Friday, January 21, 2011

Observations of Desert Majesty

My work contract in Nevada is coming to an end; I’ve only got 4 weeks left of a 15-week stint.  I’ve had a lot of time (traveling most weekends back to Salt Lake City ~ about 420 miles one way) to observe and make note of the natural world around me.  I wish I could have gotten my camera out to capture these images, but I’m not sure that a photo would have done them justice ~ they were just so beautiful.  My words will have to suffice.

I think of the majority of Nevada as a vast expanse of desert, dotted with rabbit- and sagebrush, interspersed with stubby alluvial mountains, and scattered with the remnants of human existence in the form of trash.  But the majesty of the natural world reveals itself once in a while.

Five images stick clearly in my mind’s eye:

Driving east out of Tonopah in Railroad Valley I looked over my shoulder at the snowcapped peaks awash in the pink penumbra of the rising sun, and noticed in the foreground a herd of wild horses feeding on the sparse desert grass.

Driving out of Wendover towards the southwest, I again looked back over my shoulder at the salt flats shimmering in the distance behind me and saw a bald eagle sitting on a large bolder 100 yards off the side of the road.  It turned its head ever so slightly as I passed.

Driving my car early in the morning, I noticed a group of birds feeding on a freshly killed animal in the middle of the road.  Several large ravens flew away, and just as I got within about 10 feet of the site, a golden eagle, with its enormous wingspan, took flight from the middle of the road right in front of my car.

I came home from the hospital in the evening and let the dogs out the back gate for a short run.  I looked up at the full moon that was lighting up the desert ground and saw the mystical glowing ring of the moon dog, which promised snow that never came.

Driving east towards Blue Lake, I looked to the side of the road on my left and saw about 500 sheep running through the sagebrush in the open range.  I slowed down to make sure none of them was going to dart out in front of me, and noticed a Great White Pyrenees dog standing watch at the side of the road.  Just his white face and chest poked out from the golden cheat grass.  He looked straight at me with his dark, sparkling eyes as I drove past and seemed to explain to me that he had a job to do and wouldn’t let anyone or anything interfere.
sunset penumbra on the BLM roads north of Tonopah, NV

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