Steptoe Valley

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

~Lord Byron

Ancient Paths

On a mild, overcast Spring day we headed two hours south to the White River Narrows Archaeological District. It is a part of the newly created Basin and Range National Monument, 700,000 acres of remote land in southeastern Nevada. A backdrop of mountains, canyons and rolling desert is home to many different petroglyph sites, some dating back as far as 4,000 years. This park was pretty undeveloped; there were no signs, markers or maps showing us the way. It made for a pretty cool experience because it almost felt like we were discovering the petroglyphs for the first time.

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Admiring the ancient rock art led me to reflect on the lives of the people who made it. After we enjoyed our day out in the desert, we drove our car back to our house, which is outfitted with electricity and indoor plumbing and has a fridge full of food that I bought at the grocery store. There was no going back to a comfy home at the end of the day for those native people. They carved out an existence in this harsh desert day- to- day and season- to- season. It must have been a tough life, to say the least. It gave me the opportunity to be grateful for my “everyday luxuries”- things I hardly even notice, yet millions of people in the world today still lack them. Technological advances sure have come a long way from the time these rocks were carved. I am continually surrounded by these advances living my average (or even below- average) life here in America. It was a good reminder that my standard of living was definitely not the historical norm and sadly still is not the worldwide norm.

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It was not long into our hike that we encountered this big guy. Look at those crazy long yellow toes. He was interesting. He didn’t scurry away like the other smaller lizards we saw. I don’t know if he was poisonous, or sick, or just very confident.

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Late April turned out to be the perfect time to visit this area. It wasn’t hot yet and all the spring wildflowers were blooming. I was surprised to see so many different types of flowers growing in this dry landscape. We saw flowers in an array of hues: purple, blue, yellow, white, orange and red. They added lively bursts of color to the otherwise gray, brown, and muted green desert.

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We started out hiking through open country until we reached the entrance to this canyon, which looks ordinary enough from here.

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However, as we continued walking, the canyon quickly narrowed and the red rock walls closed in on us on both sides. It was an incredible area, but we also got an eerie feeling that little monsters were spying on us through all the nooks and crannies in the rocks or a group of bandits would ride up and attack us from the top of the canyon walls. (Yes, maybe we have seen too many movies).

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Even with the petroglyphs, lizards and flowers to enjoy, the most striking feature of this area was the endless variety of rock formations. The shallow caves, the mountains comprised of boulders and the sculpted towering rocks all provided boundless fascination.

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As our boots became covered in dust along the same ancient paths that were used by people thousands of years ago, we marveled at the timeless beauty of the desert and we were humbled by the the sheer vastness of geologic time, or God- time. Our lives are but one speck of the whole story.

“A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.”

~Edward Abbey

My Backyard

I have been having so much fun exploring all the amazing places within a two- hour- radius of our house on our weekend outings. However, one of the things I enjoy most about living in Ely is that I am able to go for a hike right from my doorstep. Just a five minute walk from my house is a vast network of ATV trails that wind their way up into the mountains. Roland, Copper and I head out there almost every day. It provides great exercise, great mountain views, and I could not ask for anything more convenient. I love being able to get my daily dose of fresh air, sunshine, and mountains without driving an hour to do so.

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Roland, my budding geologist. He never takes a step outside without a rock in his hand. It does get a bit annoying, though, when I am trying to make some distance on our walk and he stops to look at every single rock, flower, and tree. However, one of the best gifts my parents gave me is my deep appreciation for nature and it makes me glad to see some of that may be rubbing off on my son, too.

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As Easter approaches it is timely to be mindful of God’s sacrifice, forgiveness and everlasting love for us. The signs of Spring all around us are symbols of hope and new life. My family has been in a state of flux for the past several years due to the adoption, health issues, job changes, and frequent moves. We have lived through the good and the bad and through it all I have learned the importance of being thankful for what I have. I am choosing to celebrate Easter this year with a grateful heart so I am taking this opportunity to reflect on the many other blessings in my life:

*My family is healthy and relatively happy (we still have some difficult times with Roland, but we are making it through).

*I live in a place where I am continually in awe of God’s majesty through His Creation.

* We are settling in nicely to our new home and we are excited to see what the future holds with Matt’s new career and our new lives in Nevada.

I wish you all a Joyful Easter and some beautiful, quiet moments outside this Spring.

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And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Revelation 21: 3-7

Ovens & Pronghorn

We live in a small town in Middle of Nowhere Nevada. Maybe some people would get bored here, but this area fills me with excitement every time I step outside. Our town is completely surrounded by national forest, state parks and BLM land comprised of such diverse landscapes that I could never get bored. With millions of acres of unique and varied public land, Nevada really is one big playground.

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On our latest family outing we visited Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park. It is an area set aside to preserve six  30- foot- high beehive- shaped ovens. They were in operation for only three years in the 1870’s to create charcoal from the local pinyon pine and juniper trees. After the silver boom ended, these abandoned, but large and sturdy ovens became shelters for travelers and hideouts for bandits. (We also discovered they are fun to holler in to as their shape makes for a great echo.)

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Even though the main purpose of the park is to highlight the history of the area, the scenery was also stunning. We meandered through sagebrush lowlands before hiking up a ridge to the pinyon and juniper forest. Just a month ago we were living in northern Minnesota where we were completely enveloped by large trees, but after spending some time in the desert, walking amongst these almost full- sized trees was a pleasant treat. After making our way through the forest, we descended to a pretty and lively riparian area that was home to many birds and mule deer. The stream was flowing with fresh snow melt, the spring flowers were just blooming and everything was brimming with beauty and life.  Just another gorgeous day out in God’s Creation.

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On the way to and from the park we passed a herd of pronghorn. They are the fastest land animals in the Western Hemisphere, but their impressive speed is now unnecessary as their historical predators are long extinct.  They are often (and incorrectly) called antelope, but the mistake is easy to understand. Even though they are native to America, their closest relatives are giraffes and okapi and they do look like they belong on the African Savanna. We frequently spot them as we whiz by in our car, but this time we had the opportunity to slow down and admire these sleek and elegant creatures.

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“All my life through, the new sights of nature made me rejoice like a child.”

~Marie Curie

Living Waters

When scientists are collecting data on other planets, one of the factors they are most interested in is the presence of water. Where water is present, the potential for life is also present. This truth is also especially evident in a desert landscape.

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On a cool and breezy spring day we visited the W. E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area, which is comprised of small lakes and marshes. It is a pleasant oasis surrounded by  miles of dry sagebrush desert and it was teeming with life.

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We saw hawks, cranes, geese, ducks, and many other smaller birds that are harder to identify. On the drive into the park we even witnessed a coyote darting through a maze of sagebrush. My favorite moments, though, were spent watching a hawk expertly gliding through the wind, swooping low and high looking for a meal.

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Animals will travel vast distances to reach sources of water because they know it’s life- giving power. It is no wonder that water imagery and metaphors are used numerous times throughout the Bible.  Life can feel very akin to wandering through the desert, but it is not just our mouths that get dry- our souls also become parched. Disappointments and just the daily grind wear us down and there is nothing on this planet that will fully satisfy us. Water is essential for our earthly existence, but we need Jesus for eternal life. Being in nature and watching animals thrive near cool, clear water is a beautiful reminder of how our souls should be ever longing for Jesus and our heavenly home.

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John 4: 13- 14

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Cathedral in the Desert

Historically, great time and expense were spent in constructing cathedrals, with the purpose of bringing glory and honor to God. While attempting to reflect God’s magnificence, intricate artwork and architecture were painstakingly created  over hundreds of years.

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We recently visited a cathedral of a different sort. It was created by volcanic explosions and erosion over the course of millions of years, but the end result was the same- viewing it nudged our minds, hearts, and souls upward toward God (and in my opinion, even more effectively than any man- made structure could).

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As we hiked through Cathedral Gorge State Park, we were entranced by the endless spires, cliffs, and caves. The trail began with a network of steep stairs descending into the canyon. Once on the canyon floor, the path was level and every couple steps brought us a new rock formation to admire or an alcove to explore. It was a beautiful sunny and breezy day, with warmer- than- average spring weather. Roland happily split his time between running through the desert canyon and stopping to play with the rocks and sand (what more does a little boy need?).

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Experiencing such a unique landscape truly reminds me of the extraordinary workmanship of God. What we see today has taken millions of years to accomplish, and it is still a work in progress. The natural world is a gift to us from the Divine Creator and it is filled with opulent variety. It is humbling that these exquisite places were created for us to use and enjoy, and I am forever grateful.

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Job 38:4-7, 25-27

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?

25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
    and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no one lives,
    an uninhabited desert,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
    and make it sprout with grass?”

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Hello Nevada

As we made our six day drive from Minnesota to Nevada we saw some awesome landscapes. We were itching to get out and explore each state we drove through, but this was not a pleasure trip; it was a move with time and financial constraints. We contented ourselves with making mental notes of places to go back and visit while we continued our journey into the Southwest. When we finally arrived in Ely we had some unexpected stresses we had to deal with, but we made sure to set aside a day to get out and explore our new territory before Matt had to start work.

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Nevada means “snow covered” in Spanish and the state is aptly named. We are surrounded by snowy peaks in every direction. After spending the past 11 months in the flat forests of Minnesota, I am soaking up every ounce of awe- inspiring scenery (and I don’t get very far without having to stop to take another picture).

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Our first Nevada outing was at Cave Lake State Park, just a 30 minute drive from Ely. At an elevation of 7,000 feet, the trail was a mix of dry sand, mud, and deep snow. It was slow going, but that just gave us more time to enjoy  the mountains, rock formations, and rolling sagebrush desert (and glorious sunshine!).

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It was a beautiful introduction to Nevada and I am eager to explore all the nooks and crannies of this intriguing state.

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Home means Nevada (Nevada’s State Song)

Written & Music by Bertha Raffetto

Way out in the land of the setting sun,
Where the wind blows wild and free,
There’s a lovely spot, just the only one
That means home sweet home to me.
If you follow the old Kit Carson trail,
Until desert meets the hills,
Oh you certainly will agree with me,
It’s the place of a thousand thrills.

Farewell Minnesota

The scenery is going to look a bit different around here. Our family is moving to Nevada! We have enjoyed our 11 months living in Minnesota, but a part of our hearts will always be “Out West” and we are returning to claim it.

Minnesota, we have enjoyed your forests and lakes, your bald eagles and loons, and your porcupines and northern lights. Below are some of our favorite memories spent with you.

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I hope you continue to follow our journey as we leave Minnesota’s North Woods and head down to Nevada’s Great Basin Desert. I look forward to exploring a new part of this country and sharing my experiences with you.

 

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”

~J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Fellowship of the Ring”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Venturing Outside

Venturing outside the warm comfort of my home to take a short hike during the long winter months is no easy task, but it is vital to my sanity. I first have to figure out which areas of the forest are accessible or completely snowed in. Then comes the hour long process of getting the three of us in our winter gear and actually out of the house. It requires some extra effort, but the fresh air and the quiet beauty are worth the trouble.

We paid a visit to the very large and completely frozen Cass Lake.

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To get to the lake we first had to climb over a large snow dune.

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We admired the vast snowy landscape, but it was about 16 degrees and extremely windy out on the lake and I couldn’t feel my cheeks so we headed back into the protection of the woods.

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The winter landscape is mostly made up of varying shades of white and gray. Without the flowers and foliage that adorn the other seasons, things can get monotonous. That is why I got pretty excited about this area of the forest. The mix of green, red, and white tree trunks added color that could only really be appreciated in the winter.

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After a week of above- freezing temperatures the snow became crunchy, compacted, and unstable. It made taking a casual walk a bit nerve- wracking. We would take one step and sink in only an inch and then the next step we would sink up to our knees. And then every once in a while there were the hidden snowdrifts that would engulf us even more and we just about had to climb out. It kept things interesting.

Getting outdoors in the winter can be more difficult, but spending time in nature is rejuvenating, regardless of the season (and trudging around through deep snow is great exercise!).

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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

~Robert Frost

 

Winter Skies

It could be said that the earth is the body of Nature while the sky is her face. The sky is where she puts her moods on display and they are ever- changing, from minute- to- minute, day- to- day, and season- to- season. Winter, I feel, is the moodiest of all seasons and I tend to absorb those moods as my own. There can be endless stretches of  gloomy clouds and fog that require extra motivation to leave the warm comfort of my home or to even roll out of bed in the morning.

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Then, the clouds finally drift away and the brilliant blue sky appears. On days like this, household chores are put on hold in order to savor every last minute of sweet sunshine. The cool air and sunny days are energizing and it is almost impossible not to match Nature’s cheerful mood.

The bare white branches of winter look especially striking against a clear, bright blue sky. Without leaves, the intricate shape and form of trees are on display and the warm sunshine coaxes me to stop and admire.

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Then there are the rare, breathtaking sunsets that just stop me in my tracks. As I stand there in amazement, I imagine God has lifted a veil from over the sky so that, just for a moment, his glory shines through to his children on earth. It is an experience that both humbles and heartens me.

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When the sun fades away on a clear night, we do not have to live in complete darkness. The moon and stars emerge, and they are beautiful reminders that we are not alone. They provide us light, comfort, and wonder until the sun once again brightens the world.

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14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be signs to indicate seasons, and days, and years. 15 Let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. 17 Then God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. Then God saw that it was good. 19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

Genesis 1:14-19