Wyoming to Utah

by Kiko Matsing

Water color paining? Rivulets create interesting curlicue forms.

I took one of these puddle-jumpers from Casper to Salt Lake City on my way back to Illinois after a job interview. Riding planes always unnerved me. It’s unfortunate they don’t serve you free hard liquor like they used to. I always needed a stiff drink to ride out the turbulence. So taking this flight was a challenge, and I decided to confront my fear of flying by looking out the window.

It was a bright spring morning, and the aerial view of the desert wilderness between Wyoming and Utah was sublime. It was strangely reassuring, and calmed me down.

These were photographs taken from an iPhone and processed in Photoshop.

From up above, we see how very little mark humans really make on Nature. The roads we carve out are nothing compared to the deep gulches formed by millennia of erosion which dominate the landscape. They appear as thin lines, delicate as spider webs, easily wiped out with a little wind. It seems hubris to think we can alter the course of Nature from this vantage point.

Occasionally, you would see heroic attempts to till this arid land, and find green spots of agriculture formed by center-pivot irrigation, imposing a geometric order to otherwise aleatory natural forms.

Water carves out rivulets with interesting ribbon-like curlicues, or fern-leaf patterns propagating self-similar shapes at different length scales.

Fontenelle Reservoir

Feather-like formations to the west of the reservoir

Salt Lake City

The border between Wyoming and Utah is marked by a sudden break in the landscape from arid desert to pine-green mountain ranges. On the other side is Salt Lake City, a habitable enclave established by Mormon pioneers in an otherwise hostile environment. Back then, all this belonged to Mexico, and during the Gold Rush, this was the busiest frontier town in the Old West. And like all things American, a strange mix indeed of religious asceticism and economic opportunism.