You might want to get Buzz Aldrin on the line, but if I could peg a place that felt JUST like the moon, my money is on Cathedral Gorge State Park. Thankfully, the ground sloped downward on the way out of these porous, powdery slot canyons, otherwise, I’m 100% sure I’d still be wandering aimlessly inside this space cave. While the ranger tried to tell me these crooked canyons were home to kit foxes and jack rabbits, I was completely convinced I was going to come around a corner to a little green man. The amazing thing about these little slices of slot canyon heaven, was the fact that they seemed to be 10 degrees cooler than the entrance, coupled with the notion that they appeared to lead on for miles. I’m totally not a claustrophobic person by nature [I actually consider myself to be pretty adventurous], but there is something about nestling your body in a 10 inch gap between tons upon tons of rock that will turn you into a blubbering mess. Maybe that’s what ultimately threw my sensibility out the window and made me believe this was a lunar land. It was a kooky coping mechanism to distract me…and quite frankly pretty fun. In my eyes, this ‘uncharted territory’ complete with natural air conditioning = endless fun. Whether you want to pretend like you’re on the moon or not, get here!
SCI FI SCORPIONS
What comes to mind when you imagine experiencing outer space? Maybe cold? Dark? Damp? With creatures you’ve never heard of that are exclusive to this land? My thoughts exactly. Amazingly enough, Great Basin National Park effortlessly captured all of my space expectations with its mystifying Lehman Caves. I’d definitely ventured in caves before, but none of them quite delivered on this level. This gargantuan, enigmatic cave system was just how I imagined the inter workings of a Venus mountainside while daydreaming in my college astronomy course…sans the poisonous gases anyway. It continued to delve deeper and deeper into the Earth, almost like we were approaching the Earth’s core at any moment. The stage was set, now all I’d hoped for was a little sci-fi magic: meet the pseudoscorpion. Contrary to the space odyssey car-sized creature you might hope to encounter [or avoid!] around the next bend, this tiny little being lives exclusively in Lehman. Pretty flipping cool, right?
VALLEY OF MARS
Astronomy aficionados, rejoice: you can actually experience what it feels like on Mars without having to wait for NASA-approved travel! One quick venture outside Las Vegas later, and you will feel like you’ve straight up teleported off Earth. As I made my way into official Valley of Fire State Park boundaries, the tarred asphalt snaked its way through the jagged crimson rock formations and, just as if I were personally drifting through anti-gravity, my imagination didn't allow me to stay grounded. Crawling through the terrain made me feel like my jeep had morphed into some sort of rover, trekking never-before-seen parts of the galaxy. Amazingly enough, while one canyon’s alabaster sand would resemble that of the Sahara Desert, the next would feel like you were bouncing from crater to crater on the Red Planet. The fact that movie magic was made here during the Captain Kirk’s untimely death, and the presence of petroglyphs didn’t make this otherworldly place seem any more familiar. Etched throughout the canyon walls were archaic drawings, making me feel I’d uncovered the next great thing in mankind: life on another planet! I tried to capture this alluring environment through the lens, but it just didn’t do it any justice. You can’t absorb its brilliance until you’re standing right there with your own two eyes. You simply must do it yourself, astronomy enthusiast or not…
E.T., DOME HOME
Right when you’re in the thick of Marlboro-Man country, the last thing you’re expecting is something that sticks out like life from another planet, right? At least that’s what I’d assumed, passing through the majestic Egan Range south of Ely. I was knee-deep in cowboy country and headed to a few state parks…Ward Charcoal being one of them. As the dirt road veered off the main highway, a few little triangular tips made themselves visible in the distance. Beforehand, I knew nothing about this place, other than I was going to be spending time here for the afternoon. Meandering around the bend, immersed in the valley’s scenic beauty, these ‘tips’ appeared to elongate, morphing into full-blown triangular huts, each about 30 feet tall. While my mind could have logically sorted out what these could have been, proposing historical background, my thoughts carried me away to an extraterrestrial place. It was like they were little mini spaceships, or an exotic dwelling for something not of this world. The closer I got to them, the deeper I lost touch with reality, my friends. In my mind, it was a prehistoric monument, an eighth wonder of the world! I probably spent an absurd amount of time here, wandering and in out of all six ‘dome homes’, but I couldn’t help myself; It was downright captivating. Whether you want to dive into the interesting [factual] history of this area, or simply pretend this is Silver State Stonehenge, Ward Charcoal’s otherworldliness is most definitely a seriously cool place to add to the docket!