Autumn in Nevada: The Wonders Among Us

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Guest Blog Series

In honor of Nevada Day, we have published a short series of guest blog posts about Nevada, with an emphasis on our state’s stunning landscapes and natural resources. These posts have been written by our friends and supporters from across the state. Inspired? Feel free to contact us with questions or a submission:

Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas, NV
Image by Rodger Podlogar © 2013

The Wonders Among Us

By Peter Frigeri

The sky was a dull indigo. The air still had some of the night’s sting in it, and my nose was a little numb. I stood there, wondering if I’d worn the right clothes. Above me, the Spring Mountains rose resolutely against all change. Joshua trees in the foreground, creosote bushes all around. My dog had left me standing in the Midnight Trail parking lot off Route 160 holding my mountain bike. I knew if I turned to the east I’d see the sun creeping over the hills, and even though I was less than hour away, there was no sign of the city. I threw my leg over the saddle and pushed down on the pedals.

This is the kind of escape that’s kept me in Nevada for more than two decades.

Las Vegas has grown to the point where every square inch of open land around it has value. What inspires me about Southern Nevada is the ordinary citizens who have dedicated themselves to preserving this land. From Tule Springs to Gold Butte to Searchlight, you find people working selflessly day after day to keep our natural treasures intact.

Coming from the East Coast, I have friends all over the country. I guess I’ve grown fond of hearing the surprise in their voice: “Las Vegas? Why do you stay there?” I stay for the austere beauty of the Mojave. Its contradictions, and contrasts. “We have skiing, about 45 minutes from our house,” I’ll say. “Of course, it’s small, but if you want deep powder, you only have to drive three hours.” To impress the real outdoorsy types, I’ll mention that world-class climbers and cyclists winter here, that the cyclist can climb 8,000 feet one day and do flats the next. Then, there’s the blank look—the one Las Vegans long ago grew used to—that says, “I thought you all lived in hotels on the strip.” They don’t know about our “5 in 5,” five national parks within a five-hour drive. When I stop to think about it, this isn’t a city to me as much as it is a base camp.

And so far, I’ve only touched on Clark County. Nevada has the largest national forest outside Alaska, and it’s the most mountainous state (thanks, Wikipedia). We may lack Utah’s color pallet, but for sheer dimension and variety, you can’t beat the Silver State. If you encounter someone who’s going on about kayaking in Puget Sound, just pause for a moment, then draw it out like an ace high: Lake Tahoe. Still, none of this trivia captures the day-to-day gratitude I feel for the nature in my backyard.

For a good 20 minutes I huffed uphill towards the mountains before gratefully turning south on a downhill stretch. I stopped at the top of a crest, where the path zigzags down Cottonwood Valley to the north. The sun was high enough to release all the colors of Red Rock Canyon. The view was a priceless offering, a strangeness of unlimited power. The dog was barking, ready to go again. I sat back down and released the breaks.

Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas, NV
Image by Rodger Podlogar © 2013

Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas, NV
Image by Rodger Podlogar © 2013

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