Sunday, September 2, 2018

Random Pictures from the Desert Southwest

Compilations of Central California here and Pennsylvania here.

I thought it would be fun to gather all my desert trip pictures in one place. These go back a ways and many were taken with horrible cellphone cameras, so if the quality of some of them offends you, assume that I did it with a filter for artistic purposes.

Four Corners Area - Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings, the Iconic Monument Valley

Stop and get some turquoise and fry bread and listen to the Dine (Navajo) radio station, which features Navajo chants for music, then cuts away for a brief news report in Dine, and then back to chanting. The area around Mesa Verde actually had more people when MV was a going concern around a thousand years ago than it does now. The display case is in the Burger King in Kayenta and contains captured material from Japan brought back by the code talkers.

Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Goblin Valley, the Canyonlands

Capitol Reef is the greatest national park you'll never go to, because it's not close to anything (not even the other south Utah parks really.) At one point you can see the dinosaur bones embedded in a cliff; in another, a massive boulder of quartz, like some kind of dormant alien egg. In the Canyonlands I spent most of my time in the Needles area (one of the greatest hikes of my life) and I also made it to the amazing petroglyphs in the remote Horseshoe Canyon section (the one where Aaron Rawls cut his own arm off), which like much of south Utah also features dinosaur tracks.

Utah: Bonneville Salt Flats from I-80

Palm Springs and Salvation Mountain

The gentleman who built Salvation Mountain was still living and coherent when I was there and that day he was discussing his works with some rapt French architecture students. Oddly, Palm Springs is often wet and cold when I'm there.

California: Off the Pearblossom Highway

There are some cool hot springs near Victorville, plus who doesn't like a nice Joshua Tree now and again.

California: Mojave Preserve

Nevada: Desert National Wildlife Refuge

Nevada: Mt. Charleston

I'm not a huge fan of Las Vegas, but Mt. Charleston is hands-down the best hike I've ever done in Nevada outside the Tahoe area, and the foliage as you can see was excellent. I wasn't expecting this to be such a great mountain. In one spot you can see what remained of a 1950s crashed plane, in 2008. I don't think there's anything left today thanks to souvenir-takers. You can clearly see down into Groom Lake AFB (which supposedly houses Area 51) but I didn't see any aliens.

California: Cuyamaca Ranch, San Diego County

Death Valley

I'm not religious, but I joked that in Death Valley, God got lazy and stopped finishing creation (didn't include living things; didn't separate the elements, ie the salt or the copper you can see in the green cliffs at one point.) It forces you to imagine what Earth might look like if life had never evolved.

Grand Canyon

Black Rock Desert, 2000

In 2000 everyone was saying "hey man, it's not like the Burn used to be back in '92. It's so commercialized now!" Sound familiar, 2018 attendees, who are yearning for the authentic experience of 2000-Burning Man?

Alamogordo, New Mexico: The Trinity Site

This is the site of the very first atomic explosion produced by human beings - ground zero, literally and figuratively, for the nuclear age. You can stand at the spot where it exploded, and there is vegetation everywhere except right there, though that's probably from people standing there. (Vegetation was actually regrowing by several months later.) You can actually head out there twice a year with no reservation - just have proper ID, be in the line-up by a certain time, and the military will escort a whole convoy of you and your fellow military-industrial looky-loos out to the site. It's still an active military proving ground today. The green glass in the one picture is "trinitite", where the heat of the explosion melted the sand. I originally had the brilliant, stupid idea of stealing some by picking it up with chewing gum on my shoes (this is how the guys who escaped from Alcatraz got the hair for the life-like dummies they left behind in their cells - from walking through the prison barber shop.) I changed my mind when I noticed 1) the nice military policewomen with large machine guns and 2) trinitite has lots of neat-o hot nuclei like europium that I didn't want near my gametes, which is part of why they shoot you if you try to take it. Oddly appropriate, there is a basalt area called the Valley of Fire nearby with good petroglyphs.

Arizona: Navajo Nation and Canyon de Chelly

Utah: Zion

It was on the 1.5 hour drive back from Zion that a visitor from Japan said "I never really believed that America was forty times bigger than Japan. Until now."

Tucson, AZ: The Minuteman Missile Museum

New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns and Chaco Canyon

I'm not a big fan of caves but Carlsbad is so immense that it's basically like being outside, except dark and cold. Chaco Canyon is a national treasure and I'm amazed that it's not better known.

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