Originally Posted in the Desert Valley Times
July 18, 2011
I used to think that deserts were brown and dead. Nothing but cactus and sand. Just the quiet sound of the wind blowing. Sun burning the back of your neck making you want to scream for water. Lifeless. That is, until I took my first trip to Gold Butte.
I’ve always been curious and that was evident when I met a new local from Mesquite and pointed to Gold Butte and said, “I want to go there.” I wanted to know what it’s really like. I wanted to see just how different this area near my new home is Mesquite is. I finally got that opportunity five years ago. A group of us packed a picnic lunch in a backpack and drove out to the area called Falling Man. It required a short, rugged car ride off the main road but an easy walk to make it through the natural rock window to see the falling man petroglyph. There were several other petroglyph panels to discover too. It was fascinating to me that this native American artwork from more than a thousand years ago still tells its story on the rock faces in Gold Butte.
As we sat on red sandstone eating our lunch, a small bat flew by and perched upside down on a small bush. I was thrilled to get his picture. Lizards of all sizes scampered around us. Many different kinds of birds flittered around and even a hawk circled overhead. What critters we didn’t see, we could tell were there by the different tracks left in the sand, especially insects and small rodents.
As we wandered around, I couldn’t help but notice the brilliant blooms on many of the different desert plants, far more brilliant than any wildflowers I had seen before. There were fresh new buds following shortly behind. There was even a gentle breeze creating motion that brought them to life.
Where I’m from, I’m fortunate to have several national parks and national forests that span nearly two million acres in my state alone, with wilderness areas just shy of another million acres. I get to hike, camp, and explore new places all the time. And, I know that these lands will be around for both me and my children to enjoy for years to come.
It’s difficult for me to understand why Gold Butte has not yet been afforded the same type of protection, given the rich cultural, biological, and historical resources there. I hope that protection comes soon and I know it requires effort from everyday citizens like me. While I do that, I’ll enjoy another hike in Gold Butte, where the desert comes alive.
Terri Rylander is a Seattle native who lives in Mesquite.