” I ask the Significant Republican.

“Rather not,” he replies. “Erosion.”

“I want to get the coordinates,” I remind him. The SR holds a Garmin eTrex Global Positioning System gizmo on which he’s charting our 3.75-mile round trip hike to Peavine’s radio towers.

We find a lesser-used road and ascend to the car.

It’s spring in Northern Nevada with wildflowers blooming and birds singing. But we’re not here for another rhapsodic hiking tale that celebrates the abundant life force of nature.

No, we’re here to map the evidence of human presence along the trails. We’re a bit like the “geo-caching” hobbyists who tuck “treasures” into the mountains and then send hunters armed with GPS units to find the item’s exact latitude and longitude. Geo-caching was one of the uses of Peavine documented by UNR journalism students this semester. The students created online audio slide shows along with Flash video games like “Shoot ’Em Up Peavine” that are now online at

As I watched students work, I gained respect for the mountain northwest of Reno, a desert playground within a few miles of home. Its proximity is a plus given the cost of gas these days. OK, it’s a bit of a mess. But with my new hobby, geo-trashing, garbage may work to Peavine’s advantage.

The SR and I won’t leave trash or treasure in the hills during our hike. Instead we’ll document Peavine’s collection of 20th-century technology—discarded lamps, computers, TVs and automobiles.

Basque tree carvings and old mines? Sure, Peavine has both. But we only have a couple of hours to hike on a Saturday morning. Thankfully our first find, the Civic, isn’t far from the trailhead, at N 390 33.245’ and W -1190 50.985'.

The car hasn’t been here long, the SR observes. “The tires haven’t faded.”

I step over remains of a Sobe Courage bottle, careful not to disturb this historic fragment, and we continue along the trail.

As we walk, I describe to the SR my other recent trek up the nearby—and much steeper—West Keystone trail. In two miles, I’d spotted four appliances. The first, at N 390 33.395’ and W -1190 52.251’ was a Packard Bell PC complete with obliterated monitor, keyboard and a sticker: “I voted.” I left the relics including Heineken bottles, shell casings and empty ammo boxes undisturbed.

At N 390 33.705’ and W -1190 57.744', more circuit boards glinted in the sunlight—a CyberMax PC with holes the size of quarters in its tower casing. These shooters perhaps chased Coors with shots of Belvedere before using the empty cans and bottle for target practice.

I also found a pick-up truck shell, remains of a 26-inch TV and a microwave oven door.

“All small stuff,” I tell my husband as we walk. “No vehicles. Just appliances and, oh yeah, mule deer—about a dozen of ’em.”

We round a bend. At N 390 33.43’ and W -1190 50.992', we spot a Pontiac Sunbird upright with caved-in roof and missing gas cap, its tires half-buried in dirt as if the machine sought to merge back into the earth.

A mountain biker pulls around the corner.

“Got a tow truck to pull that out of here?” he says, cheerfully.

“Nope, sorry,” I answer back, smiling but suddenly fearful that someone might remove this Sunbird’s carcass before others get a chance to see it.

“Too bad,” the biker says, riding off.

Mid-morning sun warms the path pleasantly. Afternoon sun will be too hot for hiking.

At N 390 33.65’ and W -1190 50.994', we see a Celica through tall grass. Its tires have been liberated from its frame, and its windows are glass-less. The vehicle is wedged into a wash with its rear jutting up, displaying faded stickers for Airborne Fort Bragg, the Automobile Club of Southern California and a parking pass for Cerritos College that expired June 30, 1983.

Vines worm through the windshield and grow over the dashboard. Rocks and mud from flooding have collected in the concave hood. Hornets buzz around the rusting undercarriage and around my face. Hornets? I quickly retreat.

This time of year, clumps of daisies litter the hillside, along with some gaudy lilies and pesky flowering shrubs. None of this distracts us as we hunt for a fourth vehicle. At N 390 33.703’ and W -1190 50.92’ perches the hulk of a Toyota Corona, a proto SUV of sorts. Tagged with probable gang graffiti and sporting newish stickers advertising Deux Gros Nez and Reno Mountain Sports, the faded brick-colored car is backed into a hill, show-n-shine style. A sliver of license plate proclaims in yellow text, “California.”

“Toyota—lasts forever on the road and forever in the wild,” the SR observes.

And with that, our Peavine auto museum tour has ended. We spot one other car on our way to the radio towers at N 390 34.347’ and W -1190 50.84'. But before I start up a side path to check it out, we see some movement in the vicinity. Human presence. A native appears to be camping in the hills.

On the way back to the Significant Republican’s Jeep, I look at wildflowers and whatnot.