Key in the Tree

The key is embedded in the side of one of the two large trees, just as you pull off.

Some discoveries just beg for a movie to be made about them. There must be a story behind this mysterious key, wedged firmly in the trunk of a tree at the top of Highway 4. A hidden treasure that this key would unlock? A clue to a long-forgotten murder?

If you’d like to visit the mysterious key for yourself, here’s how to find it (once Highway 4 reopens in the spring!):  Head west on Highway 4, past Kinney Reservoir and Kinney Lakes. Watch for the Ebbbett’s Pass gate and cattle guard; the elevation sign will let you know that you’ve reached 8,730 feet.

Here’s a close-up of the key, firmly embedded in the tree.

Continue 0.3 miles past the gate and cattle guard, and watch for a pullout on your left. The key is in one of the two large trees just as you pull off. (And it goes without saying, but please, please leave it there for the next explorer to find!)

Remnants of an old blaze — not quite grown over — near the base of this tr

Before you leave this peaceful spot in the forest, take a close look at the nearby trees. Here you can also find a very old axe blaze near the base of a tree. This may once have marked the route for the early wagon road, long before the paved highway came through.

As the sign notes, the road here was not completed until Silver Mountain City drew eager miners in this direction, beginning in 1864. (We hope someone will tell them it wasn’t “Silver City” though! That’s in Nevada!) 

On your return trip, take time to read a little bit of history about Ebbetts Pass on the historical sign just west of the cattle guard.

The Toll Station for the Big Tree Carson Valley Turnpike once sat here, when the route opened in 1864. Note the rock retaining wall (probably in roughly its original location, although possibly somewhat rebuilt).

And one more not-to-miss site nearby: a brand new historic marker (just east of the cattle guard) identifying the site of the original toll-keeper’s station on the Big Tree Road! This is the spot where eager miners began their detour from the Big Tree Road to the new boomtown of Silver Mountain when the connecting roadway was completed in the summer of 1864.

These bricks are all that’s left of the original toll-keeper’s station.









Still visible today at the site where the toll station once sat are the old rock retaining walls and a few tell-tale bricks, likely once part of the toll-keeper’s hearth or chimney.

So fun, to visit the real toll-keeper’s location! And when you visit Silver Mountain City next, imagine the exhausted-but-happy travelers exiting the toll road at the other end in the 1860s, ready to begin their mining adventure!

This is the other end of the Big Tree toll road, as it came into Silver Mountain City in the 1860s.


A walking tour of the Old Genoa Cemetery

We’re so excited — our new book is here! Take a walk through a section of the Old Genoa Cemetery in this new book — and discover the stories of some of Carson Valley’s earliest pioneers and settlers.

“Well-researched and concise — A walk through the Genoa Cemetery is not complete without this guide.”


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