Life and Death: A Beautiful Desert Dream.

Life and Death: A Beautiful Desert Dream.

Let me tell you about this incredible, soul-healing journey that had me wandering through the sand and rock like a true desert explorer. John Muir was onto something when he said, "Of all the paths you take, make sure a few of them are dirt." But I have to correct him here, because I took more sand than dirt on this adventure!

So, picture this: I'm a nature lover, born and raised in the lush greenery of Appalachia, far from any desert. To me, "nature" meant rushing rivers, abundant wildlife, and all things green. But little did I know that the desert had a whole other kind of magic waiting for me.

My wife and I set out from Las Vegas to Southern California in January, and the drive through the Mojave Desert was nothing short of breathtaking. Mountains of rock and sand surrounded us, and I couldn't help but wonder if scorpions and rattlesnakes were secretly having a party out there.

First stop, Joshua Tree National Park. I have to confess, I had no clue what a Joshua Tree was before this trip. But hey, that's life – you learn new things every day, right? As fate would have it, we stayed at the same hotel where U2 found inspiration for their Joshua Tree album. How cool is that? I couldn't believe my eyes when we walked into the lobby and saw their pictures. It felt like a dream, and I was half expecting Bono to pop out from behind a cactus!

Now, let me tell you about my first photo session of the journey. We woke up at 4:45am to catch the sunrise at a Cholla Cactus garden. I must've taken a gazillion photos, snapping away at the cacti while trying not to prick myself. But the view was stunning, with the sun painting the mountains on one side and lighting up the other side like a Hollywood movie set.

Throughout the day, we hiked through rocky areas and fields of Joshua Trees. And, despite what I thought, there is life in this "high desert" – ravens, rabbits, coyotes, and a bunch of other critters I probably missed because I was too busy marveling at the weird and wonderful landscape.

Next, off to Death Valley we went on the third day, and let me tell you, the drive there was a show in itself. The scenery changed every mile, and I was starting to think that deserts are like chameleons – they can pull off any look!

Death Valley, as the name suggests, was a whole different ballgame. No life in sight, just vast mountains and salt flats that stretched for miles. My sense of scale went out the window; I couldn't tell if I was the size of an ant or a giant. We even tasted the salt – gotta make sure it's the real deal, right?

Believe it or not, Death Valley turned out to be where I felt the most alive in years. There's something about being surrounded by nothing but nature's raw power that makes you realize how small we really are. But hey, I was grateful for picking the right time of year – I don't think I'd feel quite as alive if I was roasting in the summer heat.

Of course, I must give credit where credit is due. My wife is the real travel mastermind here. She's been setting up these grand trips for us, and it's all thanks to her that I've discovered the wonders of the National Parks and beyond. I mean, sure, I've explored some places before, but she's the one who lit the wanderlust fire in me. I owe her big time!

My two passions – photography and travel – have now joined forces! I'm like a thief with a camera, stealing the beauty of new places as we go. Ok, that sounded bad, but you get what I mean. It's like having the best of both worlds – exploring new places and immortalizing them in photographs.

Jim Morrison was right; the desert does change you. And I didn’t need any fancy mind-altering stuff; I just needed my camera, my wife, and the open desert. It's pure magic, my friends, and the desert will forever have a special place in my heart. Cheers to nature, adventure, and the most epic road trip of my life!



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It was a beautiful journey!

Tanya Markos-Vanno

Awsome I m so deeply proud of you.I Love you my nephew

Fran Todd

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