February 25, 2020

Week 21: Eclipse Chasing Across the Nevada Desert

Hanging with Astro-Lab at Cathedral Gorge!

(All photos by author)

You just never know where the next saros cycle will find you.

We managed to wrap up the Nevada leg of our current journey over the past week and have since stopped briefly in Utah for a minor rest cycle. Of course, when travelling, this merely means that we’re taking the opportunity to stop long enough to catch up on chores and errands such as laundry, bills, oil changes, etc. Life doesn’t stop, even on the road. But we did manage to cram in some exciting visits in the past week:

Moonrise over Tonopah Mining Park.

First, our adventures saw us spend a few nights in the grand old Mizpah Hotel in the mining town of Tonopah, Nevada. Tonopah was a silver mining town of considerable prosperity at the turn of the 20th century, and even today you can visit the Tonopah Mining Park and Museum overlooking the town, just a short walk up the hill from the Mizpah.

Looking back over the town of Tonopah from the Mining Park.

We also managed to observe the October 8th total lunar eclipse from Tonopah as well. We actually had quite an impromptu observing party going on from the front steps of the Mizpah Hotel, as guests and night staff joined in to watch the crimson Moon pass through the Earth’s shadow for the second time this year.

Stages of the October 8th total solar eclipse.

Tonopah is also an easy town to explore on foot, and we did so the day after the eclipse, taking time to imbibe at the Tonopah Brewing Co. on main street.

Hitting the road, we crossed the desert plains of southern Nevada to stop at Cathedral Gorge State Park. The gorge features towering rock spires and slit canyons reminiscent of Goreme Turkey or Petra, Jordan. The site of an ancient ocean bed, Cathedral Gorge offers some outstanding hiking trails through the canyons, all a short daytrip from Las Vegas. Outdoor theater performances are still held at the natural stone amphitheatre at the Gorge, all under pristine dark skies. And camp lots with full hookups can now be had to base your explorations from on site!

Spires at Cathedral Gorge State Park.

After exploring the Gorge, we over-nighted in the small town of Pioche, Nevada at the Overland Hotel and Saloon. Pioche is a small but picturesque silver mining town clinging to and climbing up the surrounding hills. True fact… there were 72 homicides after the founding of the Wild West town of Pioche in 1869 before the town “experienced” its first natural death! Today, the town’s very own “Boothill” celebrates this distinction, and old mining cable carts still traverse sections of the hillside about town.

The stately old Overland Hotel and Saloon.

From Pioche, we crossed into Utah for a brief one week house sit in Salt Lake City. As we cool our heels a bit in the land of 3.2% beer, we’re laying plans to reenter our old stomping grounds of the desert southwest and the great state of Arizona. And we’re now only 10 days out from the final eclipse of 2014, a partial solar eclipse on October 23rd. Will the skies be clear? Will our neutral density filter arrive in time? More to come!


  1. [...] access to some of the darkest skies in the nation just outside of town. We actually watched the October 8th total lunar eclipse from the steps of the Mizpah hotel with a small party of staff and curious onlookers in the early [...]

  2. [...] written before about the challenges of observing while traveling, and the merits of a compact observing kit. This can be especially challenging when the goal of the [...]

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