Vegas outback

Take lonely U.S. 93 into Nevada's wild and historic heart

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Although the stretch of U.S. 50 that runs across Nevada is still dubbed the loneliest highway in America, its growing popularity has created a conundrum that only a Zen master, or perhaps Yogi Berra, could appreciate: There's nobody there, so now that's where everybody wants to go.

U.S. 93 is a road for those who think the loneliest highway isn't quite so lonely anymore. Known simply as the Great Basin Highway, it conjures images of sagebrush flats and isolated mountain ranges. Which there's no shortage of.

From the highway, you can follow the gravel road into Pahranagat refuge.

But there's variety, too, and about 100 miles from Vegas at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, the valley is green with stands of cottonwood and spring-fed lakes that draw flocks of ducks and Canada geese. Outside the old railroad town of Caliente, Kershaw-Ryan State Park suggests the discoveries waiting at the area's five state parks. Natural springs support junglelike thickets of wild grapes frequented by darting dragonflies and buzzing bees.

And at Cathedral Gorge State Park, tawny prehistoric lake-bed deposits have been eroded into a mudstone labyrinth. Passages narrow to no more than a few feet across, hemmed in by columns and delicately textured walls. In places, the passages lead to semicircular chambers called slots, which are almost closed to the sky. The effect is like standing in a tiny chapel in a gothic cathedral ― a splendid feeling of being shut off from the outside world.



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