Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell

Airplanes, Sheep & T-Shirts

Posted from Furnace Creek, Death Valley National Park at 7:00 pm, December 27th, 2019

After missing out on my annual post-Christmas road trip last year, I managed to procure a week off to embark on what Audrey calls the “man trip”. These trips are always spontaneous, and since Aaron and I wanted to get lunch together the day after Christmas, this year’s trip started in Sacramento and continued to just outside of Reno before day one came to a close. Today was day two, and things really got going:

  • I woke up at about 6:30 and made my way over to Tesla’s Gigafactory where I got a view of what will eventually be the world’s largest building.
  • From there I headed southeast and saw what I assume were wild horses up on a ridge. I have no idea how to distinguish wild horses from domestic horses, but if this was a domestic herd then they were roaming unfenced grasslands miles away from the nearest ranch.
  • A dot on the map had caught my eye when I set out – “Naval Air Station Fallon” – and after detouring to see what was there I got to watch fighter planes take off and land from just beyond the end of the runway. Since it makes perfect sense that a naval air station would be located next to 5,000 year old petroglyphs I also got to see prehistoric rock art in between fighter launches.
  • Continuing south along rural Nevada 95, I hit Walker Lake, the remnants of 8,500 square mile prehistoric Lake Lahontan. It was at this point that a herd of desert bighorn sheep showed up near the road, so the next hour was spent making their acquaintance.
  • Just south of the lake was the massive Hawthorne Army Depot – apparently the world’s largest ammo depot. There were literally miles of bunkers across the valley floor.
  • By this point it was only noon. It was inevitable that the day would slow a bit, and most of the remainder was spent meandering south through old mining towns that littered the wide open expanses of Nevada. I passed a herd of what I assume were wild burros at one point, and arrived near sunset at Death Valley.
  • After arriving at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to buy a new park pass I saw a kid standing outside with a shirt that read “I paused my video game to be here”; it’s unclear if he was just a cool kid or if he has parents with an awesome sense of humor.
  • Sadly a storm came through Death Valley yesterday and made many of the more interesting roads impassable, so instead of spending the night alone up on a ridge under the stars, I’m in a campground sharing this incredible view of the Milky Way with a hundred other folks who I can only hope will recognize that quiet hours start at 9.
Desert Bighorn near Walker Lake, Nevada
As always seems to happen with bighorn, I was looking at every tiny detail in the high cliffs on the west side of the road when a herd popped up ten feet from the eastern side of the highway.

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