I wrote this piece 10 years ago this week and it evokes wonderful memories of the desert stories of these authors and my experiences there:
Edward Abbey and Edna Price both possessed a deep appreciation for the desert. These two authors visualized and described deserts as natural paradises.
To me, the word desert epitomized a place devoid of any real meaningful life. Only anti-social cacti, slimy, spiteful snakes and other pitiful life forms inhabited that hostile landscape.
The only thing I liked about the desert wasn’t the bare rock, sand dunes and snarled twigs of former life barely clinging to barren surfaces, it was the other “desert” — Trader Joe’s, Target, Marshall’s, CostPlus and other such perfectly formed meccas of happiness with splendid weather conditions and no blowing sand.
But deep inside of me, after recently reading Abbey and years after reading Price, a grain of desert sand had lodged in my psyche, and a desire to visit the Anza-Borrego State Park took hold. A friend felt the same urge, so we took off on an excursion before dawn several weeks ago to hike and snap photos of the wildflowers.
My concept of a dead, moonscaped land, unattractive to any but the lowliest beings on Earth, no longer exists. The desert in spring emanates more life than you can imagine. We hiked the Palm Oasis Trail, nearly 4 miles roundtrip, in 92-degree weather. The abundant, intense hues of bright-yellow desert dandelions and sunflowers lured delicate butterflies and splendid bees. Bright orange flowers atop ocotillo posed for our cameras against a sapphire sky, and rusty, bluish variegated mountains.
Lizards and shimmery skinks romped and exercised their limbs among rocks imbedded with mica that glistened like tinsel in the desert sun. Kelly-green deer grass and wild blue Canterbury bells bordered a creek carpeted with tiny white fallen flowers leading up to the cool reward of a palm oasis. Life was everywhere. We just couldn’t get enough of it. Now I find myself thinking about my next adventure to paradise.
For my 60th birthday this month, Jack and I plan a mini-vacation to the desert to stay at a vintage RV park, complete with pool, community rec room in a vintage trailer and shuffle board. How appropo, particularly since we will be towing along our 1962 travel trailer — a mere 12 feet long.
Though we wish time allowed us to visit the true desert I wrote about as I turned 50 with that friend who traveled with me to Anza-Borrego (yes, you, Chris), we hope to relax and enjoy the little trailer on it’s first real trip with us since electric, water and gas issues were repaired.
We took it on a dry run to Lake Hemet last autumn, before the repairs. Though unable to cook inside and store food in the fridge, the little habitat is plenty big for just the two of us — and a grandchild or two — and offers a cozy sleeping arrangement without even having to remove the table. (It sleeps three adults, actually.)
No, it is not equipped with A/C and that’s my one concern with going to the desert in April. But, hey, if Bill and Edna Price, and Edward Abbey could rough it, so can we.
Becky Clark, Editor