January moves across the landscapes of the desert. The month’s diurnal agenda, filled with sharp shivery bits of time, is cause for hesitation. With the winter like weather comes hurried shuffles from home to car, car to work, work to car and car to home. Nevertheless, the call to step out into its brumal embrace falls through the windshield. And as the day’s end moves closer, my foot grows weighted against the pedal.
Sunrise on November 10, 2012.
On the 10th, 11th and 12th of October Las Vegas received an unusual storm, dropping upwards of an inch of rain. So on Friday morning I headed out to a spot that provides a sweeping view of the Red Rock Canyon NCA and took a picture of the breaking of the storm during sunrise. It’s a shot I have been waiting a long time to capture. The never-ending days of cloudless skies makes a moment like this very rare.
One random companionless cloud drifts indifferently over my plastered box, igniting a debate within my head. Over the Sheep Range, another cloud, this one thick with moisture and building towards the upper levels of the atmosphere prompts further discussion. Should I consider it a sign? Will the day mutate into something worthy of a blistering battle with the sun? I can’t help but be an optimist, so I grab my gear and melt into my 170° F car seat. The whine of a Dog Day Cicada, playing favorites with the tree in my yard, is muted once I slam the door and start the engine. I’ve left my sunglasses on the dash again and am left squinting angrily at the sun filled roadway, holding them in the cool air that blows from the vents. An iPod and an iced coffee rest to my right in the center console cup holders. The temperature reads 108° F and it is hot!
Relying on the weatherman in Las Vegas is akin to receiving advice from a baker on a pop quiz for a chemistry class. Come to think of it, perhaps a baker would be better suited as a weatherman here, seeing as we live in an oven. I will say, the one thing the Las Vegas weather folk tend to predict correctly is the wind. Bad predictions aside, I do rely heavily on the off chance of a thunderstorm to motivate me. There are few more awesome events during summer in the Mojave than a drenching of rain to chill the troposphere. I have seen the temperature drop from 110° F to the mid 60’s in a matter of minutes. The redolence the moisture provides creates an explosion of awe within the olfactory senses. And for just a few precious moments, it seems as if you can hear the collective sigh of all things lively within this roasting rock filled range.
Over the last few months I have done what I can to enjoy the Mojave. I have taken a few trips further abroad, such as in the mountains of Montana. But seeing as this blog tends towards a desert theme, I thought better to leave those out. So below are some images I have selected that reflect the more interesting moments I encountered over this years Mojave summer and thought I would just wrap it up before the active fall and winter months to come. I hope you enjoy them…
100 degrees and sunny, 100 degrees and sunny, 100 degrees and sunny. This is the usual forecast a desert dweller faces when they check their weather app and it is the one I confirmed this morning. Sometimes it seems as if this trend will never end and follows deep into the months of September and October. My eye twitches as I hastily toss my phone on the dresser. The hum of the air conditioner is a constant soundtrack to the slow hot moments of what should not be summer and that damn Dog Day Cicada is whining and clicking away. But alas, I can see the head of a cumulonimbus cloud peaking above the rooftop of the neighbors house. Maybe today won’t be such a bad day after all. No thanks to the weatherman anyways.
End Summer Begin Fall…please
I’m thinking these panoramas represent pretty well the stretch of time since my last post. No excuses, just a bump back into it. The summers heat should be fading soon. The lonely landscapes lie waiting and I’m fairly sure the internet does too.
End Downtime, Begin Countdown…
Stained dark and blunt with presence, bashed up over years of abuse. These rocks as they are, sit into the endless nights, wrestling with existence. Pushing their way into the searing days, sitting patiently through the drenching and the winds, only to reveal to the observer, the beauty of the universe in its most intimate state. Naked, narcissistic and new.
It’s tough to explain the settled yet ever changing moments of dusk in the desert. Mostly it is silent, at least on the rare windless days, but even then it seems empty. Sat down in sweeping motions towards each horizon. Full of serene dispassion. The sense of place, like a child lying down with one eye on the carpet of the living room, is vast and stretching on towards forever.
Obscurity is night’s super power. Except in comparison to what it seems to hide, it is boundless and truly eye opening. Every lonesome second in the desert’s witching hour resonates up from the cremated soil, through the soles of your feet, wrapping the beating tissues of your heart and then finally gushing forth from the fully dilated pupils of your eyes.
End Desert Begin City…
In the desert, dressed with ruin and standing idle, sits warm pools of ancient water seeping from hellish depths. Bubbling up towards the surface, carrying within it dissolved rock and heat from the core of the earth. So silent it waits, entrenched in the lonesome beauty as though a careless afterthought of a wandering maker dashing between rocks and cackling at the weary while they stumble out into its persistent domain
We ride down from our crowded places, moving in single file along the tar. Filing away thoughts and sipping coffee. Along Hwy 93 we roll, streaming pandorory sounds over air sizzling data waves that emanate from swiss army slick bricks. Even bothering as to fuss over the transitional composition of musical masterpieces. Seeing to it that it fades from one song to the next, like magical melancholy. Under the bridge we park, 10 miles past Wikieup, shouldering the weight of many weeks of sad transitions.
Down and Into
A most peculiar start as one strolls under a huge span of concrete. An interurban structure stands like a gate, but quickly gives way to an open wash that is bordered with Catclaw Acacia, Ocotillo, Desert Broom, Saguaro and many other ideal desert plants.
The Canyon of Two Names. Kaiser Canyon/Warm Springs Canyon
Into the canyon of a thousand eyes. A watcher watches only those who fear to be found. My first time here in Kaiser/Warm Springs Canyon AZ in the long long ago, we had driven foolishly through the night to walk down in the dark to the warm spring. Upon entering the mouth of the canyon we saw, scurrying about in the bush, so many dreadful eyes. Stoned as could be, we could not find the courage to confront these beasts. So we packed up and headed the three hours back home.
At the river we shall claim our ground! Feasting on leased property, bashing the rock with boot strides wide and powerful. The smell of burro bowel pastries heavy in the canyon’s air. Even the waters of the fittingly named Burro Creek has a hint of the animals digestive tract. But we must wallow. The surroundings unexpected mash-up of terrestrial flavors tickle the senses, moving one to plop right down there by the river and delve into the pleasures of a cup of bourbon.
Able and willing, the sultry swank of a resting desert afternoon creeps up on us from over the canyon ridges. A spot overlooking the stretch of river is a must and we move to a spot that combines with easy access of the warm spring.
Kaiser Warm Springs
The warm spring, known as Kaiser Warm Springs sits within Warm Springs Canyon, AZ. It is a comfortable 99º F and flows from a pipe jutting out from the rock. In the previous years it was much deeper but has since been destroyed by flash flooding. Upon arriving this time it was in a sad state. Littered with trash and barley deep enough to soak. We spent a good part of the day cleaning up the site and building up the wall. We also built the steps, changing pad and clothes hanging pole.
Awake with the glory of the sun, drenched in restfulness that only the silence of a noiseless desert can pour. A gradual climb by the sun and the descent of its light bathed the canyon walls as we watched the morning routine of a Red-Tailed Hawk. It left its nest up on the cliff just before the sunlight struck and moved out in a straight line out over Burro Creek.
Teddy Bear Cholla glow in the morning light, while a lone Saguaro stands guard.
The devil plays golf, as is proven here with the moon tee’d up on a cliff spire.
One more soak then time to pack it up. Nothing like a warm bath and a hot cup of coffee in the backcountry to start off your day.
Sum It All Up
This trip embodies all the best the desert has to offer. Remoteness is prime here once you have left the highway. On all four of my trips I have not seen another soul while down in the canyon. There is warm spring to soak in with pristine water at a comfortable temp and a river to stay cool during the day only a couple hundred yards away. The canyon is saturated with life, sound and seemingly manicured plants. If you find yourself here, please treat the spring with respect and pack out what you pack in. It wouldn’t hurt to pack out a little more as well!
End Desert Begin City…