Desert Girl at Heart

wanderer-at-heart

I’ve lived in the desert most of my life but I have never actually visited Joshua Tree National Park before.  I’ve seen plenty of Joshua Trees in my travels along the side of the freeway but that’s not the same at all. And you know what’s even better than visiting the park? Actually staying overnight there.

pioneer-town

Technically we didn’t stay in the park but we were really really close. Payam and I were super lucky to be invited to stay in a really nice airbnb near Pioneertown. It was a dream come true for me. Right outside the doors of this modern little fortress to the sun were miles and miles of desert. Nothing but rocks and cacti and Joshua Trees as far as the eye could see. The magic of actually staying here is that I could follow the light. There was no rush to catch golden because I was there all day. I could watch the light move across the landscape and paint pictures along its way. The light is what really makes the desert beautiful.

bright-sun

The desert is very inhospitable. It’s spiky-sharp, harsh and dry. Not anywhere you want to be in the summer when it’s 120 degrees and the sun beats down relentlessly…

In winter, however, the desert is BEAUTIFUL! It’s a sunny 60 degrees, almost chilly but the sun warms your back like a cozy blanket. Just like the ocean, the desert commands respect with its vastness. You really feel how small you are and how desperate you would be if you were stranded without food and water. It makes you pause.

bluechairs

We were far from stranded. Even though our airbnb seemed quite remote there were other houses dotting the landscape all around us. They just blended in. I have to give desert-dwellers credit for choosing color palettes that match their environment.

The first morning we were there I woke up early and rushed outside to scout around. You can imagine my surprise when I scaled a small rocky hill behind our airbnb and found this little gathering of blue chairs, glowing in the morning twilight!

It was a bit disconcerting to stumble across remnants of others when you thought you were all alone.  I worried that I might be trespassing but then I though, Eh, they can’t be that mad at me. Obviously we must be kindred spirits with the choice of blue chairs and all… The desert seems to attract artsy sorts.  I could definitely live here. It’s just the flooding and the 120 degree heat I’m not so sure about.

cholla

On the other hand, I did not feel like I was very welcome when I crouched under this cholla bush to take a picture and a large thorn pieced the soft sole of my Ugg boots like it was slicing through butter. My foot was fine but it reminded me that I was far off the path. That’s what you get for stealing photos! the bushes seemed to say, laughing at me. Get back on the trail, city slicker!

dr-seuss-flowers

I love this rust-colored sage flower. All the plants remind me of something out of a Dr. Seuss book. They are almost surreal in how different they are from the flora where I live. There weren’t any wildflowers out yet but I got the feeling they were just around the corner. I’d love to come back here in Spring, that is if everybody else isn’t planning to be there too. I hear it can be quite over-touristed.

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So we took advantage of it not being busy and Payam and I hiked all over. It was all so pretty.

inhospitable

Inhospitable but pretty. Good thing I wore my army boots!

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No cozy wooded meadows here!

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We scrambled over rocks and took pictures of each other pretending to be King of the Mountain.

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Or in my case, a little field mouse hiding in the rocks.

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Rocks and more rocks… Have you seen those posters making fun of bad yelp reviews of National Parks? Nothing to see here but a bunch of rocks!

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But how magical are all these rocks?!!! If you look close enough you can see tiny people scrambling up the sides of them.

rope-walker

They are so tiny they reminded me of the miniature photography of Tanaka Tatsuya . Check out the rope walker above.

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The morning light and the evening light was the prettiest. But the strong harsh shadows of mid-day also played at my imagination.

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In the middle of the day old dead tress threw black spidery shadows against soft sandstone. And then as the sun slowly set again, the light softened into dreamy atmospheric shades of sunset. We didn’t get any crazy magnificent colorful sunsets but that didn’t bother us at all.

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Soft subtle sunsets sooth the soul just as well when you have the luxury of not having to do anything but enjoy them.

 

Bug Turns 15: The Road Trip to Nowhere, Part 3

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I don’t have any pictures from our trip to Pismo Beach (because it was horrible and I was driving) but let me just describe it as this: bedlam. I was so desperate for a bathroom and there were none in sight. I pulled into town practically buckled over my steering wheel in pain only to find everything packed with people everywhere. Bug stepped up and was frantically searching for clean bathrooms on yelp. Did you know there was such a thing? I did not. Kids for the win! We found one at a convenience store but there was no place to park! I pulled into a residential driveway where two cars were parked already and I would block them in but I was desperate. No sooner had I put my car in park and started to open my door when a woman hollered over the fence from a beer garden next door (or maybe it was a bar that served outdoors) that I could absolutely NOT PARK THERE!!!! I totally understood. Her staff was parked there and they needed to do a shift change and NOT be blocked in. I was probably the fiftieth person she yelled at that day. So I swallowed my pain and got back on the road.

Fifty u-turns later, a stop at a public park bathroom that was LOCKED and nothing but traffic and people, Bug remembered a hotel her dad had taken her to on a previous trip. We knew they had no vacancy but figured they would at least let us use their lobby bathroom.  AND GUESS WHAT? HALLELUJAH THEY DID!!!

It was the nicest hotel. Five stars for sure. We wanted to stay there but not during these crazy times. There weren’t any people in the lobby and the really nice concierge told me that of course I could go downstairs and use their facilities. What a contrast to the public restroom we saw earlier that had a line of people around the block and several anti-maskers partying it up nearby. I was so happy to finally find a place all to myself in peace and quiet. I have never felt so introverted and relieved in all my life.

So here’s a little TMI thing about anxiety: having to urgently and painfully pee can be a symptom. Yes, I had good reason to naturally need to urinate but also my stress was kicking in and I was a mess. I often fret about this and it can completely ruin a good time for me. Poor Bug was so patient with me.

I remember my grandmother was the same way. When I was a kid I did a personal research project on people’s biggest fears and how they related to their nightmares and I remember my grandma telling me she often had nightmares that she was traveling and couldn’t find a bathroom. So I come by this genetically. I think of her often when I’m fretting like this. I used to the be expert on all public restrooms but now that Covid has closed so many businesses I’m at a loss.

Anyway!!! Enough about having to pee. Let’s get back to our wonderful birthday trip! That was the horrible no-good terrible part of our trip and we survived.

the-pine-inn-in-carmel

We got the hell out of Dodge, I mean Pismo Beach and headed north for two more hours to Carmel. It was never my intention to go so far north but after Pismo Beach I was desperate for wide open spaces. It’s funny how some beach communities are full of rich people and others are full of hardcore partiers. Show me to the beaches that are deserted and only nature-loving artists live there and people who like to be alone. I know that’s a high ask and it’s not like I haven’t been a hard core partier myself but you get my drift. I just want to be alone with my kid on a trip and look at nature.

When we got into Carmel we found a cute little ancient hotel called The Pine Inn. It was creak-ity, (why is that not a word? am I spelling it wrong?), smelled like an old folks home and probably haunted but VERY charming. After the Kimpton we were pretty spoiled but you gotta find a safe place to sleep so this was fine by me. Our room had an old antique radiator that made super loud banging sounds at five in the morning that scared the crap out of us. Thankfully a quick google search by Bug informed us that this was perfectly normal for an 18th century hotel and there wasn’t someone downstairs trying to wake us up by banging on pipes.

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I enjoyed wandering around the deserted lobby and creaky stairs. This photo I found was super interesting.

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What a bunch of stylish old chaps, no? I know there is a ton of Ansel Adams history here. Apparently we stayed in one of the first hotels that was ever built in Carmel by the Sea. Good to know! It’s seen better days I’m sure but I kinda of felt lucky that we could stay in such a famous tourist spot and NOT be swarmed by tourists. The Il Fornaio that is attached to the hotel was closed but they did offer us a complimentary breakfast of packaged danishes, bananas, yogurt and some craptastic water that faintly tasted like coffee that I quickly dumped in a trash can outside and replaced with a proper coffee from the coffeeshop across the street.

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Then we walked down the street five or six blocks to the beach to enjoy our breakfast. Not too shabby!

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It was cold though. A stiff wind blew right over our heads and somehow blew the waves but not us. We found a log in the sun to sit on and warm up a bit.

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Then we packed up our hotel and headed off to one more spot before starting our long journey home.

Next spot: POINT LOBOS!

I was feeling a little bit nervous about being so far north and needing to get home in one day but Bug assured me that Point Lobos was well worth delaying our homeward trip, even if it meant possibly missing some plans we had back home. So off we headed. I’ve been here before with Toby when I was married and Bug has been with her dad a few years ago but my memory had faded some.

point-lobos-state-reserve

There was no parking available in the park and not anywhere near the park. I was super worried, what does that mean? The park is full?  Bug was adamant about going. She assured me that the park was big enough that we wouldn’t run into anyone. I guess the last time her dad took her they couldn’t find parking either and hoofed it in. Well, hoofing it in was like a mile and a half!!! Normally I love a good 20K step walk but lately my hip has been giving me trouble so I was not too pleased. But Bug insisted. She is a bigger wuss than I am about walking so if she insisted it was worth walking a mile and a half to get there then it really must be something else.

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She was right.

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Point Lobos is AMAAAAAAAAZING! I don’t really even know how to properly describe it. I know the pictures will help but it was so much more. Just imagine all encompassing fresh air, color and nature coming at you full force! I think of it as a bunch of coves with jewel-like colored water splashing and crashing all around you in vibrant colors of blue and green. It’s God’s own personal crown.  It’s kind of weird when you look up the history of this beautiful place it is known for whale-killing, abalone harvesting, mining, military secrets and NOT it’s crazy beauty!!! I’m very happy that it’s preserved now.

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We walked the trails and thankfully Bug was right! There weren’t that many people. I’m not sure where they were but they weren’t on the trails we were.

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Sometimes I’m not sure which is prettier, Bug or the scenery.

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She’s growing up. That’s the hard fact.

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I’m so happy Bug is a nature-lover. She takes after her dad that way. She’s also taken up old-school film photography so that makes us all super proud.painting-in-point-lobos

I found a spot to sit and paint. Bug sat behind me and photographed. She even made a movie using my phone that I put on my instagram stories. I’ll have to find that and save it. It was really cool.

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Pretty pretty waves. Not so pretty hunch back neck.

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Hi Bug!

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Then it was time to pack up, find some lunch and start our long trip home.

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I’m so glad we were able to go on this trip. Especially now that I’m over feeling so guilty about it. Thank you for bearing with me. I’m a stress case and I let that get in the way of our enjoyment of an important mother-daughter journey. The trip was a good thing but it was also a risk. I think taking a risk like this was dangerous. Of course there were lots of ways to go and be careful but as you saw from my needing-to-find-a-restroom nightmare, even the best intentions could go haywire.

a-brisk-wind-in-point-lobos

Like hair blowing in the wind! You never know which way it’s going to go!  Hahaha. That was a lame segue but I gotta get through all these photos and put words between them!

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Or not. Just looking at pictures is nice too.

girl-in-a-pandemic-in-point-lobos

I love this one. I title it: Small Girl in a Pandemic.  I always try to block out things like cars, people, buildings… masks and evidence of a pandemic but I know someday we will look back on these photos and the mask will mark a huge historical pinpoint. I wonder how we will change and how masks will stay with us.

Personally, I know I haven’t been sick since I started wearing masks regularly and I usually get at least one cold every season so I’m thinking I might keep my masks around for good. They work!

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But this post is not about masks. It’s about finding the good in the midst of bad. It’s about being safe and and also scared. It’s about a girl growing up into a beautiful young woman who’s mother might be a bit of a basket case. But aren’t we all these days? Aren’t we all just trying to do our best and hope we don’t have too many vulnerable spots that can be shot at with troll arrows?

Love you guys.