Hi all. So, despite being terrible at maintaining a regular blog, please know that I'm working constantly on the map. I suspect the perfectionist in me has been prohibiting regular updates. Rather than trying to have a long, immaculate piece of writing each time, I should just tell you what I've been drawing - no frills! I'm giving that a shot today. Nevadans, wish me luck.
The re-drawing of western North America continues, and it is going unbelievably well. I hope to write a longer entry about this in a few weeks, before I embark on a little US/Canada travel this fall. Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and British Columbia are all mostly complete... and they have been completely transformed. Once the weakest part of the entire map (due to being drawn first back in 2014), they are now the strongest.
Today however, I'll just briefly unpack Nevada and eastern California. A very quick update. Specific points of interest are marked in red. Also, if you click on the larger images they'll take you to Flickr for better zoom.
Few people know much about Nevada beyond the Las Vegas Strip, and until recently neither did I. But in researching and drawing this state, I found an incredible wealth of content. It reminded me of drawing parts of the Arctic – what at first appeared to be empty hinterland was in fact loaded with captivating points of interest. Nevada is so singular, a state with an extremely unique identity. It has a sense of wide-open frontier and desolation… yet an ecological and cultural geography as varied as its basin-and-range relief.
We’ll start with Vegas. You’ll see (among other things) Mandalay Bay, the Luxor, NY NY, MGM Grand, Caesar’s Palace, Paris LV, the Bellagio, the Stratosphere Tower, the Wynn and the world’s tallest Ferris Wheel. Towering behind Vegas is the forested, snow-capped Charleston Peak, along with Red Rock Canyon and Elephant Rock (Valley of Fire). Below Vegas is, of course, the Hoover Dam - with the inelegantly named Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge in the foreground. Just over the border in Cali is Death Valley – lowest point on the continent, with the thermometer spiking at Furnace Creek (candidate for highest-ever recorded temperature on Earth). Above that are the Mesquite Sand Dunes, and some sailing stones leaving trails. These are large rocks that move by themselves along the valley floor.
Back in Nevada, look out for the ruins of the Cook Bank building in the ghost town of Rhyolite. Beside that, a mushroom cloud looms above Yucca Flat – epicenter of the Nevada Test Site, a landscape pockmarked by the craters of 739 individual nuclear tests. No place on Earth has seen more nuclear explosions than Yucca Flat. I recommend looking at some 1950/60's pictures of mushroom clouds above Vegas, they're astonishing. Nearby, a flying saucer hovers above Area 51 (Google actually has many of Area 51's buildings in 3D, so I was able to draw a few structures). It doesn’t really matter how passionate a ufologist you are, the extraterrestrial theme in this region has made a huge cultural impact. Nevada State Route 375 is even dubbed the “Extraterrestrial Highway”. Important to note: something does not have to be real for it to matter to a region's cultural geography. What I'm interested in is capturing a sense of place.
Many state symbols are included, such as the mountain bluebird, a desert bighorn sheep, the prized Lahontan Cutthroat trout, a flowering sagebrush, and even the state fossil: an Ichthyosaur (placed at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park). A Pony Express rider is at Cold Springs, there is cattle ranching in Paradise Valley, the Ghost Train of Old Ely is in the east, and a cattle skull symbolises solitude next to a sign for the US Route 50 – the “Loneliest Highway in America”. Burning Man is in flames at the Black Rock Desert in the northeast, surrounded by the festival’s semicircular Black Rock City. Just behind that is the peculiar and colourful Fly Geyser. Ancient bristlecone pines are at Great Basin National Park (south of the train), along with the well-known Lexington Arch rock formation.
At Pyramid Lake, the famous tufa pyramid sits behind the Great Stone Mother, a tufa formation sacred to the Pyramid Lake Paiute. South of the capital Carson City is the iconic black hat of Wovoka, right where he is buried in the Walker River Reservation. He was a hugely influential Paiute spiritual leader who founded the Ghost Dance in the late 19th century, a religious movement that gained a following with many tribes across the western United States, from the Dakotas to the Pacific. Meanwhile, petroglyphs at Grimes Point are a reminder of the long presence of Paiute, Washoe and Shoshone in the mountains and valleys of this vast state.
There’s too much to talk about over the border in California, so I’ll just keep it to the Sierra Nevada. Mining tools and a gold nugget mark the center of Gold Country, location of the 1849 gold rush that saw California’s population explode overnight. I had the privilege of spending a summer here back in 2011, in Nevada County. In fact Grass Valley was the very first place I ever went on the continent. I've ensured the mining tools mark an 'X' right at the approximate location of Grass Valley.
A snowboarder makes a jump near beautiful Lake Tahoe, while further south a skier descends Mammoth Mountain. It’s hard to miss Yosemite Valley just southwest of the bighorn sheep. Half Dome, El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite Falls and the Mariposa grove of Giant Sequoias are all present.
I hope you've enjoyed the update. All questions and feedback are most welcome!