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February 21, 2006

Outside Boron

I've always been particularly moved by the Joshua trees in the plains of the western Mojave Desert, between Barstow and the Sierra. In other parts of the Mojave the dramatic scenery, rocks and distant mountain vistas, compete with the contorted forms of the tree yuccas. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But in the plains north of Edwards Air Force Base, where a broad bowl of a valley stretched from Boron to the Great Green Wall of the Sierra Nevada, there is little to compete with the Joshua trees. The trees become the most striking objects in the landscape. The increasing haze in the west Mojave, from dust and fires and commuters' exhaust pipes and burgeoning industry, only brings the foreground trees into sharp relief. I see them in silhouette against the western evening sky. I've long wanted to pull over to the side of the road and take photos.

And last month I did: I pulled to the shoulder of Twenty Mule Team Road and walked south into the desert.

I did some walking yesterday as well, though I got a bit of a late start. Just to the windy ridge in Briones Regional Park, I told myself, and then back and spend some time with Becky. That would be three and a half miles and a thousand foot climb. And then I got to the ridge and felt invigorated. I thought I'd go just a little further. Certainly not more than another mile. Just maybe up around that bend there.

When I got back to the truck I'd walked just under ten miles. I'd climbed just over 2,000 feet. A broad ridgetop circuit of the south end of the park, and then down into Bear Creek Valley and back up the other side.

At the southernmost point of my hike, four miles in or so, I thought I heard a familiar song on the wind. I stopped to listen, but heard nothing. Started walking again and there it was: Coyotes at three in the afternoon, singing to the suburban dogs three miles away, a thousand feet below.

Posted by Chris Clarke at February 21, 2006 03:06 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs


Thirty, forty, and fifty years ago, that section of US 395 (from Boron north to the ghost towns of Randsburg/ Johannesburg, now Cero Cuso and other suburbs of Ridgecrest) was one of the singularly most fun strips of pavement in the west. The road was literally a roller coaster, complete with zero gravity lift sections, and deep multi-G compressions. And no one except the Joshua trees to watch you. My dad had to spend periods of time out at Edwards and China Lake, in the 1950's, and my mom was a notorious lead footed driver of our new Packard, and thus i learned at an early age the fun out there. Of course we also visited the Borax works, Death Valley, the Panamints, Saline Valley, and such so i was able to much more fully enjoy the upper Mojave region as i moved from my teens through to my thirties. But always that amazing extremely fun roller coaster; there really was nothing like flying through space a few inches off the pavement at 100+mph. Must have been the proximity to those test pilots friends of my dad.

Posted by: spyder at February 21, 2006 04:47 PM
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Ah, lovely bizarre Joshua trees! I had only seen photos of them when we went down to Joshua Tree National Park in mid January this year. We met up with our son, who'd been down there climbing. We climbed, hiked, scrambled, and soaked up the amazing spirit of the place. Thanks for the visual reminder.

Posted by: isabelita at February 22, 2006 03:52 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs