Burning Descent of the Joshua Trees
       
     
Illuminating Night with the Rise of Orion
       
     
Drifting Along the Dunes of Sand
       
     
Dance of the Desert Wildflowers
       
     
Basin of the Ancient Crystals
       
     
Well of the Barbed Fortress
       
     
Burning Descent of the Joshua Trees
       
     
Burning Descent of the Joshua Trees

Joshua Tree National Park - Jumbo Rocks

A spectacular gloaming in Queen Valley, the land clustered with Joshua Trees, and adorned by the rocky terrain abound. But with setting sun, the view westward clamored for attention from all who passed by. The spine of the San Bernardino range created a spectral wall, with colors subdued by the fading light and faint cover of clouds. As the sun settled in for the night, dipping behind the distant mountains, the moon woke from the east, illuminating the twisted trees, just recently cast in the evening darkness.

Illuminating Night with the Rise of Orion
       
     
Illuminating Night with the Rise of Orion

Joshua Tree National Park - Hidden Valley

The sun, having declined behind the mountains, left the entire western horizon aglow. But as light continued to fade, the real show eastward was set to begin. From behind these eroded deposits of monzogranite boulders, born from the belly of the earth, immortal Orion rose, shooting his meteoric arrows all across the sky. His neighbor Selene climbed slowly after, at first, seeming to cast her radiance solely on the hunter in the stars. Then, gradually, her spotlight turned to sun, illuminating the whole of night that engulfed Hidden Valley, letting all of day be seen again.   

 

Drifting Along the Dunes of Sand
       
     
Drifting Along the Dunes of Sand

Death Valley National Park - Mesquite Flat

After a long trek over rolling waves of sand, leading from vista to vista of grander peaks beyond, I found myself standing on a slender ridge of the dunes, watching the spectacular show of golden light and passing clouds. Gazing out at such a view, the thought came that perhaps I was the only human to have ever stood on these grains of sand. Or, I considered it possible, the natives who first populated this land, could have walked upon these very same tiny fragments of glass. But what excited me most of all, the mere chance that even a single granule of this ancient dust was photographed by Ansel Adams when he labored here on the Mesquite Flat Dunes, could now, by chance, be eternally linked to the image I’ve captured of this ever changing landscape.

Dance of the Desert Wildflowers
       
     
Dance of the Desert Wildflowers

Death Valley National Park - Mustard Canyon

What a marvelous occurrence, to see so much life teeming in a place known for desolation. Fields of flowers, carried on by the gusting winter winds and nourished with the torrential rainstorms of the great El Niño, flourished throughout the landscape. A prominence of yellow petals dotted the blackened alluvial fans beyond, spreading up every canyon, and across the craggy surface on which I stood, feet carefully placed in effort to not destroy such beauty, as fleeting as it may have been. The cirrus clouds above wisped from east to west crossing the valley sky, majestically gliding in unison with the sway of the rooted blossoms. Most certainly, it would seem, the name Death Valley held little truth today.

Basin of the Ancient Crystals
       
     
Basin of the Ancient Crystals

Death Valley National Park - Badwater Basin

Venturing out from the shade of the mountains to enjoy the solitude of this barren plane, I began to worry that perhaps some recent rains had altered the geometric wonderland I had so longed to see. Further out, standing 282 feet below sea-level at the bottom of an ancient lake that left behind jagged crystals of iodine, ever so blinding in the morning light, I felt victorious having reached these famous flats, and quite content to be alone. No sound to hear but the whispers and wails of the wind, and the crunch of the salt beneath. The sun parches one quickly on this desolate basin, though no want of relief can be had, as you see, the little water that is here, it’s bad.

Well of the Barbed Fortress
       
     
Well of the Barbed Fortress

Joshua Tree National Park - Cholla Cactus Garden

South of the Joshua Trees, where the desert dips some two thousand feet down, the Cholla Cacti consume the landscape. As I was wandering this natural patch of prickliness, I felt as if I was in a fortress, protected by the cacti from any outside threat. But the earth was hot, and my throat dry, and quickly these walls that seemed to secure turned into bastille. A wealth of scarce water stored within, yet largely unreachable, as a well would be if guarded by the sun.