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I’ve always planned for this walk through Wyoming coal country to be more solitary than those I took last summer through oil and gas country. During the first two days, I met no one. More a chance to watch and wonder at the scale and substance of the nation’s largest open-pit coal mines.

On this walk, I’m also changing a bit the way I share dispatches as I walk. I’m posting more to Instagram than WordPress, as I like the integrated format of a single photo partnered with text. So I’m sharing the #instaessays, as they’re called, here. This is number two of a series.

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Walking Coal Country. 2 of 7 // I don't know for sure, but I think out there in the distance above the coal cars that is a 240-ton dump truck. Could be bigger. They go as heavy as 400 tons, apparently. Either way, a lot of rock and dirt came pouring out of it right after I took this picture. The truck's exhaust strained with black smoke, the bed lifted, and the pile of earth sprayed and slid down the slope below it. It took less than two minutes for that truck to appear on the horizon, dump the dirt, and drive off. Then came another truck, and another. It was going on before I walked up the road, and as I continued on. Unseen beyond is all the digging and dozing that filled those trucks. The coal in Wyoming can be hundreds of feet beneath the surface. So the mine companies create roving Grand Canyons, digging and filling as the opening exposes more coal. // The earth does not always move willingly. As I arrived at a pasture this afternoon to make camp, I heard a warning siren sound in the open-pit mine to the east. A brief pause, then an explosion, as more rock was blasted loose. A dense plume climbed into the air. Locals had described these chemical blasts as orange in color. But as it rose tight above the mine, it was brown. There was a steady north wind, and the plume started shape-shifting, thinning as it climbed. Eventually its edges did begin to tint orange. And so it went, brown and orange and ever-spreading, drifting for more than an hour among the soft white clouds. #travel #walking #coal #wyoming #earth #instaessay

A post shared by Tom Haines (@twhaines) on

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