National Geographic : 1974 Jun
a square mile. It is the nation's seventh larg est state and the 47th in population. By jeep and horseback and on foot, I have traversed Nevada from the grasslands in the north to the parched deserts of the southland, from snowcapped Sierra to wrinkled old mountains of the east. With the blue Nevada sky wrapping me around, I have stood on peaks where it is still possible to look for a hundred miles without any signs of habita tion, range on range of desert mountains in hues of rose, gray, and purple following one upon the other into the interminable distance. Guided by onetime mustanger Wilbur Johnson, I recently went in search of wild horses in one of those uninhabited ranges.* Mounted on wiry mustangs that Wilbur had caught before the law protecting wild horses 734 came into being, we worked our way up toward nearly impassable rock bluffs that have always offered the mustangs their best protection against man. Once we flushed a covey of chukar partridges that looped with drumming wings over the next ridge. Another time four deer broke out of a rare growth of green willows and fled in graceful leaps. At first we had no luck at all. But in the afternoon, we came around a hill with the wind in our faces. Two miles below us a band of mustangs was resting in the shade of a ju niper tree. Trying to get as close to them as we could, we dismounted and made a crawl ing, punishing descent down a rock-strewn hillside. When finally we inched our heads above the concealing ridge, we looked down upon a dozen mustangs. *Naturalist Hope Ryden wrote of the West's wild horses in the January 1971 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.