….the Great Basin is a recent development in the geologic story of the West…. [Eocene] Nevada was a lot higher than it is today…. Elevate Nevada into a rugged plateau more than two miles high, much like the Altiplano of the central Andes today, and you have an image of the Nevadaplano — a highland region that dominated Nevada before it collapsed like a punctured soufflé to make the Great Basin…. Visualize snowfields between the rugged peaks. Meltwaters seep across the landscape…. The Sierra Nevada today lies about where the western flank of the Nevadaplano once sloped toward the Pacific Ocean. In effect, the Sierra is what remains of the Nevadaplano’s western edge. The rest of the Nevadaplano was destroyed by the stretching and collapse of the crust that made the Great Basin.
–Keith Heyer Meldahl, Rough-Hewn Land: A Geologic Journey from California to the Rocky Mountains
It may be lower, more broken and dryer these days, but during chilly winter twilight, the ghosts of the Nevadaplano still seem to haunt the empty volcanic expanses, high sage hills, and distant snow-dusted peaks.
Looking back at my Favorites of 2012 post and my goals for the coming year, I can’t help but reflect that 2013 did not go at all according to plan. I shot very little in my beloved New Mexico, I did not make it to Idaho or the northern Rockies, and I generally got out shooting less than I had hoped. But the year’s twists and turns easily made up for these unrealized plans and brought opportunities I never would have hoped for last January. One unexpected pleasure was two trips with fellow photographer Greg Russell, the first to Cape Solitude in the Grand Canyon and the second in California’s White Mountains. A family trip to Zion and a wonderful visit to the Columbia River Gorge in spring were also great fun, and yielded some decent images as a bonus. But the biggest and most wonderful surprise was my move to the western Great Basin. My home terrain in Deep Springs Valley will keep me occupied for quite a while all by itself, and the great mountain-studded emptiness of Nevada lies just down the road, country that has long called to me but which does not offer up it’s secrets lightly. After 2013′s abrupt education in the speed with which life and plans can change, my ambition for the coming year is to take every advantage of my surroundings. Deep Springs Valley is beautiful every day, the Death Valley backcountry lies just over the ridge out my window, the Eastern Sierra offers constant temptation, and the endless basins and ranges beckon to the east. Meanwhile, here are my personal favorites of the last twelve months.
Evening light in the Little Colorado Gorge, Grand Canyon National Park:
Stone, sun and shadow, Zion National Park:
Lycosa spider, Gila Wilderness, New Mexico:
Sunbeams and Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon:
Evening light over Deep Springs Lake, California:
Black toad (Bufo exsul), Deep Springs Lake, California:
Autumn in North Twin Canyon, Arc Dome Wilderness, Nevada:
Twilight beams over Toiyabe and Toquima ranges, Nevada:
Fall aspens and cloud shadows, Arc Dome Wilderness, Nevada:
October snow and lake of fog, Deep Springs Valley, California:
Snowstorm, Deep Springs Valley, California:
Dawn light on the badlands of Esmeralda County, Nevada:
Here’s a glimpse of shots that didn’t quite make the cut (please enlarge!):
And one final shot to round things out with something new – I haven’t lived with this one long enough to decide whether I truly like it, but it’s certainly my last quality shot of the year, from a December trip to the Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park:
As I did last year, here’s a collection of shots of my son Eli for friends, family and well-wishers:
We may have entered calendar winter only a few days ago, but the season made its first appearance back in October. A storm whitened the Inyos and the high Sierra to our west overnight, and as it lifted in the clear morning it left a lake of fog over the low end of Deep Springs Valley. The fog lingered surprisingly long, creating a gorgeous play of white and gold light as the sun penetrated the valley and brightened the big peaks of the Palisades 9,000 feet above.
A wide view:
The smoothness of the snow and fog were especially beautiful in contrast to the rough geology of the valley’s southwest end, with Mount Pinchot high above.
We won’t be seeing any fresh snow for a while, but the winter mood lingers on with cold nights, logs burning in the fireplace, and our little single-leaf pinyon pine hung with lights and ornaments. Merry Christmas!
Esmeralda County, right across the state line from me, is Nevada’s least populated, with fewer than 800 residents, and the second-lowest population density in the Lower 48 states. To most people, even to many fans of Nevada and outdoor enthusiasts, it’s a blank space on the map. It has no National Parks or Monuments, no State Parks, only a couple settlements that qualify as towns even by Nevada’s loose standards, not even much history except for tales of hardscrabble mining, and almost no surface water. There’s really nothing much over there, except for Nevada’s highest mountain, Boundary Peak, and 3,600 empty square miles of absolutely gorgeous mountains, valleys and badlands.
In other words, it’s the kind of place I like.
There’s an awful lot to explore out here, and I’ve got a big mental list of places I need to revisit in good light. The massive bulk of the White Mountains is a constant presence to the west.