In the spring of 2014 we took a second trip to Joshua Tree, California. We had gone on a much larger desert road trip the year before for our 20th anniversary and decided to return to the Joshua Tree area specifically since it was the part of the trip that we found most captivating. Little did we know that it would be our last trip.
Now, whenever we talk about where we would go when I am well enough, Joshua Tree always comes up as the first choice. Before seeing a real desert, I unconsciously imagined it to be a lot of the same. Sand, bushes, cacti, repeat. But it turns out that deserts are incredibly diverse ecosystems that are full of life, even if much of that life resides underneath the ground.
On that second trip we stayed in an AirBnB in the Mojave desert near a military base and next door to a small date farm. It was such a peculiar place to wake up each morning. Military helicopters rolling over, and then, the silence of nothing but holes in the ground everywhere you looked, and happy bees buzzing as they collected pollen from flowering creosote bushes after one of the first rains of the season.
From that location we were able to access a wide range of surprising landscapes and ecosystems. One of my favourite spots on the trip captures why I am so drawn to the desert [See my post about this spot here]. As we drove up and over an unassuming mountain on our way to the Mojave Desert Preserve (listening to YES play I’ve Seen All Good People for the hundredth time), I was bowled over by an incredible, infinite vastness. From that high vantage you could see everything for miles and miles. Looking down upon that intense landscape, I felt so small, a little bit afraid, and a lot humbled. I felt these same feelings on other parts of this trip and the one before. Small, humble, grateful.
We are nothing but tiny blips on a massive planet. But we’ve got things way out of balance and our footprints are too big. There are other places in my life and near to home that serve as reminders of my place in the world, but there is something about the vast harshness of the desert that really drives it home.