Saturday, June 28, 2008

High Lonesome

The high lonesome grasslands found east of El Paso are some of my favorite country on the open road. The sky is big and the land is empty. The roads are long and often empty too.

The road to Sierra Blanca is one of those lonely ones. It runs almost due south from US 180 through high dry grasslands. This is an area of big open rangeland. Lots of grass. Lots of sky. Sometimes a yucca. Occasionally you will find a “forest” of yucca. Mountain ranges rise in every direction. Some are big, others small. Sometimes they are just a couple of peaks. All one sees are grass, yucca, mountains, and sky.

The road runs west of the Black Mountains , I can see them and the Sierra Diablo to my east. The volcanic rock of the Cornudas range are behind me to the north. To the west I can make out the rise that is the Hueco Mountains . Ahead of me is the bigger mountain that is Sierra Blanca. In the distance I can see the Guadalupes and even make out the snow on them, even though they are over 50 miles away.

This is ranch land. This is big ranch land. Over a 45 mile stretch on highway 1111 you only pass a few different ranches. The range is mostly open too. The pampas colored grasses seem to go on and on. Pronghorn dash across this land. I see several herds of them on the drive and count at least sixty.

I drive for miles and do not see any sign of civilization- no people, no houses, not even a windmill. Nothing but this high lonesome grassland and an occasional animal. I do not even pass another vehicle.

As I pass through one of the yucca forests I see a lone bull in the grass. It is a scene that really grabs my mind as telling a story about this land, so I stop and set up the camera. I can see the yuccas, the bull, the Black Mountains and the Guadalupes in the distance beyond them. Even with my longest lens, I still have a pretty big view of the land and sky. I add the polarizer to help bring out the sky and snap a couple of images. I like it. I wish there maybe were better clouds, but I really like this view.

Then I am back in the car heading south into town. Sierra Blanca is a small town that is on I-10 and the seat of Hudspeth County . I top off the gas tank and drive around to the south for a few miles looking south toward the Big Bend country and Mexico . Part of me wants to keep going that way, but I decide to save that direction for another time. I turn around and head north again.

The open lonely range is calling and so I drive back out into the high lonesome.

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