Ash Vortex

Fires in the dry, brush-filled country of the American West can be a serious problem. Driving along the Interstate, we saw the ash-carpeted remains of one. The wind whipped the fine particles into a vertical column at the crest of this hill.

Ash Vortex

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Western Landscape I & II

Working through processing my back-catalog of sabbatical photos, I’ve finally come to the end of those I took in California. My semester of science and good food had come to an end, and now we drove back across the continent. The drive in December meant lots of snow-covered deserts and hillsides; summer was a bit different.

Western Landscape I

The human-made structures are as insignificant as you’d expect in the face of the great, empty American West.

Western Landscape II

Water in the Desert

From the Interstate across Nevada, the desert landscape astonishes me with its variety. Far from being a boring wasteland, the expanses of waving grasses, shrubs, shallow water, and rock hills provide a spectacular mixture. Even when I know the biology and ecology behind it, my east-coast-calibrated brain still can’t quite grasp that all of this water doesn’t equal trees.

Water in the Desert

Curves Into the Distance

Crossing the American West last winter, I was struck by the profound changes to the landscape affected by large-scale infrastructure programs. Rural electrification resulted in an expectation of electrical availability, and power lines now stretch to the horizon.

Sunset Lines

In much the same way, lines of Interstate highway curve off to the distance, twinned East and West streams.

Twins, East and West

Trucks in Their Respective Expanses

Hundreds of miles apart from each other, I happened upon these two images of vehicles, paired with their owners, otherwise alone in an expanse of western America. On a clear day, the yellow pickup in the image below is almost lost in the brush.

Truck in the Expanse

By comparison, this Nevadan Jeep stands out amid the dusting of snow and descending clouds. Even its driver is farther away. The setting is so perfect that it might as well be a Wrangler advertisement.

Jeep + Snow