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Posts Tagged ‘Mohave’

For two days Charlize and I drove through the Mohave Desert. It’s different, different than the Sonoran Desert of my youth. I grew up in that desert, hiking and camping and loving the harsh environment that required skill and knowledge to survive.

From Indio to Lake Havasu and from there to the Zion National Park we drove through the Mohave. In my book, Man Hunt, I wrote about a trip taken by Tom Tobin from the Taos area to Los Angeles in the 1850’s. As was always the case in those days the trip through the Mohave, from one watering place to the next, was brutal, the way marked by the skeletons of man and beast.

Our trip was a piece of cake. Old Blue, with Frog closely following, clicked off the miles of pavement at a steady pace. The uninitiated might consider the Mohave dull, repetitious, mile after mile of sand, rocks, sagebrush and monotony. It isn’t. The flora is constantly changing as you travel through a wide variety of eco-zones. Late February is too early for the desert to burst into bloom but there are no fewer than two hundred different wild flowers and cacti that bloom in that so called wasteland. I did spot early Mojave gold poppy along the roadside, it’s bright yellow flowers waved to us on narrow leafless stems oscillating in the slipstream as we blew past at sixty miles per hour.

The most common plant I saw was the creosote bush, I know it as greasewood, an evergreen that can grow to more than four feet tall. We stopped to stretch our legs and for Charlize to water the desert and I spotted green ephedra, also known as Mormon Tea. In the southern part of our trip the land was full of sagebrush, salt brush and greasewood. As we travelled north we passed through various, fairly well defined eco-zones dominated by several varieties of yucca, including tall yucca that were almost tree-like, and just beginning to form blossoms. I saw chaparral and, in the washes, paloverde and mesquite.

From Temecula, CA we followed highway CA74 diagonally across the desert to Indio, passing through the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountain ranges. Above 3,500 feet I saw some California juniper. In lower areas, where there was water, there were tamarisk trees and palms. The tamarisk I remember from when I was growing up. We had several on one corner of our lot. They were at least forty feet tall, with dark purplish bark. The leaves aren’t leaves, more like scales, and salt encrusted, dirty. We used to climb those trees, but always needed a bath afterwards. You don’t see those dirty, trashy trees much anymore they have been replaced by modern landscaping.

The Mojave Desert is, somehow, more forbidding, more stark, more desolate, than my familiar Sonoran Desert that is full of many varieties of cacti. It must have been a fairly wet fall and winter though, I saw a lot of grass.

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The plaque Charlize is sitting next to says:

“In this place of Solitude and Beauty, please take time to show respect for both the natural surroundings and those who share this highway.”

“Maintain a grateful awareness of the Time given you To share with your Loved Ones and remember those who innocently lost what you may take for granted.”

“Please Drive Safely.”

I had to wipe the tears from my eyes. 

 

 

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