This weekend I took Highway 395 north from Los Angeles, up the east side of the Sierra Nevadas. I had expected to see alpine scenery like that in The Sound of Music. I hadn't realized that it was all just high desert. On the eastern side of the mountains it seems to be mostly just huge piles of boulders and rockfall. It looks more like a moonscape than any of those sylvan glades where Julie Andrews frolicked.
It's all magnificent in its own way, but the coloration goes from brown to white (at the snow line) with hardly any green in between. I had thought that by April 1st there might be signs of spring at the lower elevations, but there aren't any that I can see, and many of the roads are still closed. Which I guess makes me the April Fool.
I tried to take a hike near June Lake, but lost the trail after a while and ended up on a steep slope where I slipped a few times. Had it been any steeper, I would have kept falling. Much of the scenery actually reminded me of that bleak valley where James Bond's ancestral home was located in Skyfall.
I saw Mono Lake as well. It has three times the salt content of the ocean, and looks it. The lake, and the surrounding landscape, have a weirdly dead look. That effect is amplified by the stiff winds coming off the mountains. It would be a good place to film a movie about a post-Apocalyptic future. Anyway, I can now cross the lake off the bucket list, along with Highway 395, which I'd always wanted to see.
I'm now on Interstate 80 in northern Nevada, which advertises itself as the loneliest stretch of highway in America. This is not false advertising. What northern Nevada seems to have a whole lot of is nothing.
I made it as far as Winnemucca yesterday evening, a town with two legal brothels. So, I guess the highway isn't all that lonely. (No thanks.)
One thing I realized early on Saturday was that "Indian reservation" often translates as "trailer park in the middle of the desert." (Not a tepee in sight.)
The Indians really did get the worst land after the white man finished speaking with his forked tongue. There's no water in sight, and the land is completely non-arable.
The only thing that grows there are casinos. The casinos must be profitable, though, because there seem to be a lot of them. Many of them have Indian-themed names. I walked into one, and walked out almost as quickly because of all the secondhand smoke. But I was in there long enough to see that there was as much evidence of Native American culture there as in those trailers they now live in.
It's sad. The only evidence of a way of life which existed as recently as 150 years ago is in the museums that white people build to show that culture. The Indians must have been fairly intelligent to have spread and survived all over the Americas, and to have made it through the harsh winters in North America. But they don't seem to be motivated to use that intelligence now to study hard and advance in today's America.
The Indians now seem to mostly either work at menial jobs or hang out in their trailers and drink firewater in the desert.
If I lived there, I'd probably do the same. There's not a whole lot else to do in the desert.
Other than shoot craps, I guess.