Saturday, August 15, 2015

Footsteps III

Continued from preceding post)

The rocky gorge of the Walker River. (Photo by Tom Baugh)
Early that morning, we had driven east in the general direction of the alkali flats and salt pans of Carson Sink. In the days of the 49 er's the Carson River would have flowed down from the Sierra Nevada Range, through the Carson Valley, to spread out before vanishing in the Sink. Migrants moving west toward the lure of California gold would have passed through this area as rapidly as possible.   Our route took us west of the Sink and then south where we crossed the thin riparian band of the stream as it donates some of the last of its water to irrigate alfalfa fields adjacent to the river. A recent but rare rain have raised the level of the river by a few inches but just enough to encourage carp to spawn in the newly flooded shallows.  A while later we passed through the rocky gorge of the Walker River, another stream that brings life to this otherwise arid land and that literally gave life to thirsty immigrants and their livestock.    With the except of our final goal and an occasional almost dry irrigation ditch, we encountered little if any water. One final turn south and another hour brought us to our goal as emerald-green meadows opened in small valleys through which the desert road passed.
The Carson River after a rare rain. (Photo by Tom Baugh)

It was a strange experience to stand in what was, otherwise, such a dry place and to watch and feel cool water, ever so slowly, seep up around and into our shoes.  It seemed so counter-intuitive. After all, one has only to raise one’s eyes a degree or two above the level of the shallow basin to encounter baked sand and rock the silver-grey woody parts of sagebrush and the gnarled bark of short, seemingly stunted pinyon.  Surely, there are two worlds here, two separate realities, the one of the meadow and the one of the desert slopes. After a day wandering the wet meadows and the nearby sagebrush and pinyon-covered hills, with cameras filled with images and tablets with notes, we made the return trip to the Carson City area. Not all of the images of those emerald green meadows set among the pinyon clothed hills were in our cameras. That is the kind of experience it is hard to forget. But why should one want to?

(Final post in this series)  

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