The Land Where Two Deserts Meet... Part 1
Spring is here and for me that means it’s time to start exploring! My first camping venture of the year brought me to Joshua Tree National Park, in Southern California. First established as a National Monument in 1936 and eventually becoming a park in 1994, Joshua Tree is known for being the place where the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet. This meeting of two deserts creates a widely diversified and unique landscape within the park.
As I arrived late into the park, the sun had in fact just set as I pulled into my campsite. I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to photograph the sunset or walk around and get a lay of the land, but I wanted to get my tent up before it became too dark. So I quickly got it up and hoped into it to make sure I could get an early start. Getting up before the sunrise turned out to not be that hard considering the wind kept me up most of the night.
My first destination was a rock formation called Skull Rock. It was a short hike and close by to my campsite, which made it perfect place to start because I hadn’t really had the time to explore the park and my shot locations yet. As I arrived to the rock and started to look around, enjoying the strange shaped rock, when I heard the distinct sound of a camera shutter. It didn’t take me long to spot the source. On a small tripod, almost touching the ground was this expensive Sony camera. It was just there by itself taking shots on a timer. I remember thinking that is either the bravest or dumbest thing is have seen a photographer do. Leaving your camera by itself on busy hiking trail for who knows how long, I couldn’t do it.
As I sat there finishing up photographing the sunrise I really started to see what a wonderfully unique place this is. Joshua Tree National Park is a very otherworldly kind of place. You have large rock formations that look like they are put together like a game of Tetris. Then there are mountains that sometimes look they were formed by giants throwing boulders in a pile. All the while the ground is covered in strange, stringy Joshua Trees. The only other place I have felt like this was in Badlands National Park.
After sunrise I hiked back, got in my car and drove towards a hike I was looking forward to doing. Also, incase you were wondering, that guy did eventually come back for his camera. I didn’t have to drive far before I was able to park and head out to look for Eagle Cliff Mine! A little pretense before I continue. Before Joshua Tree was a park or monument, this area was home to several mines. Where they mined various kinds of ores and metals from the land. So Joshua Tree has in it a bunch of old mine shafts, most of which I believe have been sealed off. Now the mine I was looking for was nothing grand or unique. What is unique about it though is the old miners house that was built into the rock face. This is a tiny house where a miner built and lived, not much is known about it but it was lost to history for a long time until it was rediscovered showing a piece of untouched history. Pots, pans, all sorts of things had just been left behind, where the miner put them. Now I’m going to take the same stance as my fellow photographers and hikers and not reveal the location this place. While Eagle Cliff Mine is an official trail, you won’t find it on any park map. In order to help keep it preserved, I will not propagate its location. I will say it was an amazing experience, one where I felt really connected to history, it was probably my favorite part of the whole trip!
By the time I had finished up the hike it was close to noon. I don’t really photograph much in the middle of the day. But what I could do is go explore more of the park and check out the spots on my shot list. I always do research before I go photograph anywhere, creating what I call a ‘shot list’ (basically it’s a small itinerary for me). However, a lot of these places were specific areas, not specific landmarks, so I went and explored so when I came back I had a better idea of what to expect. The rest of the trip passed pretty quickly with all the fun I was having. Luckily I had my alarm set so I could head out to my spot for sunset. Keys View was where I found myself setting up for sunset. Found on the crest of the Little San Bernardo Mountains it overlooks the Coachella Valley. By the time I got there the wind had returned in full force making things more difficult. Strong winds on a cliff face equals a miserable time. But it was still completely worth it, recommended if you ever find yourself there. By the time I finished up and got back to my campsite it was already dark. Still hadn’t seen this place during the day. Next week will be the final part of my trip.