A Weekend Camping in the Desert Wilderness

Water, water everywhere… except not really. Quite the opposite.

The weather’s perfect right now for a camping trip in the desert, a smidgen North of Joshua Tree. The whole area sits at the foot of some mountains, where regular flash floods have carved a broad valley into the sand. Up in the mountains, rocks are loose and missing most of the sand that holds them together. The sand sits in the flash flood channel, somehow refusing to move downhill. Meanwhile, the bottom of the mountain is a mass of close-packed rocks that barely let the sand shine through.

This environment is not the friendliest towards plants and animals. I think the only visible animals were two birds and a handful of ants – the rest of the critters must have been in hiding.

During the days, it was a dry 60-70 degrees, depending on the friendliness of the sun. The rocks retained almost no heat, but reflected whatever they could get. It was the best weather for hiking through the desert – no real chance for heat stroke. The air was still so dry that water was always a concern. It seemed like we couldn’t drink enough of the stuff. No matter what, my lips got more chapped than I’ve ever seen them.

Most of the plants and landscape showed the same colors, over and over. The rocks were tan to orange, with an iron-black patina building up on some surfaces. In certain parts of the flood path, the sand was mixed with small grains of iron. Meanwhile, the plants were largely tan, bone-dry brown, or a deep and dusty green. Anything and everything was trying its best to survive with as little water as possible. The erosion on the rocks and the growth of the plants were both likely much slower than in other climates. Everything I saw must have been far older than it felt.

With the near-absence of life, the rocks took center stage with their vibrant patters and colors. When everything was so visually similar, it was the textures that started to stand out. On some rocks, a patina had grown so thick as to appear like lines of spray paint. Elsewhere, the softer materials had worn away to reveal the stronger layers woven into the rocks.

To balance out the mild temperatures of the daylight hours, the desert nights grew cold. Some nights hovered around freezing. To combat the cold and the complete, moonless dark, a bonfire was necessary. It was easy enough to find the rocks for a pit, and there’s plenty of open sand for a safe burn. We’re lucky there wasn’t much wind, or else the nights may have been even colder.

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you had a pleasant time checking out the plants. If you’re in the mood for more nature, please stay in touch!


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