Northern Nevada

NPR plays on the radio as we drive to our next destination, over two hours away. But two hours is nothing now. Mountain ranges slide in and out of view. Fields dotted with cows come into focus and then disappear behind us. Every so often a pickup truck passes our little rental car through the mountains. It is peaceful here. Time slows down. We slow down. There is no rush because why bother? You’ll get there.

Getting There

We are in northern Nevada looking at land for a possible house. The best way to get to northern Nevada is the fly into Salt Lake City and rent a car. Northern Nevada is not beautiful. Photos just disappoint. But there is a rugged beauty here, a sense, a feeling. It is the last wild land in the United States. It is cowboy country. It isn’t a place that time forgot, but also isn’t a place dictated by the times. In this crazy world, northern Nevada feels like the only constant.

Sleeping and Eating

Casinos and truck stops announce the upcoming towns on billboards. Small motels fill every town and finding one to stay at is easy. We had no reservation; we just rolled up. Everything here is quaint in a why bother kind of way. Why bother with a new electronic key when the old-fashioned kinds work just as well? The motels still have ironing boards, but unfortunately no bathroom phones.

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Like in the movies.

I was worried about food because I’m a vegan but I was pleasantly surprised. Along with things like Rocky Mountain Oysters, which I have been told are some kind of testicles, and something called the Pork Platter, there were veggie burgers. The local Mexican restaurant even had a vegetarian section.

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Lamoille Canyon

Between looking at properties, my dad and I decided to take in the sights. Lamoille Canyon is easy to find because there are signs everywhere. Just drive south through Elko and Spring Creek and you’ll basically run into it.

Lamoille Canyon is a scenic drive. It starts at a picnic area with a little creek and some bathrooms. The bathrooms were closed because apparently everything is closed when we show up.

It reminds me of Zion National Park in how you drive into the canyon and there are scenic overlooks. We decided to get out at the second scenic overlook and hike down to the river. It was tricky going and I slid down on my butt most of the way. I lost my phone on the way back up but found it easily enough.

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On the way down to the river.

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The stones on the riverbank were gorgeous, all tumbled smooth and shining with flecks of mica. White, pink, purple, light grey, all stunning. I collected as many as I could fit in my pockets and then had to hike with them back up the hill.

Then we just drove. We got out to take pictures but we were really struggling with the altitude difference and exercise was excruciating.

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There was a campsite and what looked to be some kind of ranger station at the end of a twisty road. I could camp here.

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Formed by a glacier. See the tiny building at the bottom?

After driving for a while we thought we should just turn around since you have to go back the way you came to get out. I’m glad we went to the end. If you go, definitely go to the end.

The canyon opened up and we were treated to snow capped mountains and a river.

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There was a big parking lot at the end with a bathroom and even a station to write down how many fish you caught. We got out and used rocks to jump across the river at its narrowest point.

And we played in the dirt, threw rocks in the river, ate snow. I felt like I was Norman Rockwell as a boy.

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Lamoille Canyon doesn’t have activities or wild scenery like some other places. But I could see myself spending the zombie apocalypse here.

Safe Haven Rescue Zoo

As I frequently do whenever I travel, I go into Google Maps, zoom in on where I’ll be, and type in “animal sanctuary.” Safe Haven Rescue Zoo popped up an hour south of where we’d be. I called the number and set up a tour for Sunday. The great thing about animal sanctuaries is they can’t really have a day off or the animals would die.

Make sure you ask for directions because apparently GPS isn’t quite sure where it is. The directions were basically get off the highway, turn left, go about 8 miles until you see an abandoned cement building, then get ready because it’ll be on your right. They claim there is a sign, which there is, but it is tiny and set way back from the road. In fact, the sign you actually notice is a large blue sign in the shape of Nevada with information on it about Star City.

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Turn here when you see this sign.

They tell you the passcode for the gate and you drive to visitor parking. You go inside a mobile home looking office and meet the tour guides and the two giant parrots who are mean and hate people. You have to fill out some forms saying you’ll do this and that and not that or this and then it’s tour time.

We had to stay back away from the enclosures but the animals come right up to the fences. We were never more than 15 feet away.

The enclosures are actually quite large and there are all sorts of play structures and hidey-holes. They have tigers, lions, bears, serval cats, coyotes, and mountain lions. We couldn’t take pictures of the bears or lions because they were still involved in the court system. Most of these animals are from the exotic pet trade or from backyard zoos and circuses. Their teeth have been filed down and they’ve been declawed in most cases.

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They feed them by training them to go into these little cages. First the workers put in the meat and close the gate, then they open the door between the cages, and the animals go in. They lock them in there when they clean so everyone stays safe. Those little cages on wheels are also how they do vet visits and evacuations.

I expected a massacre when she fed Clarence, the white tiger. He was chuffing and making all kinds of noise because he was so excited for his food. But he was so gentle when he got in there, delicately picking up the chunks of meat and even licking the floor clean. He didn’t want any to go to waste.

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I didn’t know this but apparently tigers like to be alone so the Safe Haven Rescue Zoo can only take in so many until they expand. They build all the enclosures themselves and it takes time to make sure they are secure.

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The servals and coyotes were shy and I couldn’t get a good picture. The mountain lion was sleeping in her house and couldn’t be bothered with us. Apparently she’s kind of a biotch.

They answered all of our questions and then some and it was a very informative tour. I learned that if I come across a bear with cubs I’m basically dead and there is nothing I can do about it. So that’s nice knowing.

I’d still recommend the Red Wolf Sanctuary if you’re looking to see some animals but even they don’t have tigers so if that’s what you really want to see, I’d recommend this place. It was clean, the animals were well cared for, and the people were incredibly knowledgeable. I imagine it would be nice to volunteer there for a week building enclosures, listening to the coyotes howl and the tigers chuffing, while a hot breeze tickles your neck.

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