Thursday, 22 October 2009

Cathedral Gorge State Park

This stop, not a famous place at all, was our one of our best ones yet.
We read about Cathedral Gorge State Park, which is on the eastern edge of Nevada just over the border from Utah, in the excellent ‘Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America’s Two-Lane Highways’, by Jamie Jensen.

When we arrived, the sky was cool, very overcast, moving quickly into evening and filled with Air Force jet fighters practicing their routes. Having driven around the campsite twice to check out the other inhabitants – about four of the twenty or so sites were occupied - we decided that the $14-with-shower price tag made it worth staying.
We invited our tent-residing neighbors – God bless those hardy souls! - over to the trailer for a beer and peanuts – our first night entertaining!
Pam and Phil from Arizona, and Dave from Sacramento, stopped by for a couple of hours, time to tell us a bit about themselves and share some tips on avoiding snow and cold over the winter months.
Happily, it didn’t feel too cramped in the trailer – they all had enough room to sit, Sophia had space for her games, and we were able to squeeze Lulu and her new travel highchair in as well.
Phil divvied out some smoked salmon he had bought in Oregon on to sturdy crackers, also bringing along some Samuel Smith - English beer, in honor of Daniel.

But back to the gorge.

Cathedral Gorge is the remains of a huge, mineral-heavy lake that dried up, leaving its sediment-laden floor exposed to erosion. Paleontologists must have a field day there, reading into the multicolored rings of silt and pebbles lining the formations.

Well within view of the campsite are hundreds of bunches of mudstone spires, all a faded coppery-taupe kind of color, rising up out of the ground and coming together to form caves. Against the backdrop of blonde grasses, papery corn-colored sagebrush flowers, beige sand-soil, and the campsite’s imported silvery Russian olive trees and neatly sienna-d gravel plots – all backlit by faraway tonal blue mountains and the following day’s flawless azure sky, the landscape was a veritable muted symphony.

Following twisting paths among the spire sets, we were led through narrower and narrower passageways terminating in cool, damp, exit-less spaces, from which the only view was a small, towering window straight up into the sky – making us feel like victims in a particularly scenic movie chase-scene. Noticing messes of feathers and droppings in the caves, we wondered whether these birds had been prey or predator.

Having accustomed ourselves to the desert and isolation, we ended up staying two nights, finally dragging ourselves away one mid-afternoon after a fresh-air lunch.

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