This distant place is close to home.
The drive on Lytle Road is jittery. After twenty-five miles of windy country highway, the road departs the asphalt. It travels eleven more miles over washboarded ruts, crossing cattle guards and weaving around hillsides. Vultures and hawks rule the big air out here. Joshua trees stand beside the road as guardians to the empty desert. Small birds perch among their clumpy fists, hunting the landscape for the movement of a lizard or insect.
After a final crest in the hills the road descends into a green valley. Old oaks and tall aspens stand in contrast to the yellow and reds of the desert landscape. Antique farm equipment sits halfway submerged in clay beside an old cattle ring. Clouds of cottonwood billow in the air, and a thousand leaves rustle as the sunlight filters through their hands. As the car engine cuts, the chorus of crickets consumes the evening.
Beyond is a small, modest cabin—a few miles from the Utah-Nevada border, an hour away from the closest megastore. This nature preserve is the home of Dallin Leota and his family. In front of the house, Dallin’s son kicks around in the dirt with his cowboy boots, running through the dust with joy only a child can boast. Returning home from the river wash, Dallin’s black and orange Kubota throws a trail of dust behind him. When he arrives, he greets me with a smile and a big burly handshake—a combination that suddenly makes this distant place seem much closer to a home.