Four Billion Years | The reds, oranges and greens of the Great Basin

The reds, oranges and greens of the Great Basin

July 23, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

The word "Nevada" tends to evoke images of unending deserts, tumbleweed blowing in the wind, secret military installations and casinos. There is some of all of these in Nevada. In my experience, however, few people have a clear idea of what the Great Basin really looks like. The Great Basin also includes a good piece of western Utah, and some corners of California, Oregon and Idaho, but, for me, the heart of the Great Basin is Nevada. And it is a landscape that I love very dearly. I never tire of driving those roads that, when you get to the top of a range, show you the next twenty miles of road, crossing the valley and going up the next range. I never tire of smelling the sagebrush. And I will always love my hikes in Great Basin National Park. I am less enthusiastic about much of the human population of the Great Basin. I cannot help it. I only feel contempt for guys in cowboy boots and hats, driving big pickup trucks with gun racks and hauling horse trailers. No matter what they think, they don't belong in a landscape as beautiful as this one, and they don't own it. But that is another story, better left for some other time. Here I want to celebrate the Great Basin, and not waste time with its human defilers. They will be gone one day, and nature will remain.

When Great Basin National Park was established in the mid 1980's it was apparently possible to preserve only a small portion of the higher elevations of the Snake Range, in Eastern Nevada. It would have been better to include much of the lower elevation surrounding valleys as well, but there are humans who claim property rights over those areas. I am not opposed to private property, but I do think that it is a right that should be subordinate to the the needs of nature preservation, and that in a situation such as this one the ranchers occupying the valleys around the Snake Range should have been kicked out, so as to make a National Park that preserves the full spectrum of landscapes and life zones that the Great Basin is capable of. But that is not going to happen and, in any case, here I am again, fuming rather than celebrating. So let's celebrate. 

There are times when you can feel that you have Great Basin National Park all to yourself. Autumn is one of those times. The colors are everywhere, and the landscape changes almost from hour to hour, as the clouds, the rain and the sleet move in and out. It is a time when peaceful sunsets and stormy ones alternate with no obvious plan. When you can follow the aspen leaves as they cover the banks of Baker Creek or as they collect sleet along the trails, that melts to form millions of miniature magnifying glasses. If you have never been to Great Basin National Park, or if you have visited only during the summer when nature is less interesting and the human presence is an ever present stain, you are missing on a well-kept secret. Go, visit, enjoy, but don't tell other people.....  




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Photos, commentary and opinions by  Alberto Patiño Douce

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