In traveling from the mountains to the desert, we have traded having to look out for bears for being on the lookout for rattlesnakes. The mosquitoes and biting flies have given way to yellow jackets as number one pest. Sparse juniper bushes clinging to the chalky hillsides have taken the place of the towering lodge pole pines, brick reds and toasted yellows and browns replace the lush greens of the mountains and forests.
I try to capture this landscape in photos, but it eludes capture like a desperate criminal. The camera cannot take it all in and this expanse of land isn’t contained neatly by mountaintops or trees. As I walk through the grass and brush hundreds of grasshoppers elegantly propel themselves into the air in front of me reminiscent of an intricate pattern of dominoes being set off. Sturdy black beetles move single-mindedly over shrubs and rocks like tiny tanks.
In the afternoon we lounge under the sunshade with our books watching the breeze ruffle the tufts of grass and blow the clouds around. To our right the lake shines a steely blue against the scalloped sandstone cliffs.
At night we sit in front of the fire made from driftwood and listen to the complete silence. Somewhere in the cliffs an owl hoots. The Pleiades rise in the east and as I watch the cluster of stars do their shimmering dance, I wonder why I haven’t paid more attention to them in the past. Because there are no trees and no high mountains, we have almost 180 degrees of sky to look at—our own personal planetarium. Adam shows me through the telescope the disc of the Andromeda galaxy, then the bands of color wrapping around Jupiter and its most prominent moons: Io, Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede. The moon rises and through the lens its craters look so large and clear that it seems as though I can reach out and feel the rough surface. The Big Dipper seems bigger than I have ever seen it in my life.
One night the wind begins to blow and will not stop. 40, 50, 60 miles an hour the wind blows rocking the motorhome side to side, sometimes gently, sometimes violently. Despite the face that there is a heavy rock on top of it, our doormat gets whirled away. We find it the next day detained by some juniper bushes, spent from its night of cavorting. Before we go to sleep I realize that the motion and the sound makes it feel just like we are on an overnight train. I wonder before I climb into bed if we might be in another country when we wake up.