Sunday, September 30, 2012

Nevadan Sprawl

September 19

A thin orange glow above the Lahontan Dam greeted me as I returned to the trail.  A fox glanced in my direction before vanishing on more urgent business.  Dad drove off with the trunk open and flapping in the wind.  I chuckled, knowing today would be a better day.

The success of the Carson and Truckee Irrigation Project meant I would not see the normal sagebrush stage show.  Sure they were there, and the land was still quite barren, but instead of a valley with one ranch I was confronted by a string of communities.  From the time I crossed over the city limits of Silver Springs there was always a neighborhood or business in sight.
Silver Springs, Stagecoach, Dayton, and Carson City all lie in the next forty eight miles of U.S. 50.  Contrast that with where I have been: Ely, Eureka, Austin, and Fallon were the previous four settlements of more than two hundred souls - and they are spread out across three hundred miles!  There is no more room to swing those elbows around, unless you want to hurt your funny bone. 
Before the waters came this land was equally empty.  A blip on the map known as Desert Wells was the lone stop for dusty travelers.  How difficult was the terrain in those years?  One well was set aside for camels, the only beast of burden sturdy enough to regularly survive the perils of Nevada. 
I finished this afternoon at Stagecoach.  I've now walked more miles than all of last year, with an entire state left to go.  I laugh when I see the total number, the figure has risen to become completely absurd, meaningless, an abstraction. 

20 miles/3730 total miles

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