|Florida Gulf coast wetlands and winding rivers.|
|Swirls of sediments in the Gulf.|
Sadly, the pretty pink propellor plane was only nice to look at - riding on it was another (quite bumpy) story, but nonetheless part of the adventure. Not too far below, the land was characterized by relatively nondescript topography, namely miles of empty but fully- lit parking lots and deserted roads. The glowing lights of sleepy streets illuminated the neighborhoods while others dotted the highways, ready for the onset of morning commuter craziness. When we flew somewhere near Orlando, one development was even shaped like a Mickey Mouse head - perhaps it was my sleepy morning imagination, but it was fashioned in the exact shape of the familiar mouse's perfectly round head with 2 symmetrical black ears. The beaches, far in the distance and out of focus through the blurry, small windows, were lined with twinkling lights as far as my eyes could strain to see in the darkness.
Leg 2 of 3 (Tampa to Dallas) - Gulf coast wetlands transitioned briefly to a muddy ocean, with massive deltas and swirls of what appeared to be artistically crafted sediments, spat out by rivers as they meet the sea. Wetlands in the panhandle transitioned to Alabama and Mississippi, then Louisiana farmland and dramatically winding rivers. Countless oxbows cause several river miles to be crammed into very short straight-line distances as they meander towards the gulf. Finally a brown wandering mass of water appeared, dwarfing all other rivers and almost blending in with the surrounding land: it had to be the great Mississippi River. Barges looked like ants below and appeared to be making no headway as they trudged through the muddy waters.
Texas seemed to be mostly farmlands and rivers as well, but only for a limited time. As we moved closer to the city, incomprehensible numbers of houses expanded in fractal-like patterns covering every inch of visible terrain. Everything seemed to be paved over, brown, or industrial, besides of course the plentiful sky-blue swimming pools dotting the back yards of far too many homes.
|Fractal landscape of endless homes in Texas.|
|Agricultural fields reminiscent of a hand-stitched quilt.|
|A giant game of Connect 4 and some peace signs interspersed throughout.|
|Dark outlines of massive mountains appearing amidst an arid southwestern landscape.|
|A closeup view of the distant mountains in the top photo.|
|Transition from desert to mountain range.|
|I was fascinated by these water-filled depressions visible in Eastern New Mexico/Western Texas on the flight home. After consulting with Dr. Brenner and doing a bit of reading, we're pretty sure they are "playa" lakes - ephemeral water-filled basins of varying size that provide some of the only surface water/wetlands in the High Plains region. These particular lakes seem to have a bit more relief than those in some other photos, but most other examples shown are in more of an agricultural setting (you can actually see a few in one of my agricultural photos above as well). Playa lakes are similar to Florida's springs in many ways: they are most likely connected to the Ogallala Aquifer (they are the only known source of recharge to the Ogallala under certain conditions - see link above to the Texas Wildlife Department page), and they are being polluted and altered due to farming, large animal operations, and the building of roads (some of the same issues we have with springs and water in Florida). They serve as important habitats for migrating birds and are unique wetland habitats, allowing a wide array of endemic species and amphibians to survive in an otherwise arid landscape. For more information on playa lakes, see the EPA website.|