Thursday, November 10, 2016

Between the Joshua Trees

Welcome to the Mojave!
-by Edgar Bernal Sevilla, Curation/Education Staff

The IVDMuseum staff was invited to the Mojave National PreserveConservancy’s  Centennial celebration and Stargazing event by David Lamfrom, the director of the California Desert and Wildlife Programs branch of the National ParksConservation Association. Stargazing took place the first night, NASA telescopes were brought out and I got to see Saturn, my favorite planet since I was a child. I began acting like a child in front of the NASA telescope handlers, since “HOLY COW YOU CAN SEE THE RINGS!” It was truly a fulfilling moment. 

Edgar in Joshua Tree forest
The next day we went on a hike led by Superintendent of the Mojave National Preserve Todd Suess. We wove through canyons in a familiar desert landscape. However, once past these canyons, we were faced with an unnatural, unfamiliar view. A mile-long dome erupted from the desert floor, and the vegetation changed from familiar chollas and desert shrubs to alien-looking Joshua Trees. I had never seen a Joshua Tree before, so I was fascinated by these “medium-sized-normal-tree-shaped palm trees.” It was also my luck that I was going through the densest Joshua Tree forest in the world!

Edgar & Angelina at Teutonia Peak Trail
 I didn’t realize at the time that our hike leader Todd was the superintendent of the whole preserve! We chatted about his previous jobs, archaeology and paleontology in the Mojave, and the uses of desert plants like mesquites and cacti. The group soon split up into an advanced party, a medium group, and the laggers. Eager to reach the summit, I was a member of the advance party, along with our board VP Dr. Robert Wishner; Todd; hike leader Jackie (who's also Todd's wife); and two other hikers. When David had described the hike to us in the morning, he made it sound like the last part was tougher but gentle. He may have sugarcoated it for us.

I was out of breath by the time we reached the top. The view was worth it though. Behind us, the dome peaked at around our altitude, creating an otherworldly view of melted land with a bubble about to burst. To our sides, rocks greeted us, showing that we weren’t on the mountain’s true summit. In front, mountains extended as far as the eye could see: David Lamfrom pointed to the furthest back and informed us that they were the rim of Death Valley. With my senses overloaded, I decided to lay down on a flat rock and enjoy the gentle winter desert sun. This was my favorite part of the hike. The combination of warm light, cool breeze, and riveting stories made for a fantastic blend of an experience. My favorite story was told by Todd. He told us of a train robbery in the desert, but that instead of gold bullion of passengers wallets, the booty was flatscreens. You read that right. This took place in 2004!

Anyway, this turned out to be a fantastic experience. There is a current of longing for nature running through the social fabric of young adults. I am no exception. A trip like this really helped soothe the part of my soul that itches to experience nature and all of its gifts. And it seems the event was a success, since I can’t wait to bring out my friends. In fact, this blog post is the first in a weekly series of hiking posts that I plan to initiate after this. Hiking adventures await!

Hiking adventure awaits!

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