Sunday, June 29, 2008

Desert California

I would be curious to know what people outside of California think about first, when they here the word, California. Is it one gigantic metropolis, similar to New York City, only stretching all the way from San Diego up to San Francisco? Hollywood? The Golden Gate Bridge? I've written in the past about back roads of California, but I think any state has back roads. Over a week ago, I had, once again, a chance to take some back roads. As always, the experience is great, the caching usually better than average, and the scenery breathtaking.

The road that we took for that excursion last week, HWY 138, connects up Gorman, CA which is along Interstate 5 over to Lancaster, CA which is in the middle of the Antelope Valley in what is commonly called the high desert. Here in California, we have both high desert and low desert, with 4000 feet elevation being the cutoff between the two, approximately.

It's really interesting when you look at desert. Recently, I got to see some pictures of Qatar and the desert there. That's probably what most people have in mind when they think of desert. There's not much in the way of plant life and lots of rocks and sand. I think people think about sand dunes also when they think about the desert. California desert, particularly the high desert is surprisingly lush with vegetation. From a distance, many times this desert looks like typical farmland and sometimes it is as evidenced by the sheep we saw near one of the caches we found that day.

We also noted the typical sage brush that is rather ubiquitous to the region, but there were also strands of joshua trees and other typical desert vegetation here. At the high elevations, there were scrub oak forests and an ocassional pine tree. One particular pine tree that we encountered was almost 90 years old. That doesn't sound like a very old tree, but when you consider the harsh living conditions, you have to think that this particular tree is actually pretty remarkable.

Growing up, I never fully appreciated the desert, probably because my father really didn't appreciate it himself. He was a mountain lover, so our vacations consisted of traveling through the desert, usually in the dead of night, so we could get to the higher up places where there were trees and water. I can think of one time when we camped in the desert for anything over a one night stand and that was when I was in 5th grade when we spent our entire spring break at Death Valley. Other than that, I never spent any other time out in the desert for very long.

When my daughter was old enough, one of the first places I took her was Joshua Tree National Monument. I hauled my dad long with us, because he'd never been there either. I've been back to Joshua Tree a number of times since then. It's a beautiful place, full of all the things that make the high desert wonderful. I was there last November with my youngest son for his first excursion there. He loved it as well and wants to go back again in the future.

There are other things that we have in the desert here that I won't go into here, but will save for another post. It was one of those unexpected things one finds while caching, that makes a caching experience truly wonderful. Suffice to say, the desert is a haunting place, but it can also be a cruel place. One needs to know one's limits and always make sure that one carries enough fluids, or knows of a place where one can get those fluids. One corner grocery store out in the middle of nowhere that day truly was a Godsend. Not that we were in trouble, but it really helped out to replenish some of the lost fluids we'd had during the course of our caching day. Sometimes it sneaks up on you.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
Gorman Road - Wild Flowers - by fOtOmOm
Just Ducky - by Searching Gentiles
Quail Lake - by fOtOmOm
Desert Wind - by hoolegan & BIOB

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HeadHardHat said...

Hey Webfoot,

Hate to sound stereotypical but my first thoughts of California has to be EARTHQUAKE. Of course my first experience was one of adventure and pretty much set my mind set in concrete. True Story – First night ever in California on the 15th floor of a hotel in downtown Los Angeles, I found myself riding my bed at 3:30am in a 6+ quake. It was so unreal hearing the hotel creak like the inside of an old wooden ship. I of course had no idea how good, bad or indifferent the quake actually was so I basically went back to bed and was occasionally woken up by strong aftershocks. Figured if the buildings around weren’t crashing around me I must be okay. What a ride though…

This was long before I knew about geocaching. Spent two weeks out there and enjoyed the weather. Would love to go back now just to try the different caching choices..

Hick@Heart said...

When I was a kid in the Midwest, California made me think of the beach. When I got stationed in 29 Palms, (Very near Joshua Tree) my perspective changed. That's what I love about CA. You can enjoy so many different places. The beach, the mountains, the cities, the desert and don't forget Disneyland. I always carry a Camelbac when I visit the local deserts.

Geocaching With Team Hick@Heart

Steve Natoli said...

You've revealed an important point about California: its tremendous diversity. It's a huge state and comprises just about every global biome except tropical rain forest. Just about any type of environment you want, you can find it here. The same holds true of the human population. With the possible exception of New York City, California is a kaleidoscope of racial, ethnic, religious, culinary and cultural traditions. What a place.