I have spent more time in the Desert than I care to have done. For me this is primarily the Coachella Valley in California which is part of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem, a rain shadow desert east of the Santa Rosa Mountains. Although I don’t particularly like the desert, I have been going for over forty years.
My first visit to the desert was in 1972. My grandparents had moved there to work as caretakers for a compound in Thousand Palms, and my family drove down to spend Christmas with them. It was out of my experience to be in a place that was warm in the winter.
The landscape was so very different from our home in the Puget Sound area that it was intriguing. The stark landscape was beautiful and the plants and animals that adapted to the harsh environment fascinated.
Especially the palm trees that popped up seemingly out of nowhere. If you are ever in the area I highly recommend visiting the Thousand Palms Oasis, a preserve run by the Nature Conservancy. Here are some photos that my dad took on that original trip in the area of the Thousand Palms Oasis, it was not a nature preserve at the time.
I don’t hate the desert passionately, but find it unpleasant to be there. My curiosity about it as an environment has been satisfied or fried out of me and “been there, done that”, in most cases more than once, to the local spots of interest.
The area has grown up and there is not as much desert there as there used to be. All the construction feels the same, visit one faux adobe shopping center and you have pretty much seen them all.
I hate that jaded feeling, I pride myself on being able to find interesting things to see and do where ever I go, but the heat, aridity, wind, and that extra large, sharp sand that infiltrates no matter which shoes I wear to cut into my feet really make it hard to keep a good attitude going.
One disturbing reality is that, as the population of the area has skyrocketed and the faux adobe developments have proliferated, the open desert has often been treated as a dump. I wrote a bit about this in my post The Ephemeral, The Eternal & Trash. An example: near where my property was someone (probably someone who had a contract to dispose of the waste from a dog park) had dumped a series of three foot high piles of doggie doo-doo along the edge of a dirt track. As the years pass it is becoming dust in the wind, but I first noticed it something like six years ago and it was still distinguishable last year. You see furniture, tires, sometimes even whole households’ worth of stuff, just dumped. It sits drying out and being sandblasted for a very, very long time before it either blows away or is buried.
Here are some pictures from my trips to the desert since I discovered digital cameras (if you have read this far you need a break, and the desert does have it’s own, rather stark, beauty).
My most recent trip was last month, when I went down with my grandmother to sell the property. My post Was it all a dream? was from that trip, which I meant to be my last trip, but on returning I promised Grandma that I will take her back this winter, if all goes well (she loves it there…or at least the idea of it she formed in her head 40+ years ago).
It was not my first “last trip down”, my post I am on a Journey…, is from another “last trip” to the desert, and My Worst Nightmare, Styling in Palm Springs-Practical, but not pretty and Nightmare Part 2 are about the trip last August. I was surprised how many of the posts I have written have been about the desert.
I don’t long for my last “last trip” any more, because I realized that it will mean that Grandma is no longer able to travel.