Road: Digging for Ancient Cockroaches in the Marble Mountains

Art Journal, The Road

By cockroaches I mean trilobites. You cannot tell me it didn’t cross your mind. As usual there was an easy blacktop way to get to this place, Mojave Trails National Monument Marble Mountains Fossil Bed, and there was the way Kurt brought us.

First off we drove away from Joshua Tree National Park by highway, then corner-less desert road, valley lined with pink-purple mountains and creosote bushes. Then drove down a washboard dirt road running along a train track line. There was a crushed car with bullet holes abandoned. An isolated salt mine operation. A defunct mine operation, the derelict buildings graffitied and a foundation suspiciously fixed up with a tin roof. One-hundred percent sure someone is squatting there.
Social Distancing at its best, we had the site to ourselves. Trilobites were not laying around ready to be plucked off the ground like daisies. Fantasy popped. We climbed around near cliff edge. (Yes, this is/was/always a bad idea for me. I can’t trust my own feet to stay under me on flat ground). One question led to another idea, which guided our feet up higher on the site of rocks and shale piled up by decades of diggers. (Belly flips, higher, don’t look down).
As the sun lowered we found a spot that produced. We sat in shards of desaturated grey-green shale and picked out pieces from the mountain side and opened the layers of shale like oysters, looking for our strange pearls. The color of the shale reminded me of the clay sludge I escaped from at Bombay Beach on the Salton Sea.
I felt the light change in an instant. The Mountains glowed softly pink. I looked up to a sky illuminated in pinks and reds. Kurt and I climbed down and as we left the sky deepened to an implausibly redder shade, the kind that cameras can never capture.

Road: There Be Strangeness in the California Desert

Art Journal

It snowed in southern Utah. It snowed across Arizona. It might of snowed in Death Valley. We left St. George and drove west-ish directly through a frosting covered frigid Las Vegas.
That can’t be right?
We decided to take the scenic route through Death Valley on our way further south. Kurt cut in at Beatty, Nevada and started the dramatic descent down into the Valley. We found the higher elevations at the northern end of Death Valley sprinkled with snow. Surprisingly there was more traffic than I expected. With no camping in this removed location where were all these people coming from? (Until January 28, 2021 Death Valley was closed to camping because of California’s Covid-19 restrictions). We camped outside of the of the Park boundaries in Panamint Valley. In the morning we were greeted by a pair of curious ravens circling the campsite, pecking at the dirt.

We followed desolate backroads ever further south through wasteland towns. Spent the night in a lava field. (One sign of rumble and I swear we were out of there). First we tried staying outside of a one small bedraggled town but the ground was uneven and there was a feeling.” I subscribe to “feelings.” They are the parts of our brain working underneath our consciousness. Kurt said he didn’t like the place and although we were having an off day all I could say was thank you, let’s go.

From lava fields in the morning to Twentynine Palms in the evening. That wasn’t our original destination, but our roads were closed. It was a a beautiful day in the desert though. And I’m fascinated by the things the desert people do. To be continued…