The Basin and Range province is one of the largest geological provinces in North America, covering all of Nevada, parts of eastern California, half of Utah, and large parts of Arizona. It is also one of the least populated, at least outside of the urban centers of Las Vegas, Phoenix, Reno, and Salt Lake City. The region was stretched in late Cenozoic time (during the last 30 million years) so that the crust broke apart and gigantic blocks slipped against each other like shelves of books tipping over. Several hundred horsts (ranges) and grabens (fault valleys) are the defining features of the province.
We were on our way to an exploration of the Colorado Plateau, but needed to make our way to Las Vegas to meet our group. We could have taken the freeways through the Central Valley and Mojave Desert, but I've been down that road several hundred times over the last quarter century. We elected to cross the Sierra Nevada at Tioga Pass and cross the high ranges and deep basins of the region referred to by many as "fly-over" country. It's barren on some ways, but it is a treasure in so many others. How many places will you visit in your life where you have a decent chance of being the only human being on a particular mountain range? That can happen out here.
A few of the lakes persist, barely. After we crossed Tioga Pass, we had an outstanding view of Mono Lake, which is huge, but it was once much larger and deeper. Evaporation (and water diversions by Los Angeles) have left behind saline water in which only small fairy shrimp and brine flies can survive. Not a complex ecosystem, but millions of birds depend on the rich protein.
We made to Sin City, and today we met our fellow travelers for the coming week. We had a great day touring the geological environs of Las Vegas, and pictures will undoubtedly appear soon here on Geotripper!