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2012 Trips

Spring 2012: Places

Sunday, May 13th, 2012: 2012 Trips, Road Trips.

On my way to the Mojave Desert for a birthday powwow with friends, I spent a night in the Wigwam Motel on historic but dilapidated Route 66 in Holbrook, Arizona. From a restaurant window on Holbrook’s main drag, I watched a parade of broken men limping to and from a liquor store.

Over the years, my remote, spectacular wilderness retreat in the Mojave has bonded me with two biologist friends who also love the place. The three of us arrived late Wednesday afternoon and hiked up to the spring where one of them had placed a motion-sensor camera six months earlier. Then we returned to camp and cooked dinner as the waxing moon rose in the east.

On Thursday, I tried to follow my friends on a long hike searching for an “old Indian trail,” but became dehydrated and exhausted after trudging twelve miles under the desert sun. So on Friday I went looking for shade, walking up the gulch to the decaying shade house, built by miners a century earlier, where I had lived during my “year in the wilderness” long ago. First I found some old sheet metal and hauled it over gaps in the roof, anchoring it with heavy stones, then I spent the rest of the long, hot day lying in my Yucatan hammock: reading, listening to birds, soaking up the infinite peace of the desert. Bliss!

More friends arrived Friday evening, and we were all entranced by the “supermoon” which rose later and bigger each night.

After five days camping in the desert, I rejoined civilization, flying from Las Vegas over Death Valley, the glittering snowfields of the southern Sierra Nevada, and the waterfalls of Yosemite. As we approached San Francisco, my seatmate, an ex-stripper wearing layers of unhealthy-looking makeup, asked me if I’d seen the bird poop on the mountain tops. She said her father had told her about it and seemed truly surprised when I assured her it was snow.

I spent a few days hiking and catching up on more good conversation with old friends before attending a business meeting in Palo Alto. Before moving to New Mexico, I had lived beside the Pacific for eight years, and a walk beside the Bay in San Francisco’s Presidio left me missing the ocean. So the next day, a friend drove me over to Pescadero for a walk on the beach. It turned out to be high tide, so there wasn’t much beach to walk on, but we were treated to basking sea lions and crashing surf.


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Spring 2012: People

Sunday, May 13th, 2012: 2012 Trips, Mojave Desert, People, Regions, Road Trips.

This year’s desert powwow was enlivened by two totemic groups: the media-industry fathers and sons, and the field biologists.

The boys had the time of their lives climbing the boulder-strewn slopes near camp, and fathers and sons together had fun exploring the old mining ruins. Farther afield, the scientists roamed for miles over the surrounding ridges and canyons with their field glasses and GPS units.

My biologist friends are also expert gardeners and foragers, and we all enjoyed extravagant evening meals, featuring sazeracs and the legendary desert lobster.

The fathers had a chance to talk shop at midday under the shade canopy while their sons scrambled about outside, seemingly impervious to the sun’s rays. And around the late-night campfire, after the others retired to their tents, the scientists shared war stories of species and bureaucracies.

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Spring 2012: Animals

Sunday, May 13th, 2012: 2012 Trips, Animals, Mojave Desert, Nature, Regions, Road Trips.

Spring is a great time to see desert wildlife, and we were blessed not only with abundant sightings, but with photos of animals that visited the spring on our land over the winter, since one of the biologists had placed a motion-sensor camera there last November.

Mountain sheep expert John Wehausen spotted a group of rams at the head of the gulch, and the other biologists encountered numerous rattlesnakes on their hikes.

I was lucky to run across a couple of rattlers, a gopher snake and two variable ground snakes. Plus, I saw several western tanagers on migration, a flock of Gambel’s quail, and lots of jackrabbits. Redtail hawks were out in force, and from camp we saw one chasing a raven across the inner basin.

During my later hikes in the San Francisco Bay Area, I ran into lots more snakes, lizards, birds and insects – plus a group of sea lions basking on offshore rocks.

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Spring 2012: Flowers

Sunday, May 13th, 2012: 2012 Trips, Mojave Desert, Nature, Plants, Regions, Road Trips.

Several people remarked that this year’s spring bloom was below average due to drought, but I suspect that we were simply in the desert at the wrong time, in between the early bloom of annuals and the later flowering of perennials. Nevertheless, I spent my last day photographing what flowers there were, and I think they’re pretty impressive. What do you think?

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Spring 2012: Artifacts

Sunday, May 13th, 2012: 2012 Trips, Indigenous Cultures, Mojave Desert, Regions, Road Trips, Society.

Our land is in a mountain range that had special significance to the desert Indians, but it’s doubtful that our property saw much use by Native Americans. There are lots of mining ruins dating back to the 1870s, but whereas I’ve found prehistoric campsites, potsherds, and rock art elsewhere in the range, I have yet to run across artifacts in our canyon.

But my scientist friends hit the jackpot on this trip, finding a large agate scraper on the bajada, and a nice small arrowhead on the slopes.

The boys revisited an area up the canyon where the old miners disposed of their bottles and cans, and collected some nice pieces of purple and blue glass.

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