It’s a dry heat.
“It’s not the heat so much, it’s the humidity.”
At 42 degrees Celsius those quaint little euphemisms we use as Canadians in the north count for nothing. At 42 degrees in the sun your brain begins to melt I’m pretty sure.
My three desert stops on this spring’s trip brought home this simple fact – hot is hot. Joshua Tree, the Mojave and Death Valley were not all what I expected.
Joshua Tree was, overrun by people. To be fair it was Easter weekend and Americans love their national parks but I had not expected the crowds I was seeing in Arizona and then California. A little naivety on my part I suppose but I still was taken aback by the sheer scale of both the desert and the numbers of people roaming over the surface like ants.
Even on the trails, there were people everywhere – for me, a photographer who likes his shots sans people it was challenging and a little disappointing. But if your patient things eventually thin out and the desert reveals itself.
The Mojave was spectacular – and I should have spent much more time there. At some moment in the Mojave, I think it was while walking the largest sand dune I’ve ever seen, I realized that this was probably the last of my “pack as much as I can into every day” trips. You just miss too much in the rush to get to the next vista or the next stop. I decided my fall trip, wherever it took me would be at a much gentler pace.
Death Valley – was everything I wanted from the desert. Quiet. Solitude.
My campsite was eight miles from the nearest collection of humans in Stovepipe Wells in a little corner of the world known as Marble Canyon. After an afternoon noon hike that left me more than a little drained decided to wait a couple of hours for the sun to settle a bit and as it turned out the clouds to move in before further exploring the surrounding area. No wildlife of any sort – no snakes, insects or spiders – to the relieve of most, a slight disappointment to me.
Early evening exploration leads to a massive find of fossil coral and seaweed – amazing when you lift your eyes now and see nothing but a dry, very dry, creek bed and small mountains.
A days end the first sign of other life – two actually – a lone hiker, walks by stops to say hi and continues on saying her campsite is about a mile back and then as the final rays of sun disappear, a raven letting me know he’s watching.
The park is massive. Overwhelmingly so at 7,800 square kilometers, I’ve come to realize that when I come back I’ll spend a week in this park alone. If I’m generous despite spending the better part of two days and nights I’ve perhaps seen in a very broad sense 10% of the park – it deserves a much fuller exploration.