MY WALK ACROSS THE HIGH DESERT is simply mesmerizing -- a real high. Nowhere can you find such a vast expanse that matches this high country. We're above 6,000' elevation with no sign of mountains except on the far horizon. The grassy plain brings to mind the song lyrics: "Give me a home where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the antelope play," and although the skies are not "cloudy all day," it's not likely to rain. In fact, if it did rain heavily the entire region would fill up to become a lake because we're in the Great Divide Basin, a dip in the Continental Divide, that drains only to itself.
While many assume the arid land is barren, the basin is actually full of grass and sagebrush that support an abundance of wildlife. If we're lucky we might see herds of elk, deer, antelope, and even bison that roam freely throughout the unfenced countryside. (You'll recall I mentioned Wyoming's sparse populations?)
Wyoming's basin geology is significant because it contains the world's largest concentration of a sodium-rich mineral called Trona, located in the Green River Basin. Trona is formed by water erosion of igneous rocks that releases a sodium compound as it collects in the giant desert depression. Mining companies further refine the ore into "soda ash" and baking soda (that's bicarbonate of soda). Most of the "soda ash" is used to manufacture glass and glassware products while the remainder becomes baking soda, soap, toothpaste, or spices.
So it's likely that every one of us has a bit of Wyoming's Trona in our kitchen. Either in that the box of baking soda in the refrigerator, the glass jar in our pantry, or the casserole dish cooking in the oven. That's quite a transformation from its origin in a salt brine lake in the high desert!
Week 13, Miles 940