Musings of a roaming nature nerd

Archive for July, 2011

Thoughts in flight

Flying 39,000 feet above the earth, encapsulated in metal and artificially pressurized air, feels as unnatural as it gets. Yet flight somehow also brings us closer to the earth we soar above. My dear, longtime friend has spent many years as a pilot. He speaks of mind-blowing sunsets above the ever changing horizon; the immensity and the absolute smallness of our world as cities become fields and fields become forests in mere seconds.

Of course flying is not the most environmentally friendly form of travel and it also sadly shows us just how far we’ve encroached on ourselves. Rarely does a minute go by without a light, a building, a road somewhere in view. Our cities sprawl endlessly into each other in ways we can’t conceive of from the ground. Flight reveals a perspective on the earth that is heartbreaking, but also miraculously beautiful and unlike any other on earth.

I’ll avoid the endless cliches of humanity’s intrigue with flight, our timeless envy of those with wings as they fly and see what we can not. But I will admit to my own fascination and rediscovered connection with nature while in flight. A river flows from its mountain headwaters to a hazy disappearance at horizon’s edge. A snowy pine forest is illuminated by the light of a full moon. A colorful mosaic of fall foliage blankets the hills. Delicate ice crystals form from high altitude vapors on a cold dark window. With every ascent toward the clouds I feel that I have been given the chance to see the world again for the first time. The experience is like no other. Put down the magazine, turn off the ipod, peer out toward the closest window and think about the contradictions of the beauty and the sprawl, the finite boundlessness of the only world we have.

The Santa Rosas

A few weeks of work, travel and fun has prevented a proper update, but I’d like to slowly start sharing some experiences again. From the mountains of Nevada to the redwoods of California to the wonderful and welcoming log home of dear friends in Utah, we have seen an amazing stretch of the country in recent days. This little update is just the beginning of the next set of naturalist musings.

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The Nevada Experience

Several years ago I told Jason that although seeing and learning about a new landscape or the culture of a unfamiliar society often impressed me and brought me great enjoyment, I was rarely surprised by anything anymore. That is not to say I’d seen or done it all- not by a long shot! But that I’d seen just enough of the country and certain parts of the world that I did not necessarily get that wonderful feeling of surprise, of really being blown away by what I was experiencing.

Exploring Nevada brings that feeling of surprise, of awe, of pure pleasure flooding back again! Mountain range after mountain range after mountain range cuts across the landscape. The world in between, filled with sagebrush and aspen communities, pinyon-juniper forests, tiny cowboy towns, rough dirt roads, cattle and horses, birds, bugs, rocks and creeks is not so different on a superficial level from other places in the west. But the sheer expansive remoteness, the endless sky, the layers of mountains somehow provides a new sense of wonder for me. In the past few weeks, we have gone for days without seeing another person, hearing a car or a plane. I didn’t think places like this existed in the lower 48 anymore. More appropriate words escape me, so for now I’ll share these photos as a continuation of the story...

A valley on the California/ Nevada border just north of Yosemite


Antelope Valley




Fossil found in the Fish Creek Range




Favorite campsite of the week


Egan and Cherry Creek Ranges


Wild Iris in the Steptoe Valley


Ruby Mountains


Northern Nevada


Western Nevada sunrise