Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Joshua Tree

We've finally made it to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the North American Nature Photography Summit... or as my husband likes to say 'NAMBLA'... to which I always shout back 'NANPA'!!

But first Iain and I spent a few COLD days on the ground in Joshua Tree. I have been to Joshua Tree only once and only for one night as I was passing through to other locals. I've been eager to return to the park since. I have to admit, while I enjoyed the park, I wasn't at all thrilled by the ranger staff. The ranger at the gate was disinterested, wanted to see the park pass and wave me on as quickly as possible. I asked what his favorite camp site was and he paused and thought, I pressed further and asked which was the quietest... the one word answer... Belle. Ok... so we entered the park and started to check out all of the different camping sites. As I was driving down the main road I caught movement out of the corner of my eye... an absolutely beautiful coyote was standing on a rock in the most icon of desert southwest scenes. I slowed and pointed her out to Iain and no sooner had I done so but a ranger swooped in, obsuring the view and demanded to know why I had stopped on the road. I pointed past him, obviously excited and babbled about the beautiful coyote that I had spotted and he stated "Well, you can't stop here." Rather than argue and face expulsion from the park I grumbled and moved along. Aren't parks meant to be enjoyed? What ever happened to slow leisurely driving through a beautiful area? Granted the traffic Jams created in Yosemite and Yellowstone by visitors gauking at the wildlife can get teadious but not allowing people to even pull over to the side of the road to admire nature in a National Park??? I guess this behavior isn't tolorated in Joshua Tree.

We did end up in Belle, camp site #3 which was tucked behind a rock outcrop, shielding us from the worse of the cold wind which was blowing through. By the time we got the car unpacked, the tents pitched and camp set up we had just an hour before sunset. We raced (within the speed limit of course) to the Cholla Cactus garden. We ended up with about 10 minutes of light before the sun disappeared behind the mountain, throwing the valley into darkness. The wind picked up and it was bitterly cold so we decided to make it an early night.

The next morning the storm clouds had rolled in and we were regreting not trying for star trails when we had a clear sky. We headed out to Keys View and in woolen hats, layers of thermals and down jackets we were able to face the wind and work on capturing the spectaular view of Coachella through the Indio Hills. One tourist asked Iain why he was crouching beside the path taking pictures when he had a perfectly good view from the lookout point. Iain pragmatically said "Why don't you come down here and see for yourself". Surprisingly the guy did and he was so pleased with the view of the trees in the foreground that he agreed it was a better angle. Funny that people so often follow the herd and rarely explore beyond what someone else tells them they SHOULD be enjoying.

With the overcast skies we ended up in Hidden Valley working the Yucca spines and cactus that fill the box canyon. Before I knew it I had been working the same plant for 45 minutes! The clouds got darker and darker until they finally opened up and let loose with the snow. As I snuggled in for the night, watching the snow and sleet coat the top of my tent I've never been so appreciative of thermals and flannel lined sleeping bags!

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