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So, we have this friend named J. J lives, breathes and bleeds the state of Nevada. J likes bourbon and makes a mean Manhattan. J rides a motorcycle. J wears a black hat. J is one of the coolest cats I know. People should listen to J. When J found out the first stop on our cross-country road trip was going to be in his home state, he fired off a quick message via Twitter to help us out with our quandary about where to stay for the first night. It went a little something like this:

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When the black hat speaks, people listen. It was settled. Our first night was going to be at Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park located in central Nevada near the town of Gabbs off Hwy 50. The park is really remote, so be sure to bring everything you need for a trip into the desert. That includes food, water, shelter, and a means of communication. Mobile phones, while helpful for playing Fruit Ninja, just don’t work out here, so you need to be prepared in case your vehicle breaks down.

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WTF is a Berlin-Ichthyosaur?

Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park gets its name from the late 1800s mining ghost town of Berlin and the abundance of fossilized remains of giant predatory fish-lizards called ichthyosaurs (ICK-THEE-O-SAUR) found there in 1927. These ancient marine reptiles swam in an ocean that covered the area of central Nevada around 225 million years ago…give or take a million years. These carnivorous reptiles were more fish than dinosaur and ranged in size from two feet to more than 50 feet in length. The specimens found at the park are of the larger variety (Shonisaurus popularisand over 40 sets of fossilized ichthyosaurs were found in the area. Visitors can enter the excavation camp with a ranger by doing a tour and see these remains up close and personal.

What About the Park?

The park sits at an elevation of 7000 feet on the slopes of the Shoshone Mountain Range. because of its elevation, the park rarely see temperatures over 90° in the summer. When you enter the site, the first thing you see is the ghost town of the mining operation including multiple outbuildings, rusted machinery, and an old mill. There’s a lot to see in the ghost town, so take your time and check it all out. The camping area, located a few miles away at the top of one of the hills is covered in sagebrush, pinon pine and Utah Juniper that provide shade and a bit of a wind block. There’s a grill, shelter and picnic table at each of the 14 campsites. The view from some of the campsites is spectacular, and luckily we got an amazing sunset out of the deal. I made a homemade barbecue sauce and we barbecued some pork ribs on the grill as the sun set in the west.

Check out some photos from Berlin-Icthyosaur State Park!

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After a great night of sleep free from any electronics, phones, lights or noise, we awoke refreshed and decided to head out to our next destination. While looking at the map, I noticed a dirt road that led back to Hwy 50 and a quick chat with one of our campsite neighbors confirmed that the dirt road led back to civilization. We grabbed some breakfast and coffee and hit the trail. From what I saw, there were multiple offshoots from the main dirt road and we’ll definitely be back to explore the area some more. On the way out we passed pronghorn antelope, rabbits and lots of lizards sunning themselves on rocks. Astrid drove most of the way on the dirt road and she was pretty excited…as you can see by the picture below. We live for this!

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If you haven’t yet, follow J on Twitter @AmericanSahara. He might even make you a Manhattan.