Three Emigrant Trail Stanzas

Winds pick up on the Pilot Valley,

Howl across the Pequop Range.

The moonlit twilight purple summer evenings

Leave you with a feeling both beautiful and strange

Hot and dusty Winnemucca,

Murmurings give way to spring,

The sweet scent of ranchers’ Ag burns

And the rabbit brush and sage turning green.

The California Trail beckons still,

Like it called the ambitious travelers of old.

It sings songs of dreams and graves,

It waits for some one to hear them told.

Nevada Series: Backroads and the West End of Hastings Cutoff

We made our way to the end of the dirt road, where we came to a knob overlooking the South Fork of the Humboldt River.
We made our way to the end of the dirt road, where we came to a knob overlooking the South Fork of the Humboldt River.

Apps have their place, but I had to buy a print version of a Nevada road atlas.

And so we headed out to our local C-A-L Ranch store . I parked our eight-passenger family wagon, went in and went over to the sporting goods department. I snagged one of Benchmark’s Nevada atlases off the rack and two Crunch bars at the register as a precursor to our latest family adventure.  I had been wanting to check out the West End of Hasting’s Cut-Off, a “shortcut” on the California Trail used first by Lansford Hastings and James Hudspeth in 1846, who guided wagon trains from Fort Bridger, Wyoming. It was deemed successful enough that the Reed-Donner Party would later use the route for their infamous and tragic westward expedition.

In 1850, Hastings Cutoff was deemed too dangerous. But we weren’t worrying about greasing wagon axles, rationing food and water, getting ambushed, or emigrating to California. We weren’t even heading out of Elko very far, which was the beauty of this afternoon outing. We headed west out of Elko; pavement turned to dirt pretty quickly at the get-go, and the fun began. Our kids enjoyed the washboard roads, making funny noises, which kind of gave them “shook up robot” voices, as the road narrowed, dipped and banked sharply.

After consulting our new Benchmark map and realizing our low-clearance vehicle shouldn’t go certain places lest we strand ourselves, we decided which route we would take off the main dirt road. The main dirt road was relatively maintained, but as soon as we turned off it, the two-track soon proved a bit rough, filled with two foot deep wash outs, jutted out rocks and weathered juniper roots. I carefully made it to a plateaued area and parked our car. We would all hike a quarter mile farther where the road ended on a hill top.

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Along the way, our kids began rockhounding, collecting a pretty good array of unidentified rocks, which they loaded up in their little pockets, weighing themselves down like ships with disproportionate ballasts. They still hoofed it like pros.  My oldest boy found some spent rifle casings and stowed those treasures away too. These outings are never about how much we do, wearing cool hiking gear, or testing the limits of the human spirit. It’s all about the time and memories made—unidentified rocks, spent rife casings, historical trails and kids out on the lam.

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Heading back out towards pavement. A sea of almost endless junipers awaits.

Night Highway Roving

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When the last rays of daylight go down
Buddy, you’ll roll no more.
-Bob Dylan, Standing in the Doorway

I was driving back home late on the interstate the other night. The Cummins diesel steadily whined and the dash lights in my cab glowed. I plugged my old iPod in the auxiliary jack of my truck’s stereo and listened to a few albums from the likes of Steve Earle and Bob Dylan. I just bought Earle’s Guitar Town and am enjoying it’s roots rock and roll and common man poetry. The fact that Guitar Town was released the year I was born, not quite thirty years ago, puts things in perspective for me. Some people are busy being born while others are busy creating.

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I have been a Dylan fan since I “discovered” Highway 61 Revisited when I was seventeen. I first heard the single, “Like a Rolling Stone, ” in a tv miniseries called The 60s (or something like that). Changed my life. I appreciate the multifaceted nature of Dylans work. He has always ploughed through the expectations of what music critics and fans have wanted him to be.

I started off near Reno, listening to Dylan’s John Wesley Harding and Guitar Town by Earle, and by the time I reached Lovelock, I was head long in Dylan’s Time Out of Mind. Nothing is quite as reflectively lonesome on a dark night out on the road listening to the lines from Standing in the Doorway:

Behind every beautiful thing
There’s been some kind of pain

When I headed over Golconda Summit, the lines from Steve Earle came back to me:

I heard someone callin’ my name one day
And I followed that voice down the lost highway

The night wore on and the music played. I poured another cup of coffee from my Stanley. All-day-old coffee is tolerable when you have to get home from a long day. Next came Valmy, Battle Mountain, Emigrant Pass, Carlin, and finnally Elko. The last rays of daylight were long forgotten when I had finally made it home.

Regaining the Awe of God’s Grace

Jesus Storybook Bible, Excerpt
Taken from The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago.

 Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Luke 23:40-41

I was listening to a sermon on the radio while at work the other day. It was a passionate, grace- saturated, no frills sermon. The hitch: I was indifferent towards it. As a Christian, I am amazed at how dispassionate I can be with the gospel as well as towards my remarkable King and Savior who rescued me. Some days I feel my faith is as dynamic as those “inspirational” Christian memes: two dimensional, pixelated, and subjective—requiring the recipient to apply some vague meaning to the anonymous quote. Simply put, at times, or if I’m honest, most of the time, I feel unresponsive to the core of the gospel, which I relegate to being merely theoretical.

Just writing that last sentence makes me want to bury my face.  The Gospel is more, so much more! It has an intended meaning, purpose and demands a response (in the affirmative or negative); it really has no place for middle ground, and in our culture, that is essentially a non-starter. We’d rather bemuse ourselves with kitten videos or, depending our political sway, be riled by CNN or Fox News, Diane Rehm or Glenn Beck. I think I would rather just be reawakened and re-amazed at how shocking and insulting, gory, glorious and joy-inducing Christ and the cross really is.

Shocking and insulting because my best attempts, in light of the cross, at being something or someone are at best laughably cute, but more often pitiful and self-destructive.  Hanging there on the cross, Jesus was stretched out dying with two other condemned men. In second half of Luke 23, after the trial and hearings before Pilate and Herod, being the object of those jeering and those mourning, Jesus was lifted up with those who were justly condemned, having also become the murderer Barabbas’ substitute. Slowly, I am reminded of how helpless, pitiable and awkward Jesus became for the helpless, pitiful, sin-sick and rebellious. Physically dying stark naked on a Roman gibbet while fulfilling God’s rescue plan, to borrow from Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Jesus Storybook Bible.

One of the doomed joined the jeering crowd who ridiculed and condescended, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” I can hear myself in that crowd and that criminal. It’s not only some spiffy figurative language when I write that; it’s a spiritual truth that all humanity is exactly like that group of scoffers. To quote Stuart Townsend:

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

Thankfully, by God’s grace, I can hear myself in the other criminal who, in his contrition, rebuked the first criminal’s pride, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation” (v. 40). This wasn’t some deep noble ability that this dying man summoned up on his own, but only the work of God apart from any assistance of man. In God’s infinite wisdom and perfection, the broken dying man continued and uttered part of the gospel message, “And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deed; but this man has done nothing wrong” (v.41; cf. Romans 5:10ff).

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

Christ and the cross is gory, glorious and joy-inducing because it is real and it changes people, and it is all done by God. Seeing my sin rightly, my impotence to save myself rightly, the cross rightly, and Christ rightly shakes me back into a right frame, one where  I can again awe at God, worshiping Him, not ascetically but practically in everyday life. My sin was put to death with Christ, and like Christ who arose, defeating death, I have risen too, being a new creature. Townsend again:

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom


 

Veldez, a blog, is layman literature which includes observations about family life, vocation, books, music, the outdoors, and life as it is. Written from the perspective of a twenty-something husband and father of five, a Christian worldview is the common thread throughout.

 

Petroglyphs & Lonely Road Rambling

Photo: M.V.
Photo: M.V.

 I have been writing a series of posts about rambling and roving in Nevada. It’s a big state. Not as big as Alaska or Texas or California, but bigger than American Samoa, which is not a state, but you get the drift. It’s fairly big. So there’s plenty to write about in theory. At any rate, this is the third installment.


Depending on where you you live in the state of Nevada, most cool and worthwhile excursions are usually three to four hours away.

If you get out to north central Nevada, get out and ramble down highway 50, “The Loneliest Road in America.” You’ll find it is sparsely populated, and full of open space. There are things to do and things to see.  Make a pit stop between the towns of Austin and Eureka at Hickison Petroglyph Area. Resting between the Toquima and Simpson Park Mountains, Hickison provides a convenient opportunity to stop and stretch and see a few etchings made by pre-Columbian inhabitants. Two groups of petroglyphs are near the outhouses and parking area, while a another batch of rock art lies up a trail loop the more ambitious can hike.

A couple weeks ago my family and I got restless. After brainstorming about where to go, we at last decided to make the three hour drive out to see this particular petroglyph site. Depending on where you you live in the state of Nevada, most cool and worthwhile excursions are usually three to four hours away. It’s just how it is here in the Silver State, and pretty much in most rural, middle-of-nowhere places out West.

We had a grand time getting out and seeing the highways and byways of the Nevada Outback on this trip. The unseasonably warm weather had the sage and rabbit brush  greening up. We saw one lone pronghorn (or antelope) buck stray close to the highway, though we didn’t spot any others. Occasionally, there are wild horses and burros spotted on this stretch of road as well. Once we arrived at Hickison, we were more than eager to just plod out and begin our self-guided tour. First, however, we had to bust out the jackets, hats and mittens and dress our small children in winter wear because, despite the sunny weather, the wind chill was still probably close to freezing that day (as the snow on the ground reveals).

Setting off! (Photo: A.V.)
Setting off! (Photo: A.V.)

With our village of children dressed for war, we were finally ready to begin our half a mile hike, making our own small “discoveries” along the way.

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Photo: A.V. One of the ‘glyphs at Hickison. My wife and I debated on what this one is depicting . Some beast, dinosaur, or something for cryptologists to figure out?

  Interpreting the Hickison Petroglyphs: Hoof Prints or Vaginas?

I did a quick search on the ol’ interweb and found some interesting things about Hickison. There are at least two ways of interpreting this petroglyph site according to Online Nevada Encyclopedia , “[Hickison] was interpreted as a hunting locality… because the most common motif at the site was thought to represent ‘hoof prints.'” Alright, so far I’m tracking with this. The way the topography lays, sort of like a canyon, with ample natural rock obstructions, I can totally see how it would have made a great locale to corner pronghorn or deer. But wait, there’s more.

The article, which is brought to us by the Nevada Humanities, goes on to say, “An alternate interpretation identifies the marks as vulviforms (representations of female genitalia)…” Wait, What? “…[P]ossibly indicating that the site was the location of girls’ puberty rituals or the locale for a female cult of affliction centered on reproductive disorders.” Well, OK then. I suppose it’s how you look at the ‘glyphs because when we were out there snapping hundreds of photos with our small children in front of these things, my wife and I weren’t excitedly telling each other, “Hey isn’t this great to get out and take pictures of tons of ancient vaginas with our kids?”

I tend to interpret this as modern culture over-sexualizing things in the past. The same article further states, “There is no historic ethnographic record, however, of girls producing rock art as a part of their puberty ritual.” TRANSLATION: Basically, we made this crap up.

Moving on…

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I’m going with hoof prints… (Photo: A.V.)

So, as I try to salvage the rest of this post, it’s sufficient to say that it was a fun day with my family outside and seeing places where the ancients once stood and carved on rocks. Whatever the objects might be. As I’ve said before, Nevada has a treasure trove of things to explore, history to discover right off the highway, and above all, it is a fantastic catalyst for making memories.

Epic shot with the distance in the background (Photo: L.B.)
Epic shot with me and four out of five of our children with the Toiyabe Range in the background (Photo: L.B.)

Nevada Series: Fossil Hunting

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After a unloading a set of D8 dozer tracks in Carlin this morning, I met my family back in Elko for some off time. It was grocery day, that was all we had in mind. So I suggested we go fossil gathering, a great activity to bust out of the winter mode of operation.

We headed out of town, and not too far north, there’s a well-known and popular spot for collecting fossilized invertebrates (sadly, no mammoths or ichthyosaurs). The Great Basin is basically a giant outdoor self-guided museum, with many artifacts available to collect and some simply known as “leverites” (as in, “Leave ‘er right where you found it”). These particular fossils require no permit to collect, providing one only takes up to twenty-five pounds per year. That was hard for our young children to grasp as they tried to haul off small boulders with embedded brachiopods.

In the future, I believe we will use the Nevada Fossil Sites section of CollectingFossils.org when we plan on hitting the trail again. Plenty of obscure as well as highly visited sites are available to anyone wanting to get out and discover for themselves wonders by the wayside. I’m fortunate to have both a wife and village of children who are enthusiastic about exploring where we live.

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Youngest son getting exposed to geology

Nevada has many more “exhibits” to discover and enjoy. It’s a grand time just to get out and be nomadic with my family. We are a clan of people filled with curiosity and wanderlust. Seeking things out satisfies that thirst, and it’s how we desire to raise our children. Being a Christian doesn’t inherently make one indifferent to the mechanics of natural science and the realm of creation; in reality, having this thirst for exploring is only heightened when grace has been experienced. The God who gave me what I did not deserve also made a world filled with wonder, and so rambling within His world must be worth the trip.

Reflections From a Peterbilt 379

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But when you are a trucker you’ll come to realize
The only thing a man can do is watch the world go by”
-Gordon Lightfoot

DELTA, Utah- It’s the end of the day here in the Western United States. I’m in the bunk of my sleeper (no hotels or motels for this truck driver), obviously idling my time away before I try to sleep. I’m one state away from my wife and children, and wishing I were there or they were here. The engine steadily rumbles, lulling me towards drowsiness; my bunk heater quietly drives the desert chill away.

I’ve got a step-deck load of drill pipe, a CAT backhoe and some miscellaneous cargo as well, waiting to be offloaded for an exploration drill rig crew tomorrow. I left Elko, Nevada via Interstate 80 and the Great Basin Highway (Hwy 93) to Ely. From there, I continued south, over Conners Pass on Highway 50, through Majors Junction and towards Baker. Continuing further, I skirted by Wheeler Peak on Sacramento Pass, descending the east face of the Snake Range, passing the entrance to Great Basin National Park, and soon crossed into Utah, watching the Moon rise brightly over the desert hills. Once in Utah, I continued on 50 on past Hinkley and into the farming community of Delta. That’s my Captain’s Log for tonight.