I sit along a ridge overlooking a valley to the south of our camp. It is early in the morning. The ground immediately surrounding me is the first thing I make note of. I am in a patch of grass, seemingly dense from afar but sparse up close. Around me are thistle and sagebrush, the latter of which is so abundant its signature scent fills the air. I am flanked on either side by prairie dog holes. A few red ants crawl around me, some have found their way onto my pant leg.
I close my eyes and listen. The most overwhelming sound is that of the wind in my ears. The air is cool but the harsh sun makes the day hot. A cacophony of birds whistle at each other in the distance. The prairie dogs join in the discourse, sounding as though they are laughing. Only the occasional buzz of a fly or a mosquito interrupts the chatter.
Opening my eyes again, I turn my attention afar. The valley below contains many of the same plants as are near me, but clearly more lush and healthy, while the ridge opposite me is as sparse as the one I currently sit on. The sky is entirely clear save for a few wisps in the distance. The vegetation on the opposite hillside forms curious bands across the landscape. There is no sign of civilization save for the occasional airplane flying overhead.