Thursday, April 24, 2008

Earth Day Extravaganza!

I guess its no and Algore love the planet Earth. In fact, I guess I'd have to say that Earth is just about my favorite planet in the whole danged universe! That doesnt mean that there arent places on Earth that I dislike intensely. Take, for instance, Las Vegas, Nevada. Its got its good points and bad points but getting there from Los Angeles in an automobile usually involves the I-15, which I hate. 250 miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic; trucks, hookers with road-rage, chinese tourists in rental cars, drunken fraternity prats, wiseguys and gangstas in Escalades, every form of human debris is hurtling to or from that glowing neon catbox in what used to be the desert at high speed. The obsessive-compulsive desire to hand over their hard-earned cash to the corporate casino owners and the practitioners of every form of vice ever invented has worn tire-ruts in each lane, making changing lanes a bit dicey in places.
So, I avoid I-15. This adds a hundred or even two hundred miles to ones trip but one traffic jam in Victorville or the Cajon Pass, one jackknifed truck or overturned SUV (common occurrences on I-15) can wipe out any advantage you gain from taking a direct route. But I'm an old hand at this, the last few years of my mother's life made me almost a commuter to the Entertainment Capital Of The World and I've learned all the alternative routes.
This week I did a fast turnaround and on the way back I drove through the Mojave National Desert Preserve. I had weighed an alternative route through Death Valley, a gorgeous spring day like this shouldnt be wasted and Death Valley wont be visitable until October but I went south instead of North.
It seems that the clouds which just rolled through LA without dropping any moisture, a sure sign that the dry season has arrived, must have dumped some rain into this isolated valley. As I drove into the preserve I noticed how lush and green the mesquite bushes were. The Joshua trees that you
encounter on the road to Cima had the dust washed off of them and were in full flower. An amazing sight. The desert floor was rioting with wildflowers and blooming cactii. I was pulling my car over every few minutes just to wander around and take pictures. I saw a king snake slither across the road . There were lots of chipmunks and a jackrabbit darting about. I didnt see any coyotes. I guess I'll just have to wait for them to wander into my yard back in LA.

At one point I stopped and watched a kestrel swoop back and forth low over the mesquite and then rose to perch on a phone pole. I got a photo.

I drove through Cima and the south towards the I-40.

I turned off at the washboard road to the Kelso Dunes. I worried that my 14-year-old Honda Del Sol would be shaken to pieces in the three-mile drive to the trailhead. I parked in the empty parking lot and got a quart-sized bottle of water to take with me as I hiked up into the dunes. Very quickly I remembered a couple of things I had forgotten about desert sand dunes, as opposed to beach sand. The sand is much finer and drier, making it harder to walk on. I'm in fairly good shape, I walk on steep hills most weekend mornings, but I was soon out of breath, heart pounding. Another big difference is the temperature and the humidity. No sea breeze here. It was about 75 degrees in the parking lot. It must have been twenty degrees hotter on the sand. My water started to disappear fast. But what a walk! The dunes were covered with wildflowers. Lizard tracks wound across the blinding white sand. Ravens flew by. Absolute total silence broken annoyingly by a jet flying high overhead at one point. Not a soul around.
An inspiring moment.

My water was disappearing at an alarming rate. I turned around and walked back, arriving at the parking lot to encounter a two-foot-long lizard standing near my car. A photo op from God. But would he bolt? I slowly moved closer. He was frozen. Another step. Raise my camera. I got it! As I lowered my camera the lizard came to its senses and scurried off.

I got in my car and drove back to LA.

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