We’ve left Nevada. We’re heading back East. And already, with the state barely out of our rearview mirror, my memory drifts towards the nothingness of Nevada. I think about the tumbling tumbleweed that crossed the highway within the first ten minutes of crossing the state line. I think about the ghost town that we visited at high noon one day. And I think about the signs that said, “No services for 70 miles” (or even longer). There’s so much of so little in Nevada!
The level of desolation in the “Silver State” is really remarkable! And I really don’t mean that as a slam. I genuinely love desolation. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the wide open vistas throughout the week we were there. But even for me, the nothingness of Nevada became uncomfortable at times.
Our Journey to the Western Wilds
As I’ve thought about our time out west more fully, however, I’ve come to realize that fixating on the “nothingness” of Nevada isn’t quite right. We actually saw quite a bit on our swing out west (which included both Utah and Nevada). After leaving our summer base of operations in Colorado, we drove through Wyoming to Utah. We stayed three nights in a little yellow barn out in the country, near a town called Honeyville. And while we were there, we saw some historical sites… experienced a cool piece of “land art” called Spiral Jetty (by the same artist who did the Partially Buried Woodshed in Kent)… and soaked in some natural hot springs.
Afterwards, on our way out of Utah heading into Nevada, we drove through Salt Lake City and saw the center of the Mormon universe (which strikes me as a very strange universe). However, between leaving Salt Lake City on a Monday afternoon and driving into Las Vegas in the middle part of the following Sunday, it really did feel like we left civilization behind. Our entrance into Nevada came just after crossing the Bonneville Salt Flats. And wow! That’s where we really started to feel that “Nothingness of Nevada”!
We stayed four nights in a very remote mountain canyon in Elko County, Nevada. And by “remote,” I mean that we were about forty miles from the nearest town. We had to open and close at least one cattle gate every time we left or arrived at the property because it was a real, working cattle ranch.
The only real traffic we ever had to deal with in Northern Nevada was cattle! Not nothingness. But certainly not the hustle and bustle of everyday life in Northeastern Ohio.
One of the advantages of our cabin up in the mountain canyon was that we had an amazing view of the sunset every night. It was very cool. Except for the temperature sense of the word. The cabin didn’t have air conditioning. And daytime temperatures got up around 95 degrees Fahrenheit! Unfortunately, that took away from some of the restfulness we might have otherwise experienced in Northern Nevada.
Even so, I really can’t complain about our time in Nevada. It was low-key. But it wasn’t “nothing.” The Lamoille Canyon area of the Ruby Mountains was spectacular (and a good twenty degrees cooler than the plains!)… We got to visit a sweet cowboy shop, where they make saddles that sell for tens of thousands of dollars and then ship to customers around the world… We did some thrifting, and we saw the new Top Gun movie. Honestly, if our cabin would have had air conditioning — and maybe also if we could have shortened our stay there by one night — our time in Elko County would have been amazing. But with those extenuating circumstances, we did start to lament that sense of nothingness by the end of our stay.
Great Basin National Park
Our second-to-last day and night in Nevada may have been the best part of our visit. We stayed at a really neat place called the Hidden Canyon Ranch, near Great Basin National Park. While we were there, we hiked to a grove of Bristlecone Pine Trees estimated to be between 3,000 and 5,000 years old… We did a ranger-led cave tour… And then we soaked in a hot tub while we watched the stars come out. In retrospect, I wish we would have borrowed one of the days from Elko County to increase the length of our stay down near the national park (though civilization was even more sparse here). It was the best kind of “nothingness” that made the stars shine brighter.
Our last day and night in Nevada, we went to the infamous Las Vegas Strip. It was overwhelming, after all the stillness and sparseness of the rest of the state. But it was a memorable afternoon and evening.
Honestly, I felt comforted by our return to “nothingness,” early on Sunday morning, when we started making our big push back East. I’m glad we got to experience a few different facets of Nevada. I can’t imagine that we’ll be making it a regular, recurring vacation destination. But it was certainly worth seeing everything there was — and everything there wasn’t.