A drive through the deep desert is a sensual experience. Sensual? Yes, absolutely, but not that kinda sensual! I’m talking about senses such as sight, smell, the feel of a desert breeze on your cheek, the gritty feel of a handful of sand and dirt rubbed between your fingers, the feeling from looking across a seemingly endless landscape of wild beauty.
A couple of times a year, I have an opportunity to take a nice long drive through the deep desert. One of my favorite drives is along Highway 93 between Las Vegas and Phoenix. Once out of either of those two huge cities, civilization quickly gives way to wide open spaces where wildness is a palpable thing.
One aspect of these drives that always amazes me is how big the southwest desert is. I top a rise and look out over a vast empty desert valley and realize that the entire Los Angeles area would easily fit into that one valley with room to spare (or grow). That picturesque desert valley is surrounded by ranges of rocky desert mountains and then another wide open valley begins that is even larger. Those valleys go on and on. It makes me smile.
I do not pass up the opportunity to pull over on a rise with a side road I can take a mile or so off the highway. Once away from the main road, I park, take a walk and find a rock to sit on and look out over the open spaces. That is when the sensuality of the desert enthralls me with sights of stunning vistas, sounds of winds, rustling of bushes and small critters, the feel of the breeze on my face and often the sight of a jack rabbit or coyote loping along the valley floor or adjacent canyons.
Those are moments of epiphany to me, when I realize that the deadly daily struggle those critters live with in their natural environment are just as important and meaningful as anything I deal with in my daily life.
The curving nature of desert valleys allows views of amazing distance. At sea, the view is limited by the horizon because of the downward curvature of the Earth, but desert valleys curve upward, and while some of the desert floor is lost to view due to the horizon, it comes up into view again and melds upward into distant mountains. This massive vista helps me grapple with my true stature in a natural world of such proportions.
I love those drives through the deep desert of the southwest.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.