Political correctness attacks historic place names

Exploring the Great American Desert

Exploring the Great American Desert

Political correctness really chaps the back side of my wrinkled old hide. I am going to cite just one example of how far bureaucrats will go to shove their interpretation of what they believe to be politically correct down our throats.

I have often used USGS (United States Geological Survey) maps published by the United States Government during my travels throughout the American West. The desert country of the Great Basin has often been referred to as the Great American Desert. This is largely a desolate land with few paved roads and even fewer places with human habitation. Before widespread use of GPS (Global Positioning System) for determining where you were, desert travelers commonly referred to USGS maps to keep them from getting lost.

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Dennis to give April 7 lecture at Gold Hill Hotel

Dennis Cassinelli book-signingDennis Cassinelli, award-winning Nevada historian and author, will present a lecture at the Gold Hill Hotel on Thursday, April 7.

Topics of discussion will include Dayton’s petrified forest that was mentioned by Mark Twain in Chapter 26 of Roughing It. Samples of this petrified wood, including black pieces that Twain believed were coal, will be shown.

Another topic will be the discovery of the oldest petroglyphs (14,000 years) ever found in the Americas discovered at Winnemucca Lake. Dennis has created many pieces of petroglyph yard art which will be on display and offered for sale.

For this event, all of the books written by Dennis Cassinelli will be signed and offered for less than half price. These include Preserving Traces of the Great Basin Indians, Uncovering Archaeology, Legends of Spirit Cave and Chronicles of the Comstock.

Exterior of Gold Hill Hotel

The Gold Hill Hotel


What: Petroglyphs & The Dayton Petrified Forest

Where: Gold Hill Hotel, 1540 Main Street, Gold Hill, NV

When: Thursday, April 7. Lecture takes place from 7 – 9 p.m. (Restaurant and bar open at 4 p.m.)

Cost: $25 dinner and lecture; $10 lecture only

For more information, please visit the Gold Hill Hotel’s events page. Be sure to call early for room reservations.

Celebrating Dayton Valley Days 2015

My awesome brother-in-law, Phil Hanna, has been helping me run my booth at the 2015 Dayton Valley Days event.

My awesome brother-in-law, Phil Hanna, has been helping me run my booth at the 2015 Dayton Valley Days event.

I reserved a booth in this year’s Dayton Valley Days event to sell my books and imitation petroglyphs. It’s been great getting to meet so many interesting people. The turnout this year has been amazing, and there are lots of food and craft vendors to visit. The downtown Dayton atmosphere offers an historic background as attendees explore the various booths.

I’m located across the street from the old high school on Pike Street.

The event continues tomorrow, so if you haven’t yet, come on by! Lots to see and do!

2012 Gold Hill Hotel lecture takes place April 17

Dennis’s annual Gold Hill Hotel lecture is scheduled for April 17! This year, the topic will be “Transportation in the Comstock Days.”

The Gold Hill Hotel

Dennis has been giving lectures at the Gold Hill Hotel for more than a decade, covering such topics as Great Basin Indian artifacts, Nevada archaeology and Comstock history. Dinner is served at 5 p.m., and the lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. Also, Dennis’s books will be available for purchase and for signing at the event. Hope to see you there!


WHAT: Transportation in the Comstock Days, a lecture and book-signing by Dennis Cassinelli

WHERE: Gold Hill Hotel, 1540 Main St., Virginia City, NV.

WHEN: Tuesday, April 17. Dinner begins at 5 p.m.; lecture begins at 7:30 p.m.

COST: $15 dinner and lecture; $5 lecture only

DETAILS: To make reservations, call the Gold Hill Hotel at 775-847-0111.

Dennis signing books at the 2010 lecture

Dennis wins first-place prize in Nevada Press Association contest

Dennis recently took home a first-place prize in the Nevada Press Association’s 2011 “Better Newspaper Contest.”

Dennis recently won a first-place prize for his column in the "Comstock Chronicle."

The award, for “Best Local Non-Staff Column, Class III,” was in recognition of Dennis’s history column for the Comstock Chronicle, and specifically for his write-ups on Alf Doten, John Mackay’s silver and the Pyramid Lake Indian wars.

Dennis has been writing for the Comstock Chronicle since 2007. The newspaper, published weekly, is available in Virginia City and outlying areas.

In 2009, Dennis compiled many of his articles into the book “Chronicles of the Comstock,” which also featured a foreword by Comstock Chronicle editor Angela Mann.

Dennis recently received a plaque for his award, and he says he is grateful to the Nevada Press Association, as well as to the Comstock Chronicle and its loyal readers.

Way to go, Dennis!

— Allen Coyle

The Walking Rocks of the Fernley Marsh

walking rocks

Tracks left by the mysterious walking rocks near Fernley, Nev.

As I travel around the Nevada deserts and mountains, I sometimes find things out there that defy description and logic. When I was working as an inspector on a highway construction project on Interstate 80 near Fernley recently, I encountered one of these strange and seemingly unexplainable enigmas.

Much of northwestern Nevada was once covered with a huge freshwater lake known as Lake Lahontan. If you look closely at the hills and mountains along Interstate 80 between Fernley and Lovelock, you can see many parallel horizontal lines that mark the water level of ancient Lake Lahontan through thousands of years of fluctuating water levels. Natural climate changes have caused the water level to drop over the last several thousand years to the point where the former lake is now mostly desert. Sometimes during a particularly wet season, some of the desert lowlands once again accumulate a few inches of water.

The lake bottom consists of a fine silt mixed with alkali that becomes slick as axle grease when it gets wet. Such was the case during the spring of 2009 when I happened to notice some rocks and small boulders out on one of these mud flats that seemed to have moved across the mud leaving a distinctive irregular path or track behind. There were no footprints or vehicle tracks anywhere near the rocks or the tracks they had made. Some force had caused these rocks to move for a considerable distance across the mud flat and leave a distinct groove or track behind where it had traveled.

I stopped alongside the highway and walked out to the edge of the mud flat which at that time had begun to dry out and crust over. The surface of the mud was still too soft to support my weight without leaving footprints in the soft mud under the crust. Much of the surface of the mud had a white powder of alkali dust that was especially noticeable in the tracks that the rock had made as it had moved across the flat surface. At other places alongside this same section of highway, I noticed places where cars had ventured too far out onto the muddy surface and had sunk down to the axles. Evidence of tow truck assistance was visible indicating help was needed to remove these vehicles.

The question remains, how could these rocks have moved across the surface of the lakebed leaving the distinctive irregular track behind them as they moved? Any outside assistance to motivate the rocks would have left a mark in the soft mud just as the moving rocks had done. There had to be some motivating force to push the rocks across the mud, but it is difficult to wrap one’s imagination around the problem to arrive at an answer.

I have a theory that may explain this phenomenon after dwelling on this enigma for over two years of deep concentration. As unlikely as it may seem, I believe the motivating force that moved the rocks was the wind. You may ask how can the wind even begin to shove a rock around on the surface of a muddy lake? I have arrived at this conclusion by the process of eliminating every other unlikely explanation.

If you look at the photograph, you can see by the tracks that the rock made several stops and direction changes. Desert winds often change direction and intensity. If you were to feel a handful of the mud from the surface of this lake when it is wet, you would see that it is as slick as snot. Just like a curling stone sliding across the ice, the stones were pushed across the slick mud by being pushed by gusts of wind that changed direction and left not a mark except the track of the stone itself. Some of the other stones in the photograph were either imbedded in the mud or were too small to catch enough wind to sail across the surface. I have photos of other walking rocks that seem to confirm this theory.