Hawkes Bay NZ Water trail

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Thoughts on deserts

When I look at my road atlas, I see that after a day of driving west, I'm about 1/3rd of the way across Nevada's Great Basin. I've done close to 350 miles since leaving Bryce, and a photo like this, taken in the intense heat on an arrow straight road, doesn't begin to do justice to the surrounding desert. The road bisects plains of stones, tufted grasses, and occasional dry washes. It climbs up and over 7000+ foot mountain passes, and grey peaks rise in the north and the south. In some of the higher areas there are stretches of juniper trees and pinyon pines. Here and there, a dirt road heads towards a spring or a place in some distant foothill obscured by the glare of the sun. Once or twice there's a small stand of cottonwoods, marking the site of a long gone cabin.
It's hot inside the van because my a/c system is broken. Hot air blasts from the dashboard and I try to drink water frequently to keep cool. The block ice I bought in Mexican Hat 3 days ago has melted and sloshes around in the cooler. I should drain it out. I find this sort of long distance driving a bit unnerving. I can't help wondering about the prospectors and miners who ventured through these same desert basins and ranges, by horse or mule or on foot only a few generations ago. What drove them to these regions? It's hard to imagine what they expected to find, and how it felt to be alone out here.

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