Verdi, travelling through history

Recently Monica and I visited Verdi, Nevada, looking for the east end of The Lincoln Highway in California. The Lincoln Highway was America's first transcontinental road, running from New York and ending at Lands End, San Francisco. Construction began in 1913 and tied together various roads and pathways into one traversable route. Before that, if you wanted to cross the country, you were on your own.


Here in California, there were two routes over The Sierra. One traveled from Reno through South Lake Tahoe and down the present Highway 50, while the other passed north of Tahoe through Truckee and down roughly where the present day Highway 80 runs. Eventually, the Lincoln Highway was taken over by more modern numbered highways, and soon many sections of the old road were abandoned.

It’s these old sections of road that appeal to us. Often they pass through places that were once centers of activity, and now are bypassed and forgotten. Verdi Nevada is one such place. It’s where the Lincoln Highway leaves California and enters Nevada at the Von Schmidt Borderline on Dog Valley Road.

Most people driving on Interstate 80 quickly pass through Verdi on the way to Reno, just a few miles away. Those of us interested in California history feel the pull of this old town and its history. A place that was for over 70 years was a center of traveling activity, with The Central Pacific Railroad passing through, as well as The Truckee route of the famous Overland Emigrant Trail, and of course The Lincoln Highway and the later Highway 40. Once Interstate 80 was built by the old town in the 1950's it's fate for the next 70 + years was sealed. The city seems to be growing again, with transplants fleeing the higher living prices in California.

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We arrived in at Vedi, Nevada in October to find the mountains and landscape awash in color. Having grown hungry, we found a picnic table at Crystal Peak Park right on The Truckee River. Turns out that right across from the table was a Trails West "T" Marker! We were picnicking on the old Truckee Trails famous 27th crossing! Right in front of us 170 years prior the first emigrants traveling across the country passed this way. The Donner-Murphy party, as well as thousands of others, made the last crossing of the river right here. Talk about a history buffs dream picnic table!

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A couple of miles from Crystal Peak Park we found the California Nevada borderline on the old Henness Pass trail. Now known as Dog Valley Road, at one time it was teeming with thousands of travelers headed to a new life in California, or a few years later headed from California into Nevada for the great Silver rush of the Comstock Mines. Now it's a lonely spot missed by most people. Our kind of place!

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The Von Schmidt borderline is a fascinating place. California and Nevada had been going back and forth about where the actual border between the states was. In 1872 a San Francisco civil engineer named Allexey W. Von Schmidt was retained to find the boundary and mark it with metal obelisks, one-mile apart. The project was never completed as Von Schmidt ran out of funds and the state wouldn't cough up any more. Here is a link to more info concerning The Von Schmidt Borderline. If you read the article link some photos look to be taken not that long ago showing the obelisk behind a chain link fence, having been rammed by a pickup truck. Not sure when it was done, but the new protective barrier and cage are very well done. Someone has taken the time to put this very historic spot back into shape. Now it can remind others just how important this place was.

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We headed up Dog Valley Road a bit, but it's so bumpy, and our time was running short, that we decided to turn around before the summit and head back down to the borderline. Keep your eyes open as we spotted a Trails West "T" Marker which can be found on our map. Both Monica and I have great fun trying to spot these "T" markers, as they are generally right on the old trails, which often don't run right where the present day road is. Great fun is reading the quotes printed on the signs, generally from a traveler passing this way over 150 years ago.


Be sure to check out the "center" of the old Verdi. The Verdi Historic Museum is there and bit the first generation, and later incarnations of the Lincoln Highway pass through here. The first person to cross the country by Motorcycle, George Wayman, traveled here in 1906 on his way from San Francisco to New York. They have a sign there commemorating the feat.

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We will be going back to Verdi one of these days. There is so much to explore there, and we want to drive from Verdi up and over Henness Pass to Truckee on the old road so we can complete our ongoing history map showing the route of The Lincoln from Auburn to Verdi and The Von Schmidt Borderline.