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[personal profile] ragdoll13
So, in seven days, we drove around 1,250 miles. We started in Vegas and ended up in Vegas. Here's a partial list of places we visited:

Las Vegas, NV
Valley of Fire State Park, NV
Overton, NV
Fredonia, AZ
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, UT
Kanab, UT
Jacob Lake, AZ
Zion National Park, UT
Rockville, UT
Springdale, UT
Grafton, UT
Page, AZ
Navajo Indian Reservation
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Valle, AZ
Williams, AZ
Seligman, AZ
Hualapai Indian Reservation
Peach Springs, AZ
Truxton, AZ
Kingman, AZ
Oatman, AZ
Golden Shores, AZ
Needles, CA
Laughlin, NV
Bullhead City, NV
Lake Meade National Recreation Area, NV
Hoover Dam

The variety of landscapes that we saw is mindblowing to me. We saw basins of white earth dotted with scrub, and dunes of pink sand, and red rocky escarpments, grey lunar landscapes and vast tan valleys. We saw pine forests and sage brush pastures. We saw snowy mountains and windswept plateaus. And the differences were much more stark than the difference between the deciduous forests of the pacific coast and the coniferous forests of our mountains. Every corner we turned in our trip revealed a new and marvelous vista. The desert changed from moment to moment, and every ridge and mountain hemmed in a microcosm subtly different from those neighboring it. The plants changed, the rocks changed, the sand changed. Shadows changed deliciously with each degree of the sun's movement across the sky.

The natural history contained in the desert is astonishing. The lack of moisture and the reduced amount of plant life prevent erosion and riverbeds and windblown sand encourage erosion in such a perfect way to preserve and also expose parts of our world that existed billions of years ago.

Because life is so much sparser there, every living thing in the desert seemed so much more precious and individual to me, from the lizards and ravens and doves and vultures to the tiny flowers and beaver tail cactus and brushy little plants. Every tiny thing makes you marvel at life's ability to push on no matter the obstacle.

The desert is a place of great disparity of wealth, and that may be because the resources that the desert holds require great energy to harvest. The nutrients in the soil are nigh impossible for us to access, since we cannot digest the tough little plants, and the soil in many places is scoured to the bedrock by periodic windstorms. If you have a patch of soil that is stable and contains sufficient organic material to grow crop plants, a great investment in irrigation must be made. The desert's other resources (as far as I could tell on casual observation) include energy and minerals, both of which require a significant initial investment to procure, whether in the form of solar panels, wind farms, or vast mining operations.

The desert is dry. I know it seems like it would go without saying, but I was astonished by the dryness. The sun wrings the moisture from your body as sweat; the wind tears it straight from your skin; the air itself steals it from your oral and nasal tissues with each breath. I woke up every morning unable to swallow without a mouthful of water, my throat was so dry, and my skin has not yet recovered.
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April 2009

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