“Boy, driving through Northern Nevada along I80 sure is boring, I’ve never seen so much nothing”.

I personally love it when I hear statements like that. I think to myself “you’re right, just keep on driving”. 

Loving life in the high desert of Northern Nevada means being able to focus on many levels. 

In long focus, you will see her vast landscapes, full of subtle pastels juxtaposed on jagged mountain shapes and long, almost endless flats. If you can’t be still long enough, you may delight in some of our planet’s most glorious sunrises and sunsets. In long focus you may appreciate our brilliant starry skies, silent moonrises, the intensity of a desert rainstorm, or the poetry of giant snowflakes falling lightly onto a sagebrush sea. You may breathe deeply into the wonder of sagebrush after a rain, gaze dreamily at the image of sunlight through aspen trees in autumn, or hug yourself at the howl of a winter storm through the rocky chasms of our mountains and valleys.

Then, I think of close focus and being able to walk through one of those wild landscapes we’ve admired from a distance, and peer down to discover perfect little communities of life, color and sound. Chukar scurrying through a dry creek bed; a flurry of wild garlic growing along a windy ridge and tossing skyward its lovely purple blooms and pungent fragrance; feel the delight and wonder of hearing quail, chukar and elk talking in mountain canyons, or the screech of a red tail hawk floating on breezes 500 feet above. Perhaps your treasure will be a noisy rock chuck telling you to move away, seeing craggy hillsides exploding in the colors of Indian paintbrush, lupine, and sunflowers or hearing the mournful sounds of Sandhill cranes calling to their mates or leaning down to quench your thirst in a mountain creek only to be surprised and delighted by the nearly silent music of water trickling over rocks in that lonely creek bed fifty miles from town.

In the middle distance, you may notice bighorn sheep on a rocky outcropping, animals you once found nearly impossible to see, until you noticed their glowing white butts, and now can’t miss them. You may be taken by the strange sight of pivots growing crops in the desert or vast solar farms in the middle of nowhere. Some will notice the cattle and sheep that dot the landscape and peacefully graze while the occasional buckaroo, decked out in bright wild rag, flat hat, and long lass rope pushes his charges along. Perhaps your quiet focus will be broken by Navy or Air Force jets flying in formation, a few hundred feet over the deck, tipping their wings at hunters and buckaroos, and shattering the silence of the great Owyhee desert. 

Northern Nevada offers as many different landscapes as there are souls to appreciate them. I’m happy to share her with anyone who will appreciate her grandeur, and equally happy to let the too busy or obtuse simply drive on, and leave her austere, unique beauty to those of us who are in on her secret. 

Kris Stewart is a rancher from Paradise Valley, NV