‘Give Me Solitude’ Among the Ancient ‘Grotesque’ Trees

The Bristlecone Pine Trail on Mount Wheeler in Great Basin National Park (Photo by Michael E. Grass)

The Bristlecone Pine Trail on Mount Wheeler in Great Basin National Park (Photo by Michael E. Grass)

BAKER, Nev. — As I’ve been traveling along the Lincoln Highway from the East Coast toward the Pacific, there have been few moments where I’ve felt truly alone.

Yes, I’ve been traveling mostly solo, but with my smartphone — and with it, Facebook, Twitter, text messages and email — the normal life I would ordinarily be living back in Washington, D.C., has been within easy reach even as I’ve been thousands of miles away. For better or worse, that’s the world we live in today.

When I set out for Great Basin National Park, about 62 miles from Ely, I entered truly unconnected territory. There was no cellphone reception.

I had a momentary panic attack. Not a real one of course, but I was slightly uneasy as I drove deeper and deeper into the desert. I scanned for local radio stations. It was the first time I’ve ever pressed “Scan” on a car radio and it turned up absolutely nothing.

In his poem “Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun” from Drum Taps, Walt Whitman wrote “Give me solitude — give me Nature — give me again O Nature your, primal┬ásanities!”

If I had some sort of time machine, I would have loved to have dragged Whitman up toward the top of Mount Wheeler to sit among the bristlecone pine trees that are older than the Egyptian pyramids.

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