Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

In the southern portion of California, just over the mountains from a sea of oil derricks a flat and stark valley sits nestled between two small ranges. A gathering place for local native peoples, then agricultural land for white settlers, the land has since been given over to the rattlesnakes, giant kangaroo rats, jackrabbits, and doves. At this time of year the land is dry as dust, the alkali salt lake a blinding white. In the winter life abounds as the lake fills and wildflowers bloom.


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"2 September 2017

Before me Soda Lake shone blindingly bright and large. There was no water, the salt flats reflected the light. The road sped along the lake edge. A cumulous cloud of salt-dust spun and hovered above the lake for a moment and then was lost to shimmering haze. This lake and the flat areas of the monument rest between two ranges, the Temblor to the NE, the Caliente to the SW. I’ve not seen the Caliente range from a distance as camp and the road hugs the base, but the Temblor range seems more dry, though in this arid oven the idea of anything being more dry seems an impossibility. The slopes of the Caliente hold the dark green-black of juniper stands. The Temblor is mostly a soft brown, indicating a lack of substantial trees. The hillsides are branchiated; canyons reveal where the water channels ripple and vary the mountains, and from them further side shoots branch."

 
 
 

 

"4 September

Here I am at home. I'm desperate for shade, throat thick with thirst much of the time. I've seen rattlesnakes, tarantulas, great clouds of dust and rain that choke the skies. I've searched granite outcroppings, finding small bits of water hiding in stone basins. A sunset now explodes across the sky, a moon of solid circle rising behind me dancing between a few errant clouds. The air still tingles from the storm yesterday, a hint of vinegarweed on its nose. Quail sentries let out a few and final sequestering calls. Time for the night creatures to emerge. I hear them, the poorwill plaintive and soft, the cricket in great number. The kangaroo rats and jackrabbits next, though they are silent. Tonight I will walk the salt flats under a full moon. This is the desert, the cathedral of the dry."

 

 

Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium)

Tule Elk  (Cervus canadensis nannodes)