Posts Tagged ‘Great Basin’


October 27, 2012

October, Los Angeles. Women start wearing boots, Starbucks brings back pumpkin lattes, and people carve jack-o-lanterns. But it still doesn’t feel like fall.

For one thing, the jack-o-lanterns tend to rot.

Fall is the hottest time of the year here. It’s when the Santa Ana winds kick up over the Great Basin, heat up over the Mojave, and come racing down the hills and canyons, right into Los Angeles.

The Santa Anas turn the sky red and shake the fronds from the palm trees. They blow dust in your eyes and make you want to put on Chapstick. Most years, they fan forest fires.

When the Santa Anas are blowing, you can sit at the edge of the ocean and feel a hot wind on your back instead of a cool breeze on your face. It feels backwards, like the god of wind has a hangover.

Maybe the strangest thing is that no one outside Southern California has heard of the Santa Anas. They’re a thing, like the leaves in New England or the monsoon in India. But somehow they don’t fit our idea of autumn, so every year, they just blow out to sea. And disappear.




October 18, 2011

Heading west from Great Salt Lake, you drive across something called the Great Basin. It is sort of like driving across a giant frying pan, but with really strong winds.

The day I was there, it had been raining, which meant the road was surrounded on both sides by standing water. The salt flats are very white, so the water was as reflective as a mirror: sky and clouds above and below, as far as the eye could see.

This went on unchanged for hours, even though I was hurtling along at 80 mph: The Great Basin is huge.

Also beautiful, and terrifyingly empty.


Was there ever a more elegant rest stop? Or a more useless one? — no soap in the bathrooms, and signs above the water fountains, warning you not to drink.