Hastings Cutoff– or – Well, We Tried
July 9-11, 2018 By Bill Powell
Photos by Bill Powell and Brian Suen
The infamous Hastings Cutoff provided the pioneers with many surprises and setbacks. Our modern day expedition to the Hastings Cutoff was no exception. We had four people drop out prior to the start for one reason or another. Then the evening before the start, I got a call from Marion Johns. She and Neal had broken down en route.
Monday, July 9th. Saw the Jaussauds, Ellen Miller, Jim Watson, Mignon Slentz, Brien Suen, Richard Brazier, Bob Jacoby and myself convoying from the 15 miles from the Interstate 80 exit to the starting point. Brian was late arriving, and had to catch up. Finally, about 9:00 a.m., we started out from the initial markers and ascended a barely visible track to the top of Bidwell Pass. Once there we gathered for a group photo at the first of 12 markers erected by the Trails West organization.
Continuing on, the track became more visible and we crossed over relatively flat terrain toward the next pass through the Toano Range that our 80 and the original alignment of old US 40. Having crossed our second pass of the day, we proceeded across the Goshute Valley. Once on the West side of the valley, we had to detour around a new active mine area. Picking up the route again, we (and the pioneers) had to skirt the base of the Pequop Mountains for 20 miles to the South before getting to a pass that wagons could handle.
We stopped for lunch at the top of Flowery Pass in an old narrow gauge railroad cut, then proceeded downhill into the Independence Valley. After crossing this valley, we drove through a forest going over yet another pass through the Spruce Mountain Ridge. Another fifteen miles or so across the next valley brought us to the base of the Ruby Mountains and US 93. From this point, we intended to drive North into Wells, NV for gas and overnight before continuing.
This is where things went completely off the tracks. Just as we got to the highway, my Jeep cracked its radiator. So ended our Hastings Cutoff trip. Bob, Richard, Brian and I waited for a tow truck while the others found a nice campground in the Ruby Mountains and spent the night there before heading out. Bob, Richard and Brian spent the night in Wells before meeting me in Elko the next day. With repairs completed, we four started home Wednesday morning; the Hastings Cutoff having claimed more victims. ~ Bill