Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Monday, January 16, 2006

So How Did SobekPundit Celebrate the Life and Accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr?

By thinking about the history and present status of race-relations in America.

Oh, and also by going on another mountain-climbing/site-seeing trip with kidd-o. I have a Rand-McNally map of Nevada, which indicates Cathedral Canyon as a point of interest in western Clark County. However, owing to conflicts between Mr. McNally, Google Maps, and reality, instead of finding Cathedral Canyon, I got pleasantly lost, and accidentally spent most of the day photographing California, without even realizing what state I was in. You'll see what I mean when I say "pleasantly lost."

Nevada has more than its fair share of nothing, but it's beautiful nothing. Or rather, it looks like a lot of wasteland when you're flying by at 120 carefully driving slightly under the legal speed limit, but when you stop the car for a picture or two, you notice a lot more detail.

Here's a couple happy residents of middle-of-nowhere Nevada. Seriously, I've never taken a picture that can really convey how far from civilization I was at this point. Once I turned my back on the two-lane highway, there was nothing but scrub brush, yuccas, ghostly mountains and hidden animals as far as the eye can see. And I assure you, the eye can see a very, very long way.

The vast valleys of southern Nevada are bordered by jagged mountains that rise up from oceans of dust. The air turns the solid mountains into haunted wraiths unless you're right up next to them.

I carried kidd-o up another mountain. Actually, I did much less carrying this time. He is increadibly independent, and insisted on climbing as much as possible. He did a pretty good job, for a three-year-old, although I held his hands the whole time, and occasionally lifted him over prickly bushes when he walked into a corner. This is a view to the west.

Kidd-o posing for a shot to the north. If I hadn't been carrying him, and if I had all day instead of a few hours, I would love to have climbed those mountains in the background and just walked all along the ridge at the top.

From the summit, looking west. Someone built a pile of stones at the top, and kidd-o thought that was pretty cool. That road is Old Spanish Trail Highway, between Nevada and California. When I took the picture, I thought I was still in Nevada. The border, it turns out, is only marked from the California side. I guess Nevada is too cheap to let drivers know when they're leaving. I like this pic because the road gives some sense of perspective about how massive the valley is.

For me, there are few more impressive things in this life than standing on top of a mountain, breathing the cold, pure air, taking in the vast sense of perspective that altitude gives. I took the opportunity to point out the mountains, the rocks, the sky, and the plants to kidd-o, and asked him "Who made all these things?" He enthusiastically answered "Jesus!" "That's right," I told him, "He made all this just for you, because he loves you."

He was even more enthusiastic about climbing down than up. He doesn't yet realize that going down a hill is easier than going up, but that going down safely is harder than going up safely.

The flat rock at the bottom of the pic is igneous. All the way up the mountain, I noticed these huge black-grey slabs of rock with the characteristic bubbles, and I wondered whether there was actually volcanic activity in Nevada (or California, as the case may be). On the way down, we followed a long, winding furrow that was lined with massive slabs of igneous rocks, as though it had flowed down in the extremely distant past. So now I think kidd-o and I climbed a volcano today.

Another shot climbing down the ravine. The slabs of lava rock were roughly-textured for grip, and were almost like stairs, making things much easier on me than I had hoped.

When kidd-o smiles spontaneously, it's the most adorable thing ever. When I ask him to smile for a picture, I get something like this. Oh well, there's one close-up for the benefit of my parents, who are probably more interested in their grandkid than in the scenery.

We found a cave on the way down, with a little hole opposite the main entrance.

After climbing the mountain, we continued our westward trek into California. We came into another massive valley, miles across and so long I couldn't see the end of it. The road I was on ran along the northern edge of the valley for a long time, then cut right through a winding pass. In the meantime, I could see off in the distance, on the southern end of the valley, something I couldn't quite make out. You can see it on the right side of this picture.

Anyway, there were no signs, and it didn't look like a paved road led to whatever it was, so at first I ignored it. But maybe twenty minutes later, after I finally convinced myself that I was in California instead of Nevada, and after I turned around and came back to that winding mountain pass, I again saw that strange white thing. It looked like a man-made complex of buildings or something, like a secret base run by a mad scientist. The effect was enhanced by the apparent inaccessibility of the thing. But there was a dirt road that led generally south through the valley, so I decided that, as I was already lost, and not really trying to reach any particular destination, I would follow the dirt road and see if I couldn't get a little closer.

So I took the dirt road, which after going south for less than a mile, cut to the right and went down the middle of the valley. This was more or less the right direction, so I thought maybe I'd solve the mystery.

Then the road forked. I took the southerly one, thinking that was more likely. But it turns out it wound around and took me back towards the eastern end of the valley, before looping around the mountain range. I never figured out where that road went, either, because the dirt road turned into gravel, and the gravel turned into large stones, and the large stones turned into me wondering whether I was on a path or not.

At that point, it was late, my wife was probably wondering where I was, I feared for my car (especially the tires), and I was obviously not getting any closer to the mysterious white things. So I turned around and headed back to the pavement, eventually back to civilization. I snapped a couple of pics on the way out, so that I could blow them up and try to see what the white things were. It looks like they are huge piles of white dirt supporting a winding road, but a road to what? And why haul all that dirt out there to build a road, with no signs anywhere to say where the road leads? That's something I'll have to wonder about for months, now, if not longer.

I thought our adventures were over, but there was one more surprise in store for us. We had been back on pavement again for a while. Suddenly I saw this massive bird in the middle of the road, about the same time the bird saw me. It lifted off, trying to carry its recently-slaughtered dinner, then decided it wasn't worth trying to race me with its prey. It dropped the bloody wreckage and flew to the top of a utility pole.

I pulled up near the thing, which turned out to be most of a rabbit. No, I didn't take any pictures of it. And no, kidd-o couldn't see it from his car seat. I sat there for a few moments, hoping the predator would come back for its food so I could snap a close-up picture, but it looked a lot more patient than I felt. I drove a little closer, got this shot, and then it flew back to the carcass (in the interim, a more enterprising crow had spotted the abandoned rabbit and staked its claim.

I don't know anything about birds, so I don't know what kind this is. But when it again took flight, it was absolutely magnificent. A perfect end to a perfect day, lost in the middle of nowhere with my boy, a camera, and as many hours as I cared to spend.