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saratoga springs

I am in search of another fresh water spring that Mike told me about.  A sandy track turns off my gravel road towards the hills and I struggle over it.

Tricky ground.

Tricky ground.

Saratoga Spring sits in a small basin surrounded by a curve of bare hills, black, brown and gray – looking almost like slag heaps, mining tailings, piles of gravel – the barest traces of life clinging to them. These forbidding hills tenderly encircle a bowl of water, a clear spring bubbles up among tall green reeds swaying in the breeze. A flotilla of water fowl drift to and fro – some moorhens, a tern, perhaps, a heron – I don’t know my birds; the one I believe to be a tern has long narrow wings and a sharp ocean cry. On the dunes surrounding the pools and marsh the sand is traced by interlocking animal tracks, coyotes and smaller beasts.

I am entranced and although it is early in the day I know I will spend the night here.

I lie all day on the sand dunes and watch the light change on the water and hills. I still don’t know the names of any of the colours here – yellow, I guess, and green but what a yellow, tinged with brown, fawn, ochre and the green is halfway to silver, full of grey. The blue reflecting sky is tainted by muddy pool bottom.

Marshland and water birds.

Marshland...

... and waterbirds.

... and waterbirds.

Water in desert - pure magic.

Water in desert - pure magic.

The colours of the desert are most vibrant, richest in the brief moments of dusk and dawn, those few short minutes as the sun catches on the horizon. Shadows give form to the serried ranks of mountains tinged orange and pink. When the sun pulls free and launches itself into the sky everything suddenly fades.

Green, gray, silver, fawn. Desert colours that I can't name.

Green, gray, silver, fawn. Desert colours that I can't name.

Fragile and delicate - why do people call the desert harsh?

Fragile and delicate - why do people call the desert harsh?

The sound of the reeds, the melodic sound of water magically rising from the ground, the splash of the moor hens frenzied paddling when startled, a hollow boom of a frog, the cries of the birds – all these sounds have been absent in my long ride across the valley. The silence has been an awesome presence.

The sun slips behind the hills and bats flutter erratically in the gloaming. In the night I hear two sounds – an unknown bird with a two tone cry and the sing song yapping of coyotes.

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