“I am persuaded that the coyotes in my valley, which is narrow and beset with steep, sharp hills, in long passages steer by the pinnacles of the sky-line, going with head cocked to one side to keep to the left or right of such and such a promontory.”
Promontory, but that’s a word that relates to bodies of water, that is, the rocks or high points that overlook them. Here is the full entry, written by Robert Hass, in Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape, edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney, the really great resource for anyone interested in words about the landscape (and who isn't!):
Many of the promontories of the basin and range stand over lakes that are absent to the human eye, with its infinitesimally narrow view. What we see as desert peaks were a blink ago headlands standing against wind-whipped waves. Entire mountain ranges would have once stood as promontories over the long lakes on their flanks. So, while we might not see the water except in our imaginations, the promontories remain.
Meanwhile the coyotes continue to guide themselves by desert landmarks.
Interesting basin and range promontory factoid:
Promontory is also the place in Utah where the railroads met and the Golden Spike was spiked creating the first transcontinental railway.
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