I had the privilege of experiencing something totally unique today: I took a hike with a cat. Not a mountain lion, or a bobcat or some other feline species that may naturally reside in the Nevada wilderness, but your run-of-the-mill domestic house cat. Surprised? Yep, me too.
What are some of the first things that come to mind when thinking of southeastern Nevada? Rock formations? Sure. A medley of wildlife? Maybe. But a state park so lush you feel like you’ve suddenly teleported to the backwoods of Arkansas? Definitely not. To my surprise, it was just that…an oasis of serene delight. If that wasn’t enough to completely catch me off guard, phase two was just about to roll in…or should I say prance in. The dayshift welcomed me, but this was no typical state employee. A spunky feline strutted up to me, clearly excited to recruit another visitor for a good head scratching.
So here I am, petting a friendly feral cat, in the rainforest-esque state park in the driest state in the US. As I stood there in an open-mouthed daze trying to figure out what to make of this unsuspecting jackpot, I hear, “Well, looks like you’ve met our kitty!” I swivel around to find the resident park ranger, which was a bit of a relief… a sign of normalcy. As most outdoor cats in Nevada sadly wind up being coyote dinner, I’m automatically hoping for some sort of back story about the cat, but the ranger informs me that he just appeared one day and they have been feeding him since. Talk about a hardy little creature, but hey, if I were a wild kitty, I think I’d want to live in this luxurious haven too.
I start to wander this perplexing park, kitty in tow, and soon realize why it’s all so green: a natural bubbling spring runs through the canyon. Surprisingly, there are wild grapevines that climb the canyon walls, lush lawns and rose gardens, a bounty of fruit trees, and even a spring-fed wading pool. In addition to the campground up the street, the ranger informs me that there are 3 hiking trails nearby. The natural spring is so pure that it requires no filtration; convenient timing, as I was fresh out of water. With a full water bottle and an intensely piqued interest I set out for the Overlook Loop Trail, at this point almost craving another oddity.
At a little over one mile, the trail wound its way up the canyon above the dense green park. As I continued on my short trek, the landscape around me quickly reverted back to the desert landscape I am acclimated to: arid, high desert scenes scattered with sagebrush and wildflowers. Dubbing the nameless feline the name of Kershaw, I assumed I’d lose his attention right after the trail made its way out of the shaded greenery and into the dry, blazing heat. Guess again. Kershaw-Ryan State Park: 3, Sydney: 0.
Kershaw assumed the role of my trusty sidekick throughout the entire loop, darting in and out of the sagebrush, desperately seeking shade and a quick breather. I mean, when I say it was a hot day, I’m talking super dry and low 90s. The fact that Kershaw followed me for a short while was amazing, but for him to hike the entire loop with me was nothing short of pure bewilderment. He would dodge under a rock or sagebrush, catch his breath, and wait until you were about 30 feet away from him before zipping ahead of you to his next suitable resting place, yowling his scratchy and charismatic meow the entire way. As soon as I’d forget where he’d run off to, I’d come around a bend, only to find him casually lounging on a shady rock, almost looking at me like, “Oh, you again, huh?” It was almost like a rehearsed act, all part of the show at Kershaw-Ryan State Park.
To say that Kershaw was a pleasant and quirky surprise is the understatement of the century. I now have the uncanny pride to say that I’ve experienced a state park in an entirely new and oh-so savory manner. Check out Kershaw-Ryan State Park for a refreshing way to take in the unsuspecting treasure trove of Nevada landscape…and ‘wilderness.’ …Just be sure you don’t forget to pack the kitty treats!