Whether it’s juniper trees huddled on a ledge, or a crow and its shadow sailing on an updraft, life inside Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly must be resilient to endure and flourish in the unforgiving desert environment.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well. —Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Thoreau advised us to “Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence,” and for me that is an uncomplicated choice—I’d be following a footpath in England, in May, crossing a field of bluebells hand-in-hand with my wife.
We’ve hiked there twice so far, strolling and (often) dawdling on both the Dales Way and the Cumbria Way. They are, of course, narrow and crooked in places, but there’s a blunt ruggedness, too, and emotions ranging from exuberance to remote loneliness. And they are wonderful places to find yourself.
The Fallon Electronic Warfare Range is located in the southern part of Dixie Valley, not far as the crows fly from Middlegate, Nevada. It’s open to the public (with some understandable restrictions) because the Navy doesn’t drop real bombs there—as the name implies, it’s computerized.
On the day we visited the roads were soft following a heavy rainstorm. If we got stuck, help (if any) would be a long time coming. We had our chance the next day. I’d added GPS coordinates to my Garmin hand-held, Ulrich had photos from Google on his laptop…now all we had to do was locate our targets.
I’ll bet the Navy pilots find them easier than we did.
We stopped at two locations on the Range, and probably missed a couple more. If Nevada seems large on a map, wait until you get out and walk around. We used up most of our day at just those two spots.
Highlights for me: The emptiness. Lean, spare scenery in every direction. Lack of insects (until dusk, anyway). The quiet. And the questions that come to mind out there—who operated the equipment, and when and where did they serve? The stories they could tell.
Until early October I’m trading the tidy confines of my office-cum-spare bedroom for the expansive elbow room of the desert Southwest. If plans (and weather) hold up, my friend Ulrich Rossmann and I will experience new-to-us locations in several states, including New Mexico, which until now has always been a bit too far away.
Here’s a rocky duo from northern Arizona from 2012, and a wish that autumn arrives with gentle hands.
I search for surprise in my architecture. A work of art should cause the emotion of newness. —Oscar Niemeyer