We just returned from a long weekend trip to Carson City, Nevada. Apparently named for the intrepid Old West trailblazer, Kit Carson, it’s located just on the other side of the Sierra Nevada mountains from Lake Tahoe, California, and about 3o miles south of Reno. With snow capped mountains from the recent rain, it was very, very picturesque. At night the glow from the lights at Lake Tahoe ski resort Heavenly Valley were visible. Carson Valley is very quiet. Maybe the area is America’s best kept secret. Some old friends we’ve known since we moved to California in 1963, Marge and Rich, invited us to join them up there this past weekend. Under lowering skies all weekend, we drove the length and breath of the Valley. The main attraction was the 94th annual Candy Dance festival. More about that later. Reno by the way, according to my friend, has grown quite a bit over the years. When he lived there many, many years ago the population was about 30,000. Now it boasts a population of over 1 million in the greater Reno area.
After landing in Sacramento, our friends met us and we drove east on I-80 over the Sierra Nevada mountains. It was a very scenic drive, especially since I was not the one driving. At the top was a welcome stop near the Donner pass. A boulder with a plaque commemorating the ill-fated Donner party, a group of emigrants trying to cross into California, many of whom perished from starvation and cold during the winter of 1846-1847, was plainly visible.
Back in the days of the Old West, the government operated a mint in Carson City, from 1878 to 1893. Carson City Morgan silver dollars are beautiful coins and are among the most sought after by coin collectors. These silver dollars were designed by George T. Morgan and are still popular today because of their attractive design. According to Yeoman’s “United States Coins,” 63rd edition, Morgan was formerly a pupil of William Wyon’s in the royal Mint in London. His initial M can be found on the coin. Many can be bought at a reasonable price; others are quite expensive. For example, the 1879 coin is priced over $7800, depending on its grade. The old mint has long since been shuttered and is now a museum. I didn’t make it there this trip but it’s high on my list for next time.
Our friends’ son lives in Minden, Nevada, which is right next to Carson City. He and his wife have a lovely home on a two- acre spread which they bought about two years ago after he retired. The entire spread sits atop a small hill which overlooks the entire Carson Valley area. The site enjoys a beautiful view of the mountains to the West, and no noise. Grazing cattle are visible throughout the Valley. Mountain lions are known to come down out of the mountains to harass the cattle ranchers. Jack rabbits and coyotes abound. They are a very hospitable couple and spent considerable time helping us find our way around, not to mention having us to dinner twice.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t know if I want to live in the Carson Valley. I’m strictly a big city guy. But those that do enjoy a very low key life style. And if that’s what you want, this may be the place. Also, there is no state income tax here. So I’m sure many of the area’s residents are ex-Californians looking for a less expensive way to enjoy life.
The 94th annual Candy Dance Arts and Crafts Faire was the big event which lured us up there. But alas! It rained and cut our enjoyment of the festival short. Spread over several acres, it was located in the small town of Genoa at the base of the mountains just west of Carson City. Originating in 1919, it was a two-day event from September 27-September 28 and now comprises over 300 vendors. My wife managed to buy a couple of trinkets and some of the famous English toffee before we were forced to leave by the weather. With help from the weatherman, we could have stayed considerably longer.
The area also boasts fine eating. We dined at The Mindin Food Company before attending a play across the street. While the food was excellent, the setting was unusual, somewhat reminiscent of an office building. We also tried Saletti’s, an Italian restaurant, and also excellent. My friend Rich is a die hard spaghetti lover but here he ordered fish! He deserved to be chided mercilessly for this omission. I’ll bring it up next time we get together. The menu also featured oyster shooters. These were Blue Point oysters (outstanding oysters, small and succulent) each one served in a shot glass with a splash of vodka, a dash of hot sauce, and a topping of horseradish. If you enjoy oysters, you must try one of these.
It’s safe to say that a return trip to the Carson Valley in the near future, and to take in more of the Candy Dance Faire, is definitely on our radar. Next time though we’ll fly into Reno. Sacramento has a great airport, clean, quiet, and relatively uncrowded. But its a three hour drive to Carson City, over the mountains. Rich drove us back to the airport at mach 1.5, maybe 2.0 (or so it seemed), to make sure we made our flight. Next time we’ll avoid that adventure.
Copyright© 2014. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.