Tag Archives: desert

Joshua Tree: NPM22 Day 6

Today’s poem was inspired by the desert beauty of Joshua Tree National Park and the poetry prompt from Mo over at Ethical ELA as part of April’s #verselove. Today’s poetry comes in the form of a cherita–as Mo describes it: a 6 line story in 3 stanzas. First stanza is a single line, second stanza has 2 lines, and the third stanza has three lines. WordPress sometimes fights with me over formatting–so hopefully this will bear out as intended!

San Gorgonio Mountain view from Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree

In this land life is hearty: thin and sharp

When water–life’s blood–arrives

natives drink their fill, not sure when the next sip will arrive

Living in this harsh world, extremes equal balance

hot and cold hold hands / wet and dry play tag

beauty is in the eye of the beholder and everywhere if you know where to look

Cholla cactus, up close and dangerous!

Joshua Tree blooming

Saturday Adventures Continued: SOLC 2019 Day 10

Our Saturday adventures didn’t stop with the Super Bloom.  As we hiked back toward our car, still admiring the seemingly never ending beauty of the desert in full color, we started a bit of a “what if” conversation.  We knew we were done hiking for the day…but it was still before noon, why not continue exploring?


We’d seen signs for the Salton Sea as we drove towards Borrego Springs.  What if we just went further and explored the Salton Sea?  We checked out the distance on Google maps…it seemed a reasonable option, so we plugged it in, pushed start, and headed east.

We drove through more patches of the desert in full bloom, watching carefully for those drivers and folks with cameras who pull off the road suddenly, flipping car doors open without remembering that they are stopped on the side of highway.  We continued to drive, the view changing until it seemed we had found landscapes that time had forgotten.  Sparse vegetation, windswept columns and deep valleys reminiscent of the Grand Canyon surrounded us, I almost expected to see a giant dinosaur pop its head up and look me in the eye.  As we continued on, we found the hideaways of weekend RVers and their myriad dune buggies racing up and down self-made roadways.  Unexpectedly, the landscape changed again.  Were we seeing a mirage?  The blue on the horizon looked like we were seeing the ocean in front of us.  The Salton Sea is called an accidental lake, though apparently at one time it was a naturally occurring fresh water lake.  It is located directly over the San Andreas fault and is known as one of the largest and saltiest inland bodies of water.  (I cannot even begin to do justice to its history in this post, so if you’re interested, I encourage you to do some research–it’s super interesting!)


As we got closer, we realized that our navigation led us to the community of Salton Sea City.  We drove as close to the shoreline as we could and got close enough to take it its immensity.  We wanted to get closer–close enough to walk along the shoreline.  We tried Google again, this time trying the search word “beach.”  We had a couple of choices–one closer than the other.  We headed toward the closest one…Salton Sea Beach.  As we drove, we were hoping for beach access.  We were surprised when we drove into a small community and the navigation told us we had arrived.  Driving around a bit, we followed a road toward a shoreline where we found “No Trespassing” signs.  We realized we had not driven to the beach, we had driven to the community named Salton Sea Beach!  Frustration was building–surely somewhere there was access to the shoreline of the Salton Sea!  Consulting Google once again, we chose that other option and headed off toward the Salton Sea State Recreation Area.  Luckily, it took us mostly in the direction we would eventually head to return home.  But we were surprised when the exit looped us back in the direction we started from and were even more surprised when we realized we were on the opposite shore of the Salton Sea!

But we finally got that beach access we were looking for.  A short walk gave us a view of black necked stilts along with some familiar gulls.  Apparently the Salton Sea has become a migratory flyway for many birds–one that is in danger.  California’s water wars are most evident when it comes to the Salton Sea…the topic for yet another blog post.


My photos of this sea are not spectacular–the light was all wrong, the birds too far away. But the experience was worth the frustration and the strange driving routes through unfamiliar desert areas…definitely a Saturday adventure!

Super Bloom: SOLC 2019 Day 9

The desert is usually subtle.  Many shades of brown often characterize the plants and animals that live there.  Blending in is necessary for survival and adaptations for preserving water often mean staying small and skinny to prevent evaporation.  But when there is abundant rain in the winter, the desert can be a bit showy.  Super Bloom 2019 is underway!

We planned a desert hike for today, knowing that hiking would give us glimpses of the blooming desert while taking us away from more of the bloom tourists.  We got up and left the house early…appreciating the beauty of the sunrise as we drove toward the east.


One of the perks of living in San Diego is that you can get to the ocean, mountains, and deserts in about two hours or less (if traffic cooperates).  We arrived in Borrego Springs before 8am and easily found parking near the Hellhole Canyon trailhead.

Many of the flowers were still asleep, tightly closed against the cool of the night.  As we walked, the desert slowly woke, stretching and unfolding in the gentle light of morning. Starting early meant having the desert mostly to ourselves, allowing the desert soundscape to fill our ears.  The caw of a bird called my attention to the hillside where I spotted a mama big horned sheep and her baby.  We watched and listened as they click clacked their way down the hillside.  I definitely envy their surefootedness!  A buzzing nearby had me turn my head where I spotted a beautiful tiny hummingbird sitting in a leafless tree. Painted lady butterflies played tag as they flitted from flower to flower to flower to flower. The trickle of water tinkled in the distance, growing to a burbling stream as we got closer to the oasis framed in native fan palms.  The outcome of abundant winter rain was in full view as we finally got to the maidenhead falls where water poured from over our heads into the running streams below.

The desert is carpeted in wildflowers right now.  Yellows and whites stand near purples and pinks.  Splashes of red and brilliant white blossoms punctuate the view.  Ocotillos are just started to bloom, along with the barrel cactus.  The prickly pears will be ready in a couple of week, judging from the emerging buds.


The super bloom is just beginning and there is nothing like seeing the desert in its full color glory!  As the temperatures gently rise, the blossoms will continue to emerge.  If it doesn’t get too hot, the bloom may last through mid-April!  Today’s hike was perfect: a just-right physical challenge as we gradually climbed, scrambling up rocks as we approached the falls, like the sheep we saw earlier.  The weather was sunny, with coolish temperatures in the 60’s, and everywhere we looked, it was simply gorgeous!  It was a perfect Saturday adventure.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Sharp

There’s so much to love about living in San Diego.  The proximity to the beach offers unlimited opportunities to revel in all that the sea has to offer, and I never tire of it.  But sometimes it’s nice to get away and do something different.

This week has been my spring break–a whole week with no work, a much needed respite from the demands of my everyday routine and an opportunity to recharge.  I spent the beginning of my break with my twin grandsons–having so much fun, reveling in just what it means to be 13 months old and discovering the world of play, times two.  With my other grandson out of town, I talked my husband into a trip to Joshua Tree National Park after I got back.

Just a few hours away from home another world awaits.  High in the desert not far from Palm Springs is an expansive park that straddles the Mojave and Sonoran (Colorado portion) deserts.  Most noticeable are the trees the park is named for…odd, spiky trees that seem almost alive. They seem like the kind of trees that would move when you turn your head.  The sharp spines contrast with the wind smoothed boulders in the background.  This photo of the blooming Joshua Tree is lit by the soft light as the sun was setting over my shoulder.


Looking west, you can make out the sharp silhouette of the Joshua Tree against the enhanced colors of the desert sunset.  The mountains look like small hills in the distance instead of the snow capped peaks my eyes could see.


Sharp cactus spines and brilliant blossoms attracted my attention–and also attracted bees and other insects.  This Hedgehog cactus was quite a display of beauty…with sharp edges.  (And just one of many cacti variety in bloom!)727fd74f-f97a-466e-8974-2adadc81b2c1

The Chollas (teddy bear, silver, and other varieties) are known for their sharp, barbed spines.  Coming across an entire garden of them was breathtaking!  And then seeing them in bloom was even more spectacular.  This little ladybug was right at home, posing comfortably as I moved in close with my camera.


Hiking is really the best way to appreciate this dry land of sharp contrasts.  We climbed steep rocky slopes that switchbacked up and over trails filled with wonder.  We spotted lizards scampering under shrubs and a couple of huge lizards sunning themselves on rocks as we made our way to a desert oasis marked by native California fan palms.


It’s evident that some visitors decided to mark their visit with a sharp object, carving initials in these majestic trees.  While we rested in the shade of the palms, a casual conversation with another couple revealed a close encounter with a rattlesnake up on the path.  Made wary by their story, we were cautious on our hike back and definitely felt the jolt of adrenaline when the distinct rattle stopped us in our tracks.  My husband watched the rattlesnake (he counted 8 rattles) move off as we carefully made our way around it. (Sorry no picture…sometimes you just have to stay back!)

Another hike took us into a valley filled with rock formations.  I couldn’t help take a shot of this seemingly dead tree casting a sharp shadow, extending the tree both into the sky and across the ground.


The rock formations in the park are popular with climbers and we often looked up to see people high above us.  After a relatively short hike to find Arch Rock, and an accidental side trip off the path, we found this interesting formation, rounded by the same conditions that cause plants to have sharp needles rather than broad leaves.  It was fun to watch my husband scramble up the sharp angle of rock to pose in the arch, giving a sense of size and space to the formation.


Today on a drive into a far corner of the park, we found Ocotillo growing…and in full bloom.  Of course we had to stop to photograph these massive beauties reaching high into the sky, sharp red blooms against the cloudless blue above.


And photo credit to Geoff for capturing a photo of me, dwarfed by this tall specimen…looking so sharp in my hiking boots and shorts!  (And as always, with my camera around my neck!)


So, as you go about your week be on the lookout for sharp.  It doesn’t have to be the desert that inspires the sharp edges in your photos, you might find sharp in the crispness of your focus, in the wit of a family member, or maybe even in your kitchen.

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #sharp for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Share the sharp in your life this week.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Extreme

Just when it seems that one day is pretty much like the other, an outlier comes along.  In the case of my week, it started with the superbloom in the desert–an opportunity to hike in Borrego Springs–just a couple of hours from where I live.  Our wet winter has resulted in extreme beauty (and extreme crowds) in the desert right now.


On our drive to the desert, we have to go over the mountains and past a lake.  It was unusual to spot a huge patch of fog, isolated to a particular place, far from the coast as we neared Lake Henshaw.  Something about the temperature differences resulted in this extreme condition…and we had to pull to the side of the road to capture its beauty.


Once in the desert, in addition to the plethora of flowers we also found ourselves with extreme access to big horned sheep.  We watched them frolic over the rocky hillsides with their small and cute babies, blending into the environment.  I felt lucky to spot these three in the distance, framed by the ocotillo and the clear blue sky.


A trip to Philadelphia midweek had me dealing with a different kind of extreme…once I finally secured a flight since mine was canceled!  I left the warming temperatures on the west coast to head into the chill of the east.  Although the snow had stopped, it was piled high making walking a bit like an obstacle course.  I spied these tulips…triggered by warm temps the previous week…trying to make their way in the snowy ground.


The Rodin sculpture garden was beautiful, framed in white with the sun shining bright in the thirty degree day.


I noticed the ice on The Thinker, with the sun shining through its crystalline structure.  I kept thinking about the juxtaposition of fire and ice (and Robert Frost)–and my own experience with hiking in the 90 degree desert on Sunday and walking in the thirty degree snow on Thursday!


But this guy really captures extreme for me as he disrobed on the lawn near the Franklin Institute for a little cold weather sunbathing.  (I was in a thick, bulky jacket, a woolen scarf, and layers of clothes complete with boots–feeling the chill as I walked.)  Extreme sunbathing, for sure!


So what extreme have you experienced this week?  Extreme beauty? Extreme weather? Extreme outrage, happiness, or sadness?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #extreme for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Grab your camera and find whatever kind of extreme is lurking in your life this week!  Take it in whatever direction the extreme leads you…and be sure to share.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Monumental

Yesterday Abby and I spent our day on Capitol Hill talking with congressional reps, exploring the history of our county, and thinking about the multiple meanings of words (more details of that here).  So as I thought about a weekly photo prompt, the word monumental came to mind.

There are the obvious images of monumental, like watching the sun rise behind the Capitol building. (It’s being renovated, giving it an almost Minecraft-like cubism.


There’s some less obvious uses of monumental too–at least in my mind.  Like the monumental effort it took to capture this image of the squirrel sitting on this piece of branch, facing out, eating breakfast.  I wanted to get close, but not so close that I would cause him to dash.  So I did a bit of editing to bring him more into focus so you could get a glimpse too.


And what teacher wouldn’t love a monument made of books?  I was a bit flabbergasted by the enormity of the stack–tower–monument of books written about Abraham Lincoln on display at Ford’s Theater.


I was also thinking about my visit to the desert near my home last weekend…and the monumental majesty of the mountains that frame our local desert spaces.  I love the blooming ocotillo in the foreground, bringing a touch of color to the endless palette of browns against the brilliant blue sky.

mountain and flowers

And then there is the monumental beauty in the ordinary…like these yellow flowers that somehow find enough water to survive…and thrive and bloom in this dry, hot environment.


Back to my day on the hill yesterday…I had a monumental amount of fun with Abby.  We worked hard, talked a lot, and Abby’s playfulness is contagious!  After me filming her dancing on the steps of the Supreme Court (she was tempted to ask the armed security guard to dance with her!), she asked to take a photo of me…and encouraged me to move, react, not just stand still.  I’m no Abby…but I appreciate the invitation to push out of my comfort zone of standing back, out of the limelight, to take in the sun on the hallowed steps of this historic place.


So…what seems monumental to you?  Is it a place?  An event?  An experience?  An emotion?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!)

I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #monumental for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

So explore the multiple meanings of the word monumental and represent it in your way through a photo (or two or three).  I can’t wait to see monumental defined through your lens!

Fresh Eyes

I live in a place where there are plenty of beautiful and interesting things to see…and I work to see my place anew each day.  But it’s hard sometimes.  And sometimes I end up seeing the same things I always see.

And I think that happens for students too.  The classroom becomes familiar and learning looks like the same old thing.  That’s where field trips come in…they offer opportunities for students to see learning through fresh eyes, in a different context, in a different place.

I was definitely feeling the need for some fresh eyes today.  After working for eight straight Saturdays, today was rare free one and we made plans for a “field trip” to the desert.  We’re lucky here in San Diego, we have coast–beautiful beaches–near where I live and not even two hours to the east, we have the desert.  So today, we headed to the desert to see what spring had to offer.

We were hoping for a riotous spring bloom knowing that we’ve had a bit of rain since the new year.  But once we arrived, we learned that spring had sprung…in February!  Luckily, there were still beautiful desert flowers in evidence–maybe not a riotous display, but definitely worth the trip.


Our first glimpse of the desert this morning came from above.  As we looked over the valley below, we noticed the quiet.  I caught this moment of my husband drinking in the silence.


The desert is already warm this time of year, so we set out early for a hike, knowing it would likely be near 90 degrees by the time we got back to our car.  We watched for desert flowers, for snakes (especially rattlesnakes), for big horned sheep, and birds and bugs too.  And we weren’t disappointed.


The cholla cactus (the first photo), was pretty plentiful and many were blooming.  The prickly pear was less obvious, and many were not blooming.  I felt lucky to catch this one right near the end of our hike!

Lizards skittered across our path, sunned themselves on rocks, and raced into cracks in the rocks.  Butterflies, moths, and bees were drawn to the plentiful yellow flowers.  I noticed this caterpillar hanging from a slender stalk.  (Love that caterpillars will pose!)


The snake we saw was slithering in the spaces between rocks…and luckily we only caught a glimpse…and it didn’t appear to be a rattler.  We didn’t linger–no sense tempting fate when it comes to snakes!  But we did catch sight of some big horn sheep.  There was quite a group–12, I think–coming down to a stream near the oasis we hiked to.  Here are a few we watched from some rocks above.


Their coloring is amazing–making them nearly invisible in the rocky locale.  We saw babies as well as adults…you can see them stopping to check out whether to bolt back up the hillside!

It was surprising to see a waterfall deep in the desert.  We could hear the running water before we saw it.  And the California fan palm, the only palm tree native to California, completed that iconic image of oasis.  Shade, water…and a nice place to rest before heading back into the hot sun to finish our hike.



My husband snapped this shot of me traversing a shallow portion of the small stream!

I feel like I got to view spring through fresh eyes today.  I was looking closely and responding to novelty.  I snapped photos and then when I returned home, looked up information about some of what I saw.  I had to try and retry framing my shots, not sure how to capture the tall ocotillo reaching up toward the hot desert sun with the desert cliffs as backdrop.

IMG_4834Today’s field trip was just what I needed…a chance to see the world with fresh eyes, to go beyond the familiar and rekindle my interest in learning about this place I call home.