My happy place lies in the heart of the Red Desert. It’s a seemingly barren wasteland that stretches across south-central Wyoming. The largest geologic feature is Great Divide Basin, the only place where the continental divide splits in two and the scant amount of water that lands in the basin evaporates before ever finding its way to a river. It’s a lonely place, largely inaccessible by vehicle. Millions of people whiz by it on the freeway, never dreaming of the wonders hidden behind the sagebrush. It’s a place for wandering (trails are almost non-existant) and for being alone, truly alone. There isn’t a speck of civilization for 50 miles. Once the yips and howls of the coyotes die down for the night, it is utterly silent. It’s a place to recharge your soul.
The days are blistering hot and the wind blows constantly and hard enough to knock you off your path. The nights are calm and frigid. There are rattlesnakes everywhere you step. There isn’t a drop of drinkable water. The bentonite soil and large patches of quicksand make driving around hazardous in dry conditions and impossible if there is rain. It’s my patch of heaven. I spend the days hiking down arroyos and over sagebrush covered dunes. I explore the maze of canyons and wander through valleys of goblins and hoodoos.
Life overcomes adversity here. Hardy desert flowers bloom in dry alkaline soil. Pronghorns and feral horses thrive on tough grasses and bad water. Raptors circle endless miles of barren land for a meal. The coyotes are legion. At night you can see more stars than you can imagine and peer into the depths of the universe. On a moonless night, you can see the Milky Way stretching across the sky. It’s my happy place. It’s tough to come home…