one day at a time…

Welcome to the latest edition of ODAAT: one day at a time…
Saturday, 06 December 2003

Pix Of The Day: Pretty Picture Or Politicization
CREDITS: Southern Utah Wilderness Association/SUWA.org
Photographers and copyright holders (left to right):
© James Kay; © Tom Till; © Chris Brown; © Ray Wheeler

Thumbnail clicks pop-up source pages.
Narrows in the Dirty Devil Area © James KayWindowblind Peak at Sunset © Tom TillTop of House Park Butte © Chris BrownWhite Cliffs © Ray Wheeler
This is the last day of the three part series of selections from the SUWA.org web site. On a photographic level our favorite picture was yesterday's first on the left, showing the Fremont River and Mount Ellen. Other reasons for this personal selection are the historical and geological associations of that place.

John Charles Frémont was one of the early explorers of the West, whose journeys along the Oregon Trail in 1842 and 1843 were documented by his wife Jesse Benton Frémont, whose father, Thomas Hart Benton, was a powerful Missouri senator and a promoter of westward expansion as part of the ideology of 'Manifest Destiny' for the emergent United States. The Frémont name lives on in many locations, ironically including Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, where there is an overhead lighting display that offers something of a contrast to the Fremont River. We have wondered if the street is more representative of the Fremont-Benton ethos than the river.

Mount Ellen at 11,615 feet of altitude is the highest point of the Henry Mountains. An 1875 monograph on the Henrys, by Grove Karl Gilbert, proposed a new theory of mountain uplift. Gilbert's term was laccolite (which was later modified to laccolith), suggesting that in some places the earth's crust was thrust upward by injections of magma from below, which never broke the surface as volcanos.

This description from the SUWA page on the Henrys is almost poetic:

There is something mysterious about the Henry Mountains; something incongruous, something odd, something alien. Anyone who encounters them, hovering like spaceships over the lunar landscape of desert badlands surrounding them, gleaming with fresh snow or brooding in lavender tones under an umbrella of storm clouds, receives an immediate and lasting impression that they do not quite belong where they are. "They are by far the most striking features of the panorama," observed the geologist Clarence Dutton, "on account of the strong contrast they present to the scenery about them. Among innumerable flat crest-lines terminating in walls, they rise up grandly into peaks of Alpine form and grace like a modern cathedral among catacombs -- the gothic order of architecture contrasting with the elephantine."

On another level, the context of the pictures, in fact their presence on an explicitly political site such as SUWA.org, makes them political statements. A century and half ago the bicycle was being developed, and white European Americans were gazing westward. Today the flocks of Bighorn sheep, whose tracks were reported to be like flocks of domesticated sheep according to Father Escalante, and the herds of bison (called buffalo by the Americans) that were said by Mari Sandoz* to be so numerous that they stretched from horizon to horizon, are long gone.

Today the resource issues are oil to quench the thirst of motor vehicles, and water to green the desert. In a nominally democratic country, with far greater numbers of car drivers and golfers than back to the land bicyclists, perhaps the vote on the issue of protecting wilderness is a foregone conclusion. None of the locations we have shown can support oil wells and dams, but still retain their wilderness qualities. Everything has a price, let us hope the wilderness is also perceived as having a value.

* This site misrenders in some versions of MS Internet Explorer web browser, leaving page gaps. If you have this probem, then scroll past the empty parts of the pages to reach the content, then again to reach the continuation links.

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Jules Laforgue (1860-1887)
"Ah! que la vie est quotidienne."
Oh, what a day-to-day business life is.
'Complainte sur certains ennuis' (1885)