We hadn’t quite reached the entrance for the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve when we started to spot fields and hills brushed with orange and yellow. How could we not pull over?
On that day, the wind blew freely and forcefully in the Mojave. As I stepped out of the car, I felt its chill and massive strength. We ran across the street and over to this field. There was a little path in the middle of it leading to nowhere in particular. I imagine the path was created over the years by people like us who were not content to continue driving past so much beauty, so they pulled over in the same spot to take a closer look and let the wind consume them.
It seems impossible that such a place could exist. As I move amongst these craggy towers that rise out of a shallow salty lake, I feel like I am walking through both the beginning and the end of time.
I turn a corner where some of the tufa towers have crumbled and others still stand up, gangly and unlikely.
Few people make their way around this corner. Solitude and slowness feel right here. Here, a quick stop and vocal exclamations of appreciation would have only skimmed the surface of the salty lake before disappearing into the abyss of oos and ahs.
It seems more like the scenery is asking its visitors to be quiet and still; to appreciate it through awareness of the salty alkaline water that provides more life than you might imagine, the bumpy haphazard limestone columns that make you wonder, “Why?”, the mountains that surround the lake that are covered with glaciers that remind you of how this all began.
And as I finally turn around, my mouth is still silent, but I feel the words pulsating in my heart, “Yes, this earth is full of infinite wonder.”
California is home to the most voluminous trees and tallest trees in the world. It is not as well known that it also houses the oldest trees, the Great Basin Bristlecone Pines. The oldest living bristlecone pine is about 4,800 years old.
These ancient trees live high up in arid mountain ranges at elevations of 10,000 to 11,000 feet. It’s an altitude and climate that not many plants can survive in, so they don’t have a lot of competition. They also protect themselves from pests and the elements with their dense compositions. Even after they die — as the tree in the foreground of the picture has — they are so tough that they can remain standing for hundreds of years more.
A drive up to see these trees can test your ability to maintain your composure. It’s quite a climb on a narrow road and the cliffs can be exceptionally intimidating. But if you can manage the drive, it’s worth it. The bristlecone pines are magnificently gnarled and strange, and to be in the presence of the supreme endurance of living things is truly extraordinary.