Monday, July 19, 2010

Pyramid Lake III

Last week Kelly was in Wisconsin visiting her sister so I had a few days to pal around with Ash and Tom. I’d been up to Pyramid Lake a few times but never really made it that far up the east side, which is where the big pyramid lives.

I had some reservations about taking our two chicos truck-camping up a remote desert road in July, but figured if those poor slobs hauled a cannon out there with horses, we could probably manage well enough. Considering the engine overheated 10 or so miles in on the dirt road, and that we had to change a flat, and that Tom went tumbling over the tailgate at one point, and that both kids got acquainted with all kinds of nettles and spider bites, they were eminently good little sports.

related: where do mummies come from? & HWY 50

Pyramid Lake II

A lot of northern Nevada drains into this desert terminus called Pyramid Lake, about an hour north of Reno. The best description I can offer is something between the more arid side of Bear Lake and a miniature, less saline Sea of Cortez. What I mean is it’s phenomenally stark and beautiful. A long cerulean blue mirage that actually is water.

Here’s a photo a friend took up there last year.

Also, if you bought one of those new apple ipads you’ve got a sleeker and slightly doctored (check the exaggerated symmetry in the widescreen version) picture of the place at dusk, probably overlaid with a few desktop icons. All of this has left me wondering about our use of pretty pictures as wallpaper and pegboard for our digital carkeys, frypans, monkeyspanners, and hacksaws, along with all the psychological corollaries, subliminal or explicit, profound or superficial.

For example, how does the act of clicking and dragging my ehowitzer or other tacky virtual furniture across a flat, odorless, digital expanse like this effect my connection with or understanding of an actual desert lake at dusk, or an actual sunflower at close range, or, if you like, puppies, or Sting, or the plastic-silicone-heavy-metal-device itself? Or does this just look like a lot of handwringing and hoodia about ecoporn, commodification, and turning somewheres into nowheres? Maybe try putting your coat rack in front of your bay window, or spreading your T.V., roadmaps, walkman, mailbox and “recycle bin” out on the beach, and then post a report.

Pyramid Lake I

We followed again a broad Indian trail along the shore of the lake to the southward. For a short pace we had room enough in the bottom; but after traveling a short distance, the water swept the foot of precipitous mountains, the peaks of which are about three thousand feet above the lake. The trail wound along the base of these precipices, against which the water dashed below, by a way nearly impracticable for the howitzer.

Having advanced only about twelve miles, we encamped in a bottom formed by a ravine, covered with good grass, which was fresh and green. We did not get the howitzer into camp, but were obliged to leave it on the rocks until morning. We saw several flocks of sheep, but did not succeed in killing any.

The next morning the snow was rapidly melting under a warm sun. Part of the morning was occupied in bringing up the gun; and, making only nine miles, we encamped on the shore, opposite a very remarkable rock in the lake, which had attracted our attention for many miles. It rose, according to our estimate, six hundred feet above the water; and, from the point we viewed it, presented a pretty exact outline of the great pyramid of Cheops.

The elevation of this lake above the sea is four thousand eight hundred and ninety feet, being nearly seven hundred feet higher than the Great Salt Lake, from which it lies nearly west, and distant about eight degrees of longitude. The position and elevation of this lake make it an object of geographical interest. It is the nearest lake to the western rim, as the Great Salt Lake is to the eastern rim, of the Great Basin which lies between the base of the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada.

-John Charles Frémont & Jessie Benton Frémont
January 13, 1844

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Baron Von Bunsen's threatening shoal

[Baron Von Bunsen has a] threatening shoal of books, teeming with hypotheses on aboriginal nations. Egyptian, Indian, and disinterred Assyrian Semites; as also on the locality of Paradise, for which a map is already ordered of Kiepert. Maps on the opinions of people may range from the ship-binding myth on the seashore and the Himalaya to Ararat, and to Aramea Kibotos, even to the Mexican Coxcox; the fanciful productions of fiction, which are known also to the Bible of the Mormons.

-Alexander Von Humboldt
July 4, 1854
In the era of Crystal Palaces