The Nevada Desert

No place on earth is lonelier than the desert, its arid, desiccated soil starved of life.  Though the colorless sandy hills almost look picturesque against a dazzling blue sky, the silence and emptiness are too excruciating to enjoy these aesthetic snapshots.  The Nevada desert is no kinder to the senses.  The silence is absolute, the air is dry and hot, and the breeze plays tricks with your mind—without a scent of life, but ricocheting sounds of ghosts from rocky crevices.  But if you’re looking for an escape from your busy life (from any semblance of life), I suggest a drive along Highway 50 through central Nevada.  We started in Carson City, drove east on Highway 50 to Great Basin National Park, and took Highway 6 back west.  The settlements smattered along the route boast populations of no more than a couple hundred and provide extraordinarily cheap board in any of the weathered casinos.  The mining industry, no longer the lure of the west, has torn into many a mountain here and left in its tailings ghost towns (or nearly so) populated by coarsened and silvery old cowboys.  The towns, though depressing, are worth a visit if only for a glimpse into the old west, the REAL old west, not the theme park streets of Virginia City.  My suggestion is to enjoy a greasy meal and a pull at the slot machine (at the Tonopah Station, for example), but sleep under the stars.  Nevada is covered with dirt roads leading to deserted mines, immense salt flats, and abandoned ranches.  One night we veered off Highway 50 and drove several miles to the center of a dried lake.  We built a fire, drank a beer, and lay beneath the stars.  In the morning we came across, as if a mirage in the distance, a long-forgotten motel.  The rooms still had clothes draped over the crumbling furniture and the restaurant still had place settings on the tables.  We even found a collection of classic science fiction books in the office; we each helped our self to a book for the long ride home.  The Nevada desert, desolate to the unadventurous eye, offers the explorer free and uninhibited access to a dying part of American history and a landscape utterly untainted by tourist trinkets and restoration attempts.  It is the Wild West—brothels, casinos, guns, and cowboys—left behind by the rest of the country.   


5 thoughts on “The Nevada Desert

  1. So true. The desert is so much more magical than people give it credit for being. And I hate to be cliche, but it’s seriously so much more fun if you’re driving through with a Jeep or convertible!

  2. Wow. You painted such a great picture with your words (and the picture with the abandoned bottle as a focal point!). You could be a “Ghost Town Tour Guide of the Old West”! …but that might detract from the mystique of the deserted desert… Great job

  3. I’d love to find that abandoned hotel.. there’s something haunting and intriguing about abandoned places, still with last signs of human life.. the clothes.. the place settings.. I LOVE finding places like that.. a good story or tale always stems from the unanswered questions.. mostly stemming from why everything was left as is..

  4. I discovered the Nevada desert in April 14, 1999. No place has touched my soul or flooded me with pure exhuberance. Most people feel small, lonely and depressed by the desert. For me no place on earth makes me feel more alive and full of joy like the Nevada desert. It’s now my second home but soon will be my only home.

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