The desert plains beg the imagination to run wild with ideas; to speculate on outlandish scenarios. The ease at which you can do this is because so much of what the desert offers up is far beyond the norm of a regular life; beyond the norm of a comfort zone. It provides to the passer-by a glimpse into times past, reclusive life styles, and the occasional entry point into what can only be referred to as the “Twilight Zone“.
A town by the name of Amargosa, population two, sits at a crossroads known as Death Valley Junction. Here isolation morphs with the unexpected and the creepy; combining to open the window, just a crack, into another world. Just a few miles east is Area 51…just saying!
Amargosa is home to a gas station, a cafe, a hotel; all of which are in disrepair and slowly returned to dust; yet the hotel retains a receptionist to promote the town’s history and direct the more curious to a small musty snack shop located in a back room.
Oddest of all though is the Opera House. It was here where current resident Marta Becket staged dance and mime shows from the 1960’s. Marta makes up fifty percent of the town’s population; she is now in her early 90’s. Continue reading Marta Becket’s Amargosa
It was early evening when we began our final descent along the winding road of red. As the relative lushness of the hills began to dissolve to dust the grandeur of the valley ahead opened up. Before us lay the magnificence of land both desolate and mesmerizing, a land that has an effect as much through feeling as it does through sight.
With daylight succumbing shortly to twilight we were fortunate to witness both. The desert, in contrast to its name, feels very much alive. Not through vegetation or wildlife but through its ability in assuring your insignificance and fragility. A balancing act on the razor-sharp edge of maintaining survival; not its own but yours and anything else that treks within its confines.
It is a living breathing cosmos; to assume Death Valley as anything else would be a huge mistake and one that could easily be assigned a hefty tax.
With daylight we were afforded the opportunity to see the desert stretch out far in front of us until it melted into a mirage of its own creation. The heat, baking the valley floor, was visible as it rose and faded; dissolving into the cool 110 degree layer that rested a few meters above ground. Continue reading Box Beetles of Death Valley
Death Valley as a mid-summer destination is not high on most people’s list as a desirable vacation spot. It’s hot, very hot. It’s below sea-level. There’s no obvious life, no water, no vegetation. Everything looks dead and for much of it that is precisely the state it’s in. However for us the onslaught of unrelenting heat, it’s like sticking your head in an oven, topping out at 120 degrees was a pleasure we relished. Stocked and prepared with a case of twenty-four water bottles, a map, and a sense of adventure, we hit the road.
Leaving the town of Joshua Tree, and its high desert temperatures, we headed towards Yucca Valley then altered course north to Apple Valley, Victorville with a slice of historic Route 66, and onto Ridgecrest, our final stop before descending into the cauldron of desert life, the unexpected, the unusual, and the underpopulated was waiting for us.
Ridgecrest is high country and occasionally receives a blanket of snow. The last time was way back in the early 90’s and a picture of it is proudly displayed at the entrance to Kristy’s, a local diner that fed us well and loaded our calorie count before we descended to a place where the a snowflakes appearance is even rarer.
Before dropping into Panamint Valley I would be remiss if I didn’t make mention of Searles Lake and the town of Trona; both could act as sets for any one of countless zombie movies. Continue reading Population One
There are national parks all over the US. Their names more often than not bring forth a quick nod of acknowledgement and an audible sigh of respect in recognition of the natural beauty represented.
Some, like Arches, Bryce, Zion, are well-known and considered remarkable gifts of nature however there are others that reach iconic status around the world for the images they conjure and the wonder they afford anyone who has the privilege of visiting; Grand Canyon, Everglades, Yosemite, and the oldest of all; Yellowstone.
There are 59 national parks in the US and from the ones I have seen they are all worthy of their status as protected communal sovereignty. Land set aside to enjoy in a natural untouched state; where the sole purpose is for man to enjoy a peaceful co-existence with the earth and bask in its raw and undeniably perfect form.
Joshua Tree is one of these national parks.
A little less well-known than some, as it was only 1994 when she joined the ranks of the protected, but equally as breath-taking. Home of a very particular and revered tree whose erratic branches make it look more like a Dr. Seuss illustration of fiction than a creation of Mother nature. Continue reading Cattle Rustlers Haven
In the desert colors fade, grow tired and old, and morph into unexpected patterns; almost overnight. The aquamarine door of our hotel room was at one time exactly the same as all the others that lined the outfacing corridor. Now, after years of sun bleaching heat, every one was unique; like a weather-beaten fingerprint calloused and scuffed. Every room that lay behind each door had a story all its own but none more-so than the room with which we shared a wall.
Immediately outside our neighboring room the scene is akin to the resting place in Paris of Jim Morrison. Candles and driftwood lay atop a wax encrusted concrete slab, which has a story all its own; I will get to that later. An ash tray with freshly smoked butts, old cowboy boots, and pine-cones lay in the center. Two black concrete pews occupy the flank positions allowing seated homage to be paid to the eight foot black guitar statue over-shadowing everything.
The door to Room 8 acts as a sentry to a rock and roll shrine, of sorts, soaked in legend, myth, and fact. A twisting saga of 70’s sex, music, drugs, and the search by one man to recapture solace from a land known as Joshua Tree. Continue reading Gram Parsons Found Joshua Tree