Greetings followers of the Nevada Science Center, new fans, and the Nevada curious. Time again for the accounts of another adventure into the rural reaches of the Great State of Nevada. With the run up to Labor Day many people ask themselves where they are going to vacation, whose bar-b-que they will attend and other such social questions, but alas, 2020 has rendered most of these questions moot and I recently read a new term, at least to me, called travel shaming. Well not to get into the doghouse of travel shaming, Becky, Banjo and myself decided that it was time for us to get out of our new Henderson headquarters and set out for responsible scientific adventure across the state. Our original plan was to do an uncharted lap of sorts around the state for a week to document geology, biology, paleontology, and scientific history. Well as life goes we got half of a week, but we decided to take full advantage anyways. So rather than an uncharted lap we decided that our goal would be to slowly make our way up US 95 from downtown Henderson, to Tonopah, left at Coaldale, and down into Fish Lake Valley, and back the same.We set out from Henderson with adventure and natural history on the mind (I suspect camp hot dogs were on Banjo’s mind). With no sense of urgency we made our way north out of the Las Vegas Valley, looking off toward the clear blue sky over the dark blue-grey of the Paleozoic ancient reefs of the Spring Mountains on one side and the dusty, sun burnt tan hoodoos of the Las Vegas Formation of Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument on the other. Gradually the exits and subdivisions under construction giving way to first Spanish bayonet (Yucca sp.) and Creosote (Larrea tridentata) and eventually a few Joshua Trees (Yucca brevifolia) as we crest the Kyle Canyon alluvial fan to make our eventual escape trajectory out of the Las Vegas gravitational center. Making our way on this particularly hot Wednesday morning northbound we made our way past Indian Springs, and en route to Beatty we stopped at the gates of a conspicuous red hill being mined on the east side of the highway. This is one in a sequence of Cinder Cone volcanoes which have erupted in south central Nevada since 10,000 years ago. Cinder cones are not like Mt. St. Helens, they are more like geological pimples. Just like pimples you don’t want to be too close when they erupt. This particular blister left a nice sized cone composed of the frozen blobs of lava erupted from the vent, called cinders, which then pile up like an ant hill around the eruption. This particular cone is accompanied by a small lava flow as well. So why is this volcano being mined? Cinders are mined for decorative stone, for bbq’s, fire places, and for abrasives. From this modest turn out on the side of the highway we continued north but a few miles until the turn off to Big Dune. Becky, Banjo, and I all looked at each other and asked if any of us had ever stopped at this non-conspicuous pile of Anthropocene sediment across the north end of Amargosa Valley. Since none of us had had the pleasure we decided to take the scientific side trip to check it out. Many large sand dunes in the Great Basin are the left overs of Ice Age lake shore sands that existed in the various valleys of the intermountain west until just a few thousand years ago. Consider the waves crashing against the bedrock for hundreds of thousands of years breaking the rocks into their constituent minerals. Now the waves gone the wind takes the burden of perpetually pushing the sediment around. Geomorphologists classify most of the dunes in the Great Basin as Star Dunes in shape. As we approach the Big Dune I am actually reminded of a story I had heard as an undergrad at the University of Nevada-Reno, from one of my mentors Dr. Rich Rust. Rich was an entomologist who studied dune endemic beetles and ground nesting bees. Rich had actually told me a cool story about how working with federal biologists and off highway vehicle groups, they had worked together to set aside a portion of the Big Dune area for the well-being of a threatened sand beetle while ensuring the OHV groups could still enjoy recreation of the big pile of Pleistocene beach sand. As we continued toward the dune we soon realized the limits of the 2 wheel-drive Honda Pilot in loose sand. With the aid of the WeatherTech floor mats (which are usually used to, somewhat, preserve the vehicle from field work), some rocks and sticks, my back, and no help from Banjo, we were again free down the dusty trail back to the asphalt.As we continued north on US 95 toward Beatty we observed the number of abandoned mining structures along the way. The State of Nevada was built on mining, this legacy having left its mark across many landscapes of the state. The partially standing structures of a long-abandoned mining town to the east on the alluvial fan, the abandoned steps of a long weathered away stamp mill on the side of a hill to the west. As we pass through town we observe a number of healthy, famous locals, donkeys (Equus asinus) have made the area around Beatty one of their favorite homes here in the state. Donkeys are feral domestic animals, and we have heard at least a couple true locals begrudge their orneriness and late-night vocalizations across town. We make the obligatory purchase of sweets in town as we continue our journey north.As we pull into the next “major” town along our route, Goldfield, county seat of Esmeralda County we decide to take a slight detour to admire the standing mining artifacts around town. It’s hard to imagine this town which noted a population in the hundreds during the last census had a peak population near 20,000 during its boom slightly over a century ago. Headframes from mines of that time and more recent mining enterprises dot the landscape around town. After admiring the sights, we press on to our next stop, another county seat, this one of Nye County, Tonopah. Tonopah was also a mine boom town last century. Mining history looming large over this town and mining futures too. Alongside the artifacts of long abandoned mines are drill rigs exploring for the next big play in the mining district. As we head down the hill into town we decide to take a side road to check out the Central Nevada Museum. With Banjo along we couldn’t go in the indoor interpretive area but were greeted with a large outdoor interpretive park. The signage well done and effective on stamped tin plates. Every aspect of mining, geology, botany around the park interpreted. While Becky and I enjoyed our stroll through the outdoor exhibits Banjo is more interested in the jackrabbits (Lepus californicus) hiding behind the saloon building. As 5:00 pm comes and goes a museum employee lets us know they are open tomorrow if we want to come back. We load up Banjo, both pleased with the well-done museum experience that is free to the public! From here we get back on US 95 and press north as the sun begins to cast long shadows across the valley. Lone Mountain casting the most prominent shadow across the valley as we descend the hill from Tonopah and start the turn west toward Coaldale Junction. We head west on US 6 as the sunlight hits that special Nevada angle where the mountains turn purple, the hills gold, and every object carries a glow. We pull into our camp in Fish Lake Valley at a hot spring the locals call the hot box in the dark and set camp, grill hot dogs, take a dip in the concrete lined soak pool and hit the hay.The second day of our trip starts early, as the sun rises over Fish Lake Valley and illuminates the White-Inyo Range. The full moon from the night before hanging over Boundary Peak and reflected like a pane of glass from the hot spring pool. Since we got in late the night before Banjo didn’t realize we were by a pond, despite being chewed alive all evening from the mosquitoes. He was excited at the American Coots (Fulica americana) playing and rough housing in and amongst the tules (Schoenoplectus acutus) and cattails (Typha latifolia). I take the time to dig out the National Geographic Bird Guide and watch the pond. In addition to the coots we also see a flock of yellow-headed blackbirds (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus), a flock of ducks which I am 95% sure were blue-winged teals (Spatula discors), and then the distinctive call and then visual of a pair of killdeer (Charadrius vociferous). This calm serene scene briefly is interrupted when a number of coots start calling in alarm and all of a sudden a female Northern Harrier hawk (Circus hudsonius) glides over the ponds. Becky and I decide to take our coffees to the hot spring and enjoy one last soak before breaking camp and heading back out.From camp we make our way down a couple dusty twists and turns and down a sandy wash to a place locally referred to as “the Sump.” The Sump is a visually stunning exposure of Miocene (~14-16 million year old) sediments of a swampy woodland which dates from the very earliest uplift of the Sierra Nevada when moist air from the Pacific ocean readily made its way into the now parched Great Basin desert. These sediments have abundant petrified wood, lots of volcanic ash from long extinct volcanoes, and occasionally the remains of the animals that lived along the swampy margins of this lake. Animals which have been found include 4-tusked relatives of elephants called gomphotheres, rhinos, horned gophers, giant beavers, camels, horses, bear-dogs, and primitive cats. Its not long before we find a bone of a rhino weathering out of the badlands, then a rib of a gomphothere. Its important to note here that it is illegal to collect fossils of vertebrate animals without a permit from the agency that administers the land. Here that is the Bureau of Land Management. We have a permit to collect fossils, but this is not a collecting trip. We note where we found the bones but leave them in place for mother nature to continue the arduous task of unearthing these large beasts for the centuries to come. The air is hot and there is not a bird in the air, or a bug buzzing in the sky. Despite telling Banjo repeatedly to stop running zig-zags and up and down the little hills, he has gassed himself out. With the air hot, water waning, and at Banjo’s request we start back toward the vehicle. From the Sump we journey back to the asphalt and begin our journey home.En route back towards Tonopah, we decide to take a quick side trip down the Gabbs Poleline Road to look at the solar power facility, Tonopah dunes, and some Miocene sedimentary units on the south end of the valley. We make our way through Tonopah, past Goldfield, and passing through Beatty our trip is momentarily delayed as a donkey decides to lazily make its way across US 95 (in a cross-walk mind you). We make our way back to Henderson as dusk is settling on the unseasonably warm desert southwest. We get rested up, especially Banjo, as we have another adventure coming soon!