A Road Trip Through Eastern Nevada and the Mojave Desert

Great Basin Rabbitbrush
(click to enlarge)

Last fall I took a road trip through the Great Basin country of Eastern Nevada and the Mojave Desert of Southern California.  I’ve added two new images to my active collection from the trip.

The first (above) is an image of rabbitbrush catching the last light of day in a high country meadow.  It was shot in Great Basin National Park, NV.  I was drawn to the way the warm shades of ochre and yellow in the flowering heads contrasted with the cool cyan of the foliage.  To my eye, that combination makes for a harmonious color “chord”.

While in the park, I slept in my truck at 10,000 ft.  

The first night was coal-black.  You know the old thing about not being able to see your hand in front of your face?  This came pretty close!  The sky was by far the darkest I have ever seen.  A bit spooky if you are alone in the campground.  I got up before sunrise and hiked up to a 4,000 year old bristlecone pine grove at 11,000 ft.  The trees were not so isolated and sculptural as the ones in the White Mountains of California so I didn’t get anything to rival earlier bristlecone images.  But the experience of being up there alone on a snowy trail at sunrise was intense and rewarding.  The aftermath was coffee and breakfast on the tailgate surrounded by fall aspens.  

One of the great attractions of Great Basin National Park is that it remains far off the beaten path.  The park saw just 153K visitors last year. Compare that to Great Smoky Mountains NP which was slammed with 11.3 million!  And there is no entrance fee!  Compare that to Yosemite at $35 per vehicle.  Speaking of vehicles, driving south from the park I went 27 minutes without seeing another car.  I timed it!

The second image I have added to my portfolio looks into the infinite sky of a deep crimson twilight in the Mojave Desert.  

Crimson Afterglow, Mojave Desert
(click to enlarge)

It was made with a very long exposure, looking east, in the twilight glow between sundown and moonrise.  I was a mile in and 500 feet up from the trailhead in the Kelso Dunes.  The hike in was bit of a slog—slipping and sliding in the  sand.  Two steps forward and one step back with the heavy camera pack on the steep dune faces.  

Shadow Selfie

The view was spectacular up there and the walk out in the warm, windless night air was stunning.  

On the way home I drove through the former boomtown of Amboy, CA.  It sits in the middle of the Mojave where pre-interstate Highway 66 converged with the Santa Fe Railroad.  It is now almost totally abandoned but its faded glory lives on as a magnet for committed mid-century nostalgia buffs.  

Amboy, California

It’s a place where you can still “get your kicks on Route 66”.  The last phone booth persists as pop art, trash works as vernacular sculpture, and a plastic bighorn yearns to break free of his cage.  

The road out of Amboy takes you past the remains of dozens of tiny, abandoned shacks scattered randomly through the landscape.  The one in the photo below is actually among the largest. This ghost community is all that remains of the “jackrabbit homestead” program of the forties and fifties that offered families a small slice of the “useless” Mojave for next to nothing.  

“Jackrabbit” Homestead

It was a simultaneously disturbing and fascinating encounter with pop archeology.  You can delve into the subject here: