There was plenty of sand, sun and sagebrush along the endless ribbon of Nevada highways as our mini-bus headed from Las Vegas towards the Mojave Desert and into Death Valley.
Beyond the city limits, there was also an amazing array of colours, endless blue skies, mountains, plus several unexpected lakes and rivers.
The state is famous for old west history, ghosts and ghost towns, but this traveller’s tale focuses on very-much-alive places and people along the way, including:
Covering 145,686 hectares between the Colorado and the Virgin rivers, near the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and popular Valley of Fire State Park, Gold Butte was named after an early 1900s Clark County mining town.
The hot, dry area spotted with cattle ranches and farms was once occupied by Moapa and Piute Indians, whose ancestors left thousands of rock-art figures on dark reddish-brown sandstone crags that jut off the desert floor.
On one tall crag beside Gold Butte Rd., reached from Hwy. I15, swirling winds over uncountable millennia had carved doorways and myriad shapes in outcroppings.
Also a must for photographers are coconut-size buds on Joshua trees, plus white, pale yellow and deep orange wild flowers on grass or cactus, which provide shade for tortoises, lizards and roadrunners.
A Friends of Gold Butte staffer told us the environmental preservation group conducts hikes and photo sessions, while lobbying for the region to become a National Conservation Area.
This farm community (pop. 15,276 or so) settled by Mormon pioneers between 1878 and 1882 along the Mesquite River, has a small museum.
Among the local artifacts are a rare arc lamp movie projector from the now closed Elwood Theatre, a foot-treadle sewing machine, military uniforms worn by locals and numerous typewriters — including one that children of the Internet age can try out.
A travellers’ stopping point along Hwy. I-15 between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Calif., Mesquite has several casino resorts, many public golf courses, plus an airport that offers skydiving.
NEED TO KNOW
The annual Gold Butte Days in Mesquite offers a street fair, outdoor activities, live entertainment and a street race. See facebook.com/GoldButteDays.