“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”
~ Hunter S Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
I know, that’s not exactly the kind of inspirational quote you’ve come to expect from me. It’s all true, except that the “drugs” were ibuprofens. I’ve been feeling a little creaky.
How about this, instead?
“Frustration and conflict are messages from the universe that it is time to back off. When you find your center again, act.”
~ Alan Cohen
I couldn’t count the number of times I changed my mind during this last trip to the Mojave National Preserve. I like to think of myself as mostly decisive, but there was weather, unrelated road closures, and my “spidey sense.” That is, I started down a road and decided to turn around because of the prickly, uncomfortable feeling on the back of my neck. In the end, none of my three camps were in the places I’d planned. Not to worry; those other spot all landed on a list for the next trip.
I had some unfinished business near the Hole-in the Wall Campground. As I headed out of Arizona, I was thinking about stories of the trash and overflowing restrooms on Federal Land since the government shutdown, then 23 days old. Besides, Mojave is famous for its dispersed camping (also known as boondocking; camping outside campgrounds) and I tend to avoid campgrounds when I can, so I thought better of it and found a nice quiet spot with caves to explore. I drove up to the campground the next morning and though skies were too overcast for what I’d had in mind (that project also goes back on the list), I was pleased to see that the campground and picnic area were in great shape. No doubt a group of volunteers were carrying out trash and cleaning restrooms. We’ve been seeing this inspiring phenomenon all over the country.
That day remained socked-in overcast. I drove for hours and scouted some new locations for camping and photography. This was the day I changed plans because I got the creepy feeling. There was rain in the forecast, so I needed to find a place that I could get out of safely if the washes were running. As the signs say, “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” I ended up at Kelso Dunes. I’ve never camped there before and though it’s a pretty popular destination, I was all alone out there. In the rain. I hunkered down in the camper reading and writing and trying to convince myself I didn’t have cabin fever. Don’t get me wrong; rain in the desert is a blessing, and there’s nothing like the smell of wet creosote. Still, I hoped for a break in the weather before dark but as a friend says, “hope is not a plan.” I’d add, “meatloaf is consolation.”
The next morning there was low fog which created nice conditions for moody black and white images. Extraordinary conditions are fabulous for photography.
This was the morning that the Alan Cohen quote showed up in my email in-box. Find my center, indeed.
The plan for my last night was to check out a new, super-secret location. I changed my mind repeatedly during the drive. It turned out that the road was closed (or maybe not, I found out later.) I’d all but decided to head home a day early when the pea-soup fog rolled in. Unwilling to join the semis on I-40 in that morass I decided to stay at Granite Pass. I’d been there before and hoped (that word again) for good conditions when the storm cleared in the morning. There was some nice light at the end of the day, but only after another afternoon of reading and pondering in the downpour. Sadly, the next morning was disappointing, but the solitude was grand.
Until next time.
More images from this trip are in the Southern California on the website.