Great 48: Clamoring through the Southwest

We were fully out of the upper West, out of high meadows and glaciers. Now we careened through vast, arid, and silent places in the Southwest's great interconnected desert, over-stretched and thin like dough, punctured with oases of casinos, developments, reservations, or small, blisteringly-bright truck stops. Nevada pre-empted the high, lush, and egregious Whitney, but it wholly belonged with our experience of its nearby desert states. 

We approached Nevada's Boundary Peak not 8 hours before we had to be present for a Whitney Day Permit lottery a good 2 hours away in Lone Pine. We coaxed our minivan's road tires as far as we could up the old mining road, finally setting Josh and Lindsay loose a full mile and half down the road from the trailhead. Dave and I set to turning the van around on the thin mountain-side dirt road. My hatchet and our small shovel (both last minute additions to our outfit), hacked a small turnaround through tough and dry undergrowth. 

30 minutes of hacking and an 18-point turn accomplished our task. We settled in for four hours of sleep before Josh and Lindsay returned. 

We woke to dawn light, tapping on the window, and a low tire-pressure warning flashing on the dash. We had one completely flat tire, fully punctured through. 

With our deadline in mind, we all moved quickly past any emotional frustration or outburst and got the tire changed in a quick 15 minutes. Any one of us could have quickly scuttled the morning with an outburst of frustration, and thankfully, none of our under-slept, over-driven, over-hiked bodies opened that door. 

We pulled into the Lone Pine Ranger station at 7:55, just in time for the permit lottery. 

Through that feverish drive to Lone Pine, I thought about the massive hubbub we must have been on that quiet desert mountainside. Surely not even violent thunderstorms were as explosive, bright, and clamoring as our minivan, high-beams, headlamps, hatchet, and shovel. Did the small and terrified creatures that we didn't see ever witness anything louder than that? That their small memories could recollect, at least?

What did our terrible caravan miss because we blistered our way up and down that mine road? Surely our white-hot-bright meteor's trajectory up that mountain obscured more than it illuminated. I wondered how long it took for the small things to crawl back out; how long it took for our meteor's tail to fade and our echoes to run their full reverberating course. How long did that mountain bounce ESPN radio, our voices, and hatchet-butt-on-tire-iron around its rocks?

I'd love to float silent over our wake and watch things settle again, to see how loudly a mountain lion—a locust—a thunderstorm—runs over that mountain. Just to see.