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Creek Running North

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December 02, 2004

Pinto Chollas

In Pinto Basin, near the center of Joshua Tree National Park, an imaginary line snakes through a forest of cholla. On one side of the line lies the Sonoran Desert, or at least that painfully hot, desolate section of it that lies in California. On the other side, to the north and uphill, is the Mojave. On maps of the park, the line is fixed to an absurd level of precision, as if it were a coast or a county line. Truthfully, the line's course is somewhere between an arbitrary decision and a biologist's best guess. To the north grow the Mojave's Joshua Trees. Southward, Sonoran ironwoods thrive. Each is an effective vegetative field mark of its respective desert. Except when they willfully grow in the wrong one. Which happens a lot. But not here. You can't see either species from this patch of cholla. To stand unambiguously in either the Mojave or the Sonoran desert, you will need to get back in your car and drive a few miles, or trudge that same distance over the waterless slopes of the Pinto Mountains or the Hexies, which the Park Service officially discourages.

Instead, I gaze to the east at the Coxcomb Mountains, about forty miles away across the plain. A pair of ravens passes. (That might mean I'm in the Mojave, as most ravens I've ever seen there fly in pairs.) They are a half-mile off, but I hear their feathers as they softly scrape the dry air. I feel their wing-beats in my chest.

This is the second in a series of ten photo-prompted posts.

Posted by Chris Clarke at December 2, 2004 12:59 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs


Photo and post are wonderful. And when I blew up the photo, I really couldn't imagine standing in a landscape like that - incredible.

Posted by: beth at December 2, 2004 01:59 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Mmm. I've always had a certain wary affection for chollas. I don't know whether to view the idea of standing in the midst of so many with fear or longing.

Posted by: Rana at December 2, 2004 02:10 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

You're in the Mojave. Sonoran chollas would attack a camera that got that close ...

Posted by: Jarrett at December 2, 2004 08:45 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs