The Things I’ll Miss: Ode to the High Desert of Northern Nevada

The Things I'll Miss: Ode to the High Desert of Northern Nevada
The things I’ll miss: Ode to the High Desert of Northern Nevada (photo Kristin Meyers)

The things I’ll miss

constitute a very long list. So I will share only the top few. The items on my list of the things I’ll miss competed with one another for top priority as the boys (Shadow and Seymour) and I hiked to the top of Pipeline for what may be the last time. Given that the home inspections next week reveal no awful stuff, we will leave our sacred place to buyers who will take over 36 Grant Drive, Wellington, Nevada in just under a month.

It was eighteen years ago that we moved here.

Eighteen Years!!!

Really?

Yep, July of 2002.

The high desert is not to everyone’s liking. It is, after all, high (mountainous) desert, therefore stark…some might say ugly. The vegetation only slightly resembles recognizable plants. Built to withstand drought, they are prickly, scrubby, close to dead…until the rains come. And then everything changes. The air is suffused with the pungent fragrance of sage, pine and rain.

Life.

While living in Texas, I met and fell in love with the high desert of Big Bend. I spent many weekends at my friend Mary’s adobe house close to Fort Davis in West Texas. Those days were healing-a startling contrast to my crazily busy days in Houston working on my doctorate while working full-time.

That very starkness and silence of the desert called to me with its uniquely resilient beauty. Like a balm for my soul. And too, the creatures of the land earned my respect…their message is clear: “leave us alone and we’ll do the same.”

Moving here- in a peculiar way, felt like returning home.

In no particular order, here is just a partial list of the things I will miss:

  • The big skies, the clouds and the winds.

Kristin Myers’ stunning photographs shown at the beginning of this piece and below were taken last year (February 2019) during a week of successive storms. Those saucer-like clouds are seen only in a few other places in the world where the confluence of mountainous topography, and massive ocean winds produce uniquely turbulent atmospheres.

Kristin has captured the power, majesty and yes…awe… inherent in these high desert winds surging through one of the most mountainous states in the country.

  • The hikes

The trail is called “Pipeline” because of the directed mountain stream from melting snow packs and aquifers alongside the trail. Not as majestic as the Sweetwaters but great exercise for the dogs and me as we ascend a trail on which most folks ride their ATV’s. (photos of the trail are pictured on day three of Jon Crowley’s embedded post.)

High Sierra Winds-Lin Wilder

Early this past Friday morning, I decided to take us all to the top. The climb takes a little over two hours up and back down. It’s a challenging hike, continually ascending with a grade of twenty to at times, over thirty-five percent. My hike was complicated by recent torrential rains which created arroyos and dropped a carpet of good sized rocks in the dirt path which we take up the side of the mountain. The depth of the gulleys ranges from a few inches to more than a foot. Creating a tricky ascent and even dicier descent.

The photo below shows the path in its usual shape. Picture all those rocks on the side piled up along with a number of friends along a path which is no longer easily traversed by vehicles. And then add in large gouges, arroyos throughout and you’ve got it.

As we climbed Friday morning, I recalled the countless previous hikes through the years, always with Shadow (now about seventeen) and one of the two Dobermans now gone who once graced our life. And now Seymour. The climbs are meditative, almost always…sometimes showering inspiration about a new character in one of my novels or just a surprising Aha.

I thought of all that the citizens of this dry, sometimes forbidding land have taught me.

The shy rattlers who only strike when we aren’t paying attention and threaten them. Therefore, learning always to listen and watch where we step, for there may be a snake either warming up in the path or heading for water. Since the color of their skin merges with the gravel on the path, we have have come uncomfortably close on more than one occasion.

As we climb nearer to the top, the quiet thickens and transforms into profound silence. Even the cries of the birds are arrested.

All three of us know we’re trespassers. This is the land of mountain lions, bear and coyotes. We don’t see or hear them but are confident that they are aware of us. We stay a couple of minutes, scanning the valley below and then head back down.

  • Our ‘sacred space’ miraculously transforming desert into an oasis of peace.

When we moved here, there were three trees, the rest sage, peach and rabbit brush. The trees were barely hanging on to life because the house had been empty for over a year and trees and they had no water. But little by little, with the help of two gifted men and their associates,the transformation occurred into this sacred space. It sits very high on the list of the things I’ll miss.

Before we left the east coast, a good friend gave me a book called, Creating a Sacred Space. It’s a phrase I wasn’t familiar with, but has stayed in my mind and heart. Today, few can enter through the white picket gate and be untouched by the serenity of the fountains, trees and flowers.

Now that the countdown on our time here has begun, I think of a principle I learned to love many years ago: Stewardship. I am ever so grateful that John and I have had the energy, resources and desire to be such good stewards of this piece of land in the high desert of northern Nevada.

I am curious to see what next awaits us in this ever changing life. And feel confident that a new sacred space awaits on the central coast of California.

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