We were headed west, 31 days into our long ride around Nevada. We reached the ghost town of Cobre, where only an old stone building remains standing. Cobre enjoyed a brief moment as a railroad town in the early twentieth century, but now the land has been reclaimed by sagebrush. This part of northeastern Nevada is arid, remote, and desolate. There is a stillness to the land, interrupted only by the occasional rumbling of a Union Pacific train on the tracks. Yes, the town of Cobre may be gone, but the railroad lives on.
In Cobre, Sage and I found ourselves traveling alongside the Union Pacific tracks. I wasn't particularly excited about this, but according to the map, it was the only way to get us where we needed to go. And besides, we only needed to ride alongside the tracks for a few miles. As we set out I rhetorically asked myself, What are the odds that a train would go by at the exact moment we're riding the tracks today anyway?
We strolled alongside the tracks in the afternoon heat, where the smell of gravel and iron mingled with the smell of sage and rabbitbrush. Not a cloud could be seen in the bright blue sky. There were no sounds at all, except the light clop of Sage's hooves in the dirt trail. Occasionally a jackrabbit skittered out from under a brush as we approached. Otherwise, Sage and I seemed to be the only living creatures moving through the desert.
Suddenly, I saw a glimmer on the horizon. A Union Pacific train was coming down the tracks. Sage had seen a few trains in his life, but not so close. Somewhat nervously, I began to move him away from the tracks. We stopped on a rocky outcrop as the train neared. Sage and I stood to watch as it reached us and began to rumble past in a blur. Freight car after freight car flew by in a roar. I scanned them all, trying to make out the different company names marking the cargo containers. The train seemed to stretch out endlessly. Suddenly my eyes caught something in the blur. In a flash, I made out three figures in between the freight cars. Rail tramps! I followed them quicky with my eyes as the train sped by, and they saw me too in that instant. The trio began to wave at me excitedly and I threw my arms up to wave back in response. I let out a little whooo!, though of course I knew they couldn't hear it. And just like that they were gone.
It was only the briefest of moments, but it made me immensely happy. Rail tramps and a saddle tramp - we had connected, if only for a second, in the midst of our unusual journeys. Strangers, but not strangers. The end of the train finally came and went and Sage and I were plunged once again into the emptiness of the desert. I thought about the rail tramps as we continued down the trail. Where were they going? Where were they coming from? Did they wonder the same things about me? I smiled to myself at the thought of them retelling the story of their spotting someone on horseback, waving at them from the middle of the desert. I hope we were a bright spot in the otherwise monotonous view from the train. I hope they got where they were going.
The latest updates from Samantha on the Nevada Discovery Ride.