Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Footsteps I

Much of Nevada can be a harsh and difficult land. (Photo by Tom Baugh)
I recently traveled to the western edge of the Great Basin in the US State of Nevada. In almost all ways this is a very big and mostly very lonely land. Except for major cities such as Reno in the northwest and Las Vegas far to the south, most other communities are relatively small and compact as if gathered-in against the immensity of the surrounding sagebrush and sand that dominates much of the area. On the west, the peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range pierce the frequently blue skies...skies broken by the highest peaks and only occasional contrails of very high-flying military and civilian jets. These mountains block what little rain Nevada receives from the Pacific Ocean in this time of increasingly severe drought in the western United States.  Author Mary Austin once referred to the area south of the site I was visiting as the 'land of little rain' and, mostly, that is the case for much of the Great Basin and the other desert regions east of California. The earth in these places range from a sandy yellow brown, to beige, to alkali white. The vegetation the dark green of Pinyon and blue-grey of sagebrush. Although these colors and tones are the general rule they are not exclusive.
Wheeler Peak, Nevada. (Photo by Tom Baugh)

Cemeteries and mine tailing dumps remind us of early Virginia City, Nevada. (Photo by Tom Baugh)
It was the exception to the desert tones and hues that had brought my son Kevin and I to this site in the shadow of Wheeler Peak. South of the Nevada state capitol at Carson City, the interstate highways spawned smaller two lane ribbons of asphalt leading to communities such as Smith and Yerington and,  old mining camps such as Aurora and, further south Bodie. Occasionally, we would pass bluish metal markers noting the historical significance of a particular site. There are a number of these historical site markers in Nevada, especially western Nevada, because a lot of history took place here.  The 49 ‘ers crossed these lands before ascending the steep and rugged eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada range in search of the gold in California only to make the return trip in 1859 to establish the mineral-rich mines of Gold Hill, Silver City, and the queen of them all, Virginia City in Nevada’s Comstock Lode. 

Several of us have formed a study group to address Environmental Aesthetics. For those who are interested, please  contact me at springmountain1@att.net.

(Continued in next post)