Final Stretch: Denver to L.A.

The last stretch is underway.

Denver to L.A.

In a few hours I shall travel over a thousand miles.

There will be few patterned fields or squares on the land ahead.

Ahead are landscapes writ large. Mountains, canyons, deserts.

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The land over which I flew.

After Denver, the mountains begin.

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Tracks of ski complexes schuss and slither down the slopes.

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Note the filled valley in the next photo.

What you see is a valley filled with millions of tons of what used to be a mountain.

There was molybdenum under the mountain. Good for missile and aircraft parts, the nuclear power industry, and as a catalyst in refining processes. Number one use is as a metal for mixing with iron, to make molybdenum steel.

Good for business, but for the mountain, molybdenum was an unalloyed disaster.

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Aspen. Mecca for the rich and famous, and those who serve them.

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Then the land changes.

Dryness conquers agriculture.

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What water there is, cuts canyons.

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Patterns of erosion mark the terrain.

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Simultaneously sinuous and harsh.

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Below is a serpentine ridge road.

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Then the reds of iron compounds stain rock, sand, and soil.

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Cut.

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Cut

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Cut

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If you have not read John McPhee’s “Basin and Range”, or his other books on geology, you might want to put them on your reading list.

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You could scrape up and dump the entire island of Martha’s Vineyard into one of these canyons, and no one might notice.

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Where there are rivers in a dry land, there will be dams.

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Impounded water is a feature in this desert.

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The pilot announces that we are a half hour from LA.

The desert rises to mountains and trees, to some late spring snow.

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We descend over final ridges, headed for our final approach to LAX.

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Rivers of houses snake into the hills.

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Rivers of highway snake through the hills and houses.

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Roads to streets to highways and then, the superhighways of Mississipian size.

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Touchdown.

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LAX.

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