What Did The Trees Tell You- Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree NP, California fablesandcoffee at Joshua Tree NP, California Joshua Tree NP, California Sunset at Joshua Tree NP, California Joshua Tree NP, California Sunsetting at Joshua Tree NP, California sunset at Joshua Tree NP, California the road through Joshua Tree NP, California

I love watercolour skies, especially above places I might never see again. 

After finishing up our exploration at the Salton Sea and leaving the riot of color that was Salvation mountain, we headed back to Joshua Tree to finish up the day. We didn’t do any of the trails, having been drained by the intense heat of the day but we managed to pack in a good few stops at all the turnouts and scenic spots, over on the Mojave Desert side of the park (near the West Entrance to the park). You know me though, I always leave plenty to do for when I return, so no sad feelings for oppertunities lost.

It was a different kind of place, almost a different park it felt like, than the one we’d left in the morning. Couldn’t quite put my finger on it- maybe it was the fact that there were less people wandering around, making the odd quiet that had descended all that more prominent. There was only the sound of the occasional car and the wind gently blowing warm across the desert landscape out there among the Joshua’s and it was like a dream. I’d love to come back to stay into the night and watch the skies light up with different colors and watch them fade back into daytime again, but even if I don’t get a chance for many years yet, that odd magical twilight time we spent there will tide me over till then.

~m

The Most Colorful Mountain In the Wasteland- Salvation Mountain, California

fablesandcoffee at Salvation Mountain, California Salvation Mountain, California Salvation Mountain, California
Salvation Mountain, California    Salvation Mountain, California Love at Salvation Mountain, California Salvation Mountain, California Salvation Mountain, California Salvation Mountain, California

Heat and sureality.

Those are the two things I remember the most about visiting Salvation Mountian. The sun beat down on us as relentless as ever- not even at Death Valley had it felt so harsh, like it’s only purpose was to shine brighter than anything else out here.

Lucky for me though, because it made all the colors of this place stand out in brilliant contrast to the almost literal wasteland surrounding it. Slab City is the place you’ll find Salvation Mountain, or if you actually want to googlemaps yourself here, perhaps searching for Niland will help get you there. I learned about Salvation Mountain around the same time as my interest (obsession?) in the Salton Sea started and getting the chance to visit one meant of course I had to visit the other.

Links to help get you aquatinted with the area, the people, the madness :
NYT on Slab City
Salvation Mountain website
NPR on Slab City

The parking area was half filled with cars when we arrived, people climbing all over the mountain and taking selfies. By the way yup, you can climb it, just make sure to stay on the “yellow brick road”, by which they mean the yellow painted steps or else the caretaker will yell at you very loudly and you might just slip and hurt yourself. We stayed with our feet on the ground though, wandering in and out and around, just literally dazzled by the colors. Its surreal and something close to madness, but it’s also beautiful and the passion that created the whole thing is certainly felt at every turn.

If you’re headed to Coachella, Joshua Tree National Park or you want to get away from it all by moving to Slab City (billed as the last free place in America ), do stop by. Keep an open mind, don’t go wandering too far off into the desert and keep a small grip on reality.

~m
p.s in case you dear reader are curious, i’m not exactly religious but I could still appreciate the fervor and devotion so very much evident here

A Sea of Salt and Bombay Beach- the Salton Sea, California

Salton Sea, California
Salton Sea, California
the beach at Salton Sea, California
dead fish on the beach at Salton Sea, California
the Salton Sea, California
Bird on the Salton Sea, California
the waves at Salton Sea, California
Dead fish on the beach at Salton Sea, California


Bombay Beach town near Salton Sea, California
Bombay Beach town near Salton Sea, California
Bombay Beach town near Salton Sea, California
Bombay Beach town near Salton Sea, California
Bombay Beach town near Salton Sea, California

There’s been so many articles, think-pieces, documentaries, podcast episodes and yes, even blog-posts done about the Salton Sea that if I were to try and compile a list of them it would take me longer than it did to drive out there. So this post isn’t going to be me explaining how the Salton Sea happened (an engineering disaster) or it’s history of glamour and now near destitution. For that I’ll direct you to this article/podcast on the subject,A Sea Worth It’s Salt, produced by one of my favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible.

This post is just me sharing the photos I took on the trip out there, and inviting anyone who has an interest in the odd, interesting or just plain weird to visit this area, and not just Sea. We came out here because i’ve had a strong fascination with the area since I still lived in California, starting when I was around 13 or so, and the pull this whole place has that makes weirdness converge like nowhere else. It’s less than an hours drive from Joshua Tree National Park, so it’s definetly easy to make it a day trip and while the whole beach was deserted when we visited, the visitor center staffed a wonderfully charming guy who put on some music while me and the bf browsed for postcards and who seemed genuinely passionate about working there.

We didn’t take a dip in the waters of the Sea before we left, because no matter how beach-y and idyllic it may look, your feet are actually crunching down on dead fish and tiny fishbones instead of just sand. The weather had skyrocketed up to the high 90’s as well, so we booked it out down the road towards Salvation Mountain, but pulled into Bombay Beach first, to check out the abandoned houses we’d read were scattered all over. To tell you the truth though, this place was definetly more populated than we expected and the further away from the main road we go, the more Mad Max things started to become. Our bright orange Jeep was definetly an outsider and before long we left to keep heading out towards our original destination.

Visit for the novelty, for the weirdness, even just for the sense of odd peacefulness you get as the water laps up the shore and you step over dead fish to look out across the great expanse. Maybe I just like weird places and maybe my wanting to visit since I was a teenager clouds my judgement a little, but both the Salton Sea and Bombay Beach were amazing places to visit and get to explore, that sense of being off the beaten path never felt so strong as when I was there.

~m

The Chollas, Joshuas and Cottonwoods- Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Cholla Cactus at Joshua Tree NP, California Cholla Cactus at Joshua Tree NP, California Cholla Cactus at Joshua Tree NP, California Cholla Cactus at Joshua Tree NP, California Ocotillo at Joshua Tree NP, California Cholla Cactus at Joshua Tree NP, California Cottonwood Springs at Joshua Tree NP, California Cottonwood Springs at Joshua Tree NP, California Cottonwood Springs at Joshua Tree NP, California

It was a truly- and I mean truely- a hellishly difficult drive from Death Valley to the hotel we were staying at just outside of Joshua Tree NP, but i’ll go into that later in the final post (you can finally find out about the dinosaurs I was talking about in my first post when I get to that ).  This post is about the abundance of wondrous oddities of vegetation in Joshua Tree National park. I know that doesn’t really sound that exciting, but stay with me.

To begin with, the namesake itself, the Joshua Tree is certainly an unexpected sight, it’s branches brambly arms stretching out in all directions and providing an interesting silhouette to consider, especially in the dark. Every single Joshua tree we came across in the park was unique, and I could honestly spend days wandering around the park just looking at the them- there’s something both beautiful and slightly grotesque in their shape thats beyond captivating.

Then there’s the Cholla Cactus ( Cylindropuntia fulgida)  , also known as the Jumping Cholla.  Why it’s known as the jumping cactus is a question you should really ask before you find yourself wandering among them, because if you don’t known the answer, you might find yourself screaming a loud “OUCH!” when the cuddly looking plant you’ve been admiring suddenly appears to have attached a spindly segment of itself on your clothes (if your lucky). I always try and read the information signs posted before entering an exhibit area, so I was well informed and alert to these little buggers and managed to get in and out without a jumper, but we saw at least two people looking mighty unhappy as we left and I can’t only imagine the level of their discomfort. Yikes.

After we left that fun area, we stopped to gaze out at the Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) . Not actually a cactus, though definetly arresting and dramatic enough for this desert environment. By this point you’ve crossed from the Mojave desert side of the park over to the Colorado desert portion, and you’ll definetly start noticing the change in the landscape. Its more sparse, more of what’d you’d normally expect in these western type deserts that you’ve seen in the movies. It’s a long looooong drive from one end of the park to the other, which is why I highly suggest stopping in at Cottonwood Springs before you leave.

This area is beautiful, quiet and utterly unexpected. We didn’t do the hike out to the Lost Palms Oasis but it’s definetly something i’d like to do when I come back one day…. as well as check out some of the abandoned mines in the park as well, because of course.

We headed out of the park after wandering underneath the leafy cottonwoods and  towering desert fan palms (Washingtonia filifera) towards the Salton Sea, Bombay Beach and Salvation Mountain, and I honestly can’t imagine a better way to leave that part of the park. We came back to see the sun set among the Joshua Trees near Hidden Valley and Quail Springs but…thats for another post.

~m

The Desert Swallows All- Death Valley NP, California

Death Valley National Park, Abandon places



At a slow pace, it devours all

I feel like i’m being super creepy with the way i’ve been writing about Death Valley, at least with the last two posts BUT i’m nothing if not honest and its all fun and games out here until you realize you’re dozens of miles away from the next living person.
Which is both awesome and terrifying.

Still editing the last post for the Death Valley portion of the trip (the ghost town of Rhyolite) after which we’ve still got Joshua Tree, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain and Carlsbad Caverns. I’m seriously the worst at procrastination but I feel like considering all the different places I went on this last trip, I’m gonna cut myself some slack- but just a little.

~m