The landscape of Nevada is made up of over 150 different mountain ranges, most of which run in a North- South direction. Nevada is actually considered the most mountainous state because it contains the highest number of individually named mountain ranges (outside of Alaska). In between these linear mountain ranges lay long and mostly dry valleys. The town of Ely rests in Steptoe Valley and we spent a bright, sunny spring afternoon exploring the area.
The Steptoe Valley Wildlife Management Area is a wet meadow that was historically used for farming (if there is a drop of natural water in Nevada, people are going to use it). There are no hiking trails here so we set out on our own. It was a very pleasant walk at first; there was enough dry ground for us to walk to a couple of the shallow lakes and ponds. We admired the bird life and how the bright sun reflected brilliantly on the clear water and snowy peaks.
After we had walked a ways through the meadow we decided we wanted to head straight to the road instead of backtracking the way we came. As we set off in a new direction, we discovered that hidden low in the grass was actually a maze of riverlets meandering their way through the entire meadow. The first few we encountered were narrow enough for us to jump over, but eventually we approached a stream that was too large to cross. We were pretty close to the road at that point and we could see our car, but there was no way to get to it from where we were. We weren’t out in the “wilds” and we had plenty of provisions, but still the sinking feeling of being stranded rushed over me. Our route did not work and our destination was just out of reach. There was no choice but to turn around and go back the way we came from. Luckily Roland was in a good mood as we jumped over all those same riverlets (plus a few more) and wound our way around the larger streams and ponds. Every time we thought we could walk a straight line back to the car, another body of water popped into view and we either had to jump over or walk around it. Finding solid ground to walk on was a continual challenge and we ended up trekking for much longer than we had planned, but we eventually made it back to the car unscathed. I guess our experience is pretty much what you would expect to get when hiking through a wet meadow with no trail system.
After we made our way out of the meadow maze, we drove to the nearby Comins Lake. It was a picturesque setting- a long, narrow lake with a mountain backdrop. We took a short stroll by the shoreline and watched (and tried to identify) the large variety of waterfowl that made their home in this beautiful oasis in the desert.
How I wish I could be as carefree and happy as a four- year- old running through a meadow on a sunny day. I think this picture perfectly embodies the spirit of Nevada, and The West as a whole- the freedom and the beauty and the pure fun of wide open spaces. I thank God that these wild, untamed places still exist and that I live in a place that I can easily access them.
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more.