The Bighorn Crossing at Walker Lake
by Richard Massey
Last week I was on my way to Hawthorne for a YouTube video shoot. Just before leaving, I received a call from my good friends Greg and Sybil Caldwell. These long-time residents of the little settlement of Walker Lake suggested that I stop by and check out the Bighorn Crossing cafe and convenience store. I was told the place had been under new management since last summer and it had undergone a complete remodel.
With a comprehensive menu, a huge selection of Italian coffees/drinks, fresh baked pastries, new furnishings, indoor/outdoor seating, large clean bathrooms, beautiful exterior sculptures, well-stocked convenience store items, and a world-class view…I definitely had to pay my respects.
Heading south from Schurz, Nevada on Highway 95, as you skirt around the west side of the Walker Lake, the Bighorn Crossing is the first place you come to on the right side. With banners flying, fresh colorful exterior paint, and beautiful metal sculptures decorating the patio areas, it is obvious that the owner takes pride in this business.
Being an art lover, I was impressed by the large metal sculptures of bighorn sheep (12’ tall) and a depiction of a giant snake-like serpent that, according to Paiute legend, inhabited the depths of the lake. The existence of this creature has been confirmed on numerous occasion by several semi-reliable and nearly sober locals.
As I entered the business I was immediately impressed by the fresh, clean appearance. The first room you enter is the dining room. The room is divided in half with the convenience store items in well- stocked cabinets and shelves behind a large divider. Here too you will have access to large clean bathrooms. It was the two large disco balls rotating from the ceiling that caused a bit of deja vu. The only things missing were my bell-bottom trousers and the music!
To the left of the entrance is the cash register with menus and local information brochures. On the back wall is a large display board listing a surprising quantity of Italian coffees and drinks. Below that is a cabinet with fresh, home-made pastries.
While looking over the menu and evaluating the many gourmet drink and pastry options, I couldn’t quite fit all the pieces together. How on earth could such a thing be found deep in the heart of rural Nevada? The answer soon became clear.
As I placed my food order with a gentleman sporting some very stylish checkerboard designer glasses, I had no idea he was Tony Ruse, the store owner. After introductions, he told me that he was able to have such an extensive menu because of his friend and kitchen manager, Chef Wence “Wen” Sandoval.
Chef Wen is an award-winning chef with a background as the head chef at major casinos in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. He prides himself on using only the finest/healthiest ingredients in all of his fresh-cooked dishes and pastries. Locals rave about his special roasted-tomatillo red salsa. They say there is nothing better!
While the drink options feature an Italian slant, the food menu is divided between the traditional western burger/sandwich choices and Mexican dishes. Bighorn Crossing has a liquor license so you can order anything from wine, beer or your favorite hard liquor. While having a beverage of choice, you are welcome to take advantage of their Wi-Fi.
As I was trying to decide on the side dish to go with my ½ pound bacon cheese burger (would it be the kettle-cooked chips or the homemade chicken tortilla soup?), a traveler, Jeff Lawson, from Junction City, Oregon stuck his head through the front door and announced, “That chicken tortilla soup was the best I have ever had. It could win an award in any cooking contest.” So, I ordered the soup. Jeff was right!
When you travel through this area, I highly recommend that you plan on more than a quick stop. This location is famous as one of the state’s best areas for viewing bighorn sheep. Large numbers of sheep are frequently seen on the cliffs right next to the parking lot. Be sure to bring your binoculars or telephoto lenses. Some of my best sheep pictures have been taken here.
Before you go: Winter hours at the Bighorn Crossing are Monday – Saturday: 11am-7pm. Closed Sundays.
Order online: thebighorncrossing.com
Richard Massey is an international award-winning photojournalist and freelance-writer. He has a passion for film and does much of his photography using vintage film cameras…as seen here. His interest in teaching has led him to start a photography YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChdW0Jjsca47EpKE5N_jtag