Monday, April 5, 2021

California-Nevada Desert Road Trip, Part 4: March 2021

 

It's not a long drive from Valley of Fire State Park to Cathedral Gorge State Park. Even though these two parks are relatively close to each other they have very different geologic formations. The spires and gorges in Cathedral Gorge were created by volcanoes, earthquakes, water, and erosion. 

According to the Park Service brochure: Less than one million years ago, this area was covered by a freshwater lake. Sands and clays were washed down from the surrounding mountains into the lake eventually filling the valley to a depth of almost 1400 feet. Uplift and faulting caused the waters of the lake to drain away (part of the Colorado River drainage). As the lakebed was exposed, torrential rains washed gravels down onto the sediments from the nearby mountains. The erosion process continues today with Meadow Valley Wash and its tributaries cutting deeply into the silts and clays of the former lake bottom to create the gorges and spires of the Cathedral Gorge landscape. The old lakebed is carried 100 miles downstream to Lake Mead.






There are few trees in this park. The only shade is that cast by the spires. The coolest place to be is inside one of the slot canyons that wind through the formations. They weren't long but they were refreshingly cool inside.



We stayed in the nearby small town of Panaca. Panaca, settled by Mormon pioneers in 1865, is the second oldest town in Southern Nevada. The word "panaca" is the Southern Paiute word meaning "metal." 

Modern day Panaca has no restaurants but it does have the Pine Tree Bed and Breakfast. We rented their cabin which was separate from the house and very roomy. For lunch/dinner we had to drive to either Caliente or Pinoche. Residents of these towns make periodic trips (2 hour-drive) to St. George, Utah, to stock up on groceries.

Caliente has two open restaurants. We enjoyed the Side Track Cafe near the tracks. 

Social Distancing at the Side Track Cafe

Because we pretty much did all the hikes and exploring of rock formations on our first afternoon, we filled the next day with exploring Pioche and hiking at another park.

Pioche was considered to be one of the wildest mining camps in the west during the 1870's. Hired guns were recruited to keep the peace. It is no longer wild but has some interesting historical sights. The aerial tramway for transporting mined rock still hangs above the town. It also has an open restaurant, The Silver Cafe, and a grocery store.

In 1874, Pioche became the county seat of Lincoln County. The new courthouse was designed in 1872 and had a construction budget of $26,400. Contracts were broken and construction costs increased. Bonds were issued but not paid. In 1907, new bonds were issued with a repayment plan. In 1938, two years after the building was condemned, the final cost was over $800,000 and the reason it is called the "Million Dollar" courthouse.

The "Million Dollar" Courthouse
The Fire House
Pioche's Modern Era Movie Theater (closed)

From Pioche we drove to Echo Canyon State Park to hike the Ash Canyon Trail recommended by one of the Eastern Nevada park rangers. 

View of Echo Canyon Reservoir from the Ash Canyon Trail
We scrambled over huge boulders and hiked through canyons with 300 feet walls ending back near the road and the Echo Canyon stream.






While we tried to find a trail across the road so we didn't have to walk along the road, it was still too wet over there to make much progress. So, it was back to the road to make our way to the campground and our car.


Tomorrow, we begin the drive back to California and home. Next stop, Lee Vining, California, and Mono Lake.

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