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Posted 07.15.13 | PERMALINK | ESSAY

Mark Klett: Camino del Diablo

Camino del Diablo: slide 1

Crescent moon above the Camino del Diablo. Click image to enlarge.

The effect of the grand scenery and wonderfully clear atmosphere of this strange land, is to intensify the feelings of pain or pleasure which at the time sway the traveller’s mind. Thus, while under ordinary circumstances, the surroundings of this our first encampment would have been engraved on the memory with all the shading and coloring of a sublime and beautiful night-scene, the events of the past week formed a background on which the picture of that night remains impressed with all the weird gloom of the darkest conceptions of Breughel or Dore. The bright moon-lighted heavens were suddenly overcast, in the northeast, by the first thunder-cloud I had seen in the territory. Above us the sky was clear, but over the mountains we had left all was dark and gloomy. As the thunder rolled in peal after peal, and lightning broke in great columns, its sudden light impressing on the eye the weird rock-forms and frowning cliffs of the Arizona mountains, it seemed a fitting end to the scenes we had left behind, and as though that region were realizing its name, and were in reality the “Gate of Hell.”

[Excerpts from Across America and Asia: Notes of a Five Years’ Journey Around the World, 1870, by Raphael Pumpelly, Professor in Harvard University, and sometime Mining Engineer in the service of the Chinese and Japanese Governments]

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ABOUT THE ESSAY

Camino del Diablo
On Places, photographer Mark Klett journeys along the Camino del Diablo in the Sonoran Desert, much of which is now a bombing range, and finds a landscape of forbidding danger and compelling beauty.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Klett is Regents' Professor of Art at Arizona State University and a contributing editor of Places. His latest book is The Half-Life of History. 
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