ENTERING the town of Wells, Nevada, I'm about to leave the Humboldt River, a quiet companion that's flowed alongside the highway for many many miles. The river headwaters are here at Humboldt Wells, where rain and snowmelt from the mountains begin a 330 mile journey to Elko, Winnemucca and Lovelock before disappearing into the Carson sink in central Nevada -- so the river never reaches the sea. Early travelers followed the Humboldt westward across the harsh Nevada desert, nourished by its life sustaining waters while pursuing a safe westerly route before crossing the Sierra Nevadas into California.
Because the Humboldt River travels across gaps through several mountain ranges, the river course forms a natural east-west artery through the Great Basin -- a route for historical wagon train migrations and the railroads and highways that followed.
So, as I enter the final leg of my virtual journey across Nevada's desert, I'll fondly remember this segment as my walk along the "Humboldt Highway" grateful to this natural ally that sustained me for the month. It's strange how spending extended time in a hostile environment uncovers a new respect for nature's simple gifts.
Week 8, Miles 588