Mojave Desert
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The crack of dawn sounds too brazen, sudden and demanding. In the Mojave day births like a thin sliver streaking along the tops of the tallest Joshua and Yucca, a golden thread gently drapping and tying the tips of the cresote rings together across the plain. The orange-gold shadowy rainbow spreads out over the desert floor as the sun rolls from beneath the eastern horizon.

A nervous roadrunner stops in a small clearing, checking its choices, then quickly struts away. A moment later a coyote halts, sniffs the air and follows behind. Quail rustle and flutter frantically as the coyote inadvertantly brushes against a dry cheesebush nearby.

Three raven cruise above looking for something dead. Rabbits and rats nibble at tiny bits of greenery and dry seeds in the shortening shade.

The day is underway, quiet and unassuming, clearly unstoppable.

Three short, sad notes the Mourning doves call to each other from bunches of thick green leaves in the Cottonwood trees. The heat pushes up the canyon, the bright sun chases the shadows into themselves the way a mirage disappears as you approach.

Boots crunch softly in the thick sand along the trail, spotted lizards dart frantically in the low scrub. The pointed ears of a coyote catch your attention as it leaps over a clump of gray grass to pounce on a squirrel eating a seed. A tortoise marches on steadfastly and fearless in his search for a mate. A Cottontail nibbles on a juicy young leaf and listens closely to every scratch and pop.

The late morning finally gives way and high noon approaches as bold as a bully. The air is clear and hot. The sun burns the back of your hands and brings salt to your dry lips. Your forehead tingles, you push the brim of your hat back and tilt your head forward a bit to keep your face in the shade.

Battalions of storm clouds rage across the Mojave, viciously attacking the dry mountains with hard and icy torrents. Dirty water roars down the rocky washes tearing away at the roots of creosote and cacti.

Terrible, dark and angry, the sky ominously rolls overhead with a continuous and deep thunder. The ill-tempered wind is wild and overpowering. It whips relentlessly in every direction scoring the land with sand and rain.

A black and ragged raven, head tucked into his massive wings, keeps his claws locked in a death-grip to the spiked leaves of a Joshua tree. Everything above the earth rocks in violent chaos. The creature is ripped away and retreats, like a cur hiding in his cape, to the next tortured tree.

As the warring elements tire and seek to subside, the colors above lighten to a sorrowful purple. The sun gently breaks through and the clouds silently curl into themselves, patching the wounded mountains with calico shadows.

The golden hours of the morning, just after the sunrise, before the shadows slip under the rocks. A slight breeze, cool and light. The horizon fills with yellow and eats away at the blue cloudless sky. Quail dart from bush to bush in the highlands, antelope squirrel scurry between clumps of black grass further on.

Blue-black raven investigate everything. The sun turns the sky white, and seems to drop lower as it begins its pass across the Mojave. The landscape vibrates slightly as sand and rock cast back the heat of the sun.

The day slows to near inertia. Occasionally, a lizard on a rock will push himself away from the burning desert floor, a snake will hide in the stingey shade. The mirages grow on the playas, the intensifying heat beats down. There is no breeze, there is no sound. The heart of the day is insanely long and insanely hot. When you are in it there is no diversion, just the blazing sun.

The golden hours of the sunset, shadows unscrew themselves and stretch away. Winds whip dust devils crazily over the plain. Cool blue returns to the top of the sky. As the sun sinks it plates the Joshua tree with gold, and paints sand dunes with blue-orange shadows. Indescribable colors reflect from the brush, cactus and pale purple-green flowers. The intense colors of fire pour over the distant horizon -- a flat and dry, yet deeply rich rainbow stripes the end of the day.

On a rock on a ridge you sit with the sun on your back. Look across the Mojave and you see the junker Model-T loaded with dirty kids, tired parents and everything they have in the world. Look another direction and there is the mail wagon and the lone soldier escort. Over a bit is the miner with his burro crunching across the rock, beatup, exhausted yet persistant. Further back is a small band of Chemehuevi picking their way up a ravine to a spring hidden behind the brush. Off in the distance, are the ancient ones, chipping at rock with a piece of bone for their hunting spears. All this from a rock on a ridge, over-looking the desert void.

You feel the chill of the winds blowing through you, the blaze of the sun burn your face. The elements contrast and compliment each other. The sun lowers in the sky. The mountains and rock formations that seemed so far away move closer and become personal. The colors change dramatically and so quickly before your eyes. Yellows to orange, to red, to pink, then purple and blue to black. Clouds lace the bright white moon. The colorful brilliance of the stars pierce the night. The mountains, rocks and cactus have slipped into the darkness. You lay down to sleep and you dream... You feel the chill of the winds blowing through you, the blaze of the sun burn your face.

There are places in the desert that can reach deep inside of your soul. A mountain top, a sprawling bajada, a twisting arroyo or a stand of joshua. The lighting is perfect -- sunset, sunrise or even during a storm. It can be silent or filled with the sound the wind rushing through the creosote. The moment is incredibly perfect and takes you away with it. Live for that moment for it is fleeting. Return and it is just a place. Search and you will find another.

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These items are historical in scope and are intended for educational purposes only; they are not meant as an aid for travel planning.
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