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For our natural insensibility there is no permanent cure. One may seek new sights and new wonders, but that aid to awareness, like other stimulants, must be used with caution. If the familiar has a way of becoming invisible, the novel has a way of seeming unreal - more like a dream or a picture than an actuality.

THE DESERT YEAR, by Joseph Wood Krutch


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In late February, four of us ventured further west than we normally do for our photography trips and visited the southern California desert region. We started at Joshua Tree National Park - slides of which will be posted in coming months - and ended up at Death Valley National Park. Our motel (yes, motel - my philosophy is "climb and hike and get dirty during the day but shower and then sleep in a bed every night") was directly across from the expansive sand dunes at Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley. We were out for some late-afternoon photography one day and I found a small area of the dunes where these three successive patterns had formed, and were being lit from the side by a quickly-setting sun. What caused this pattern to be created by the wind is beyond me, but it typifies the novel natural scene that Krutch describes as "more like a dream or a picture than an actuality."

"To the east the white mountains drop off and there is a flat place on the horizon and then the red mountains start. There is almost nothing growing in these mountains, just a little sagebrush."

DESERT NOTES by Barry Lopez


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This image is from the same sand dunes but at sunrise. The acres and acres of undulating dunes are bare except for the occasional plant or sagebrush that punctuates that open space. We got out onto the dunes while it was still dark, and watched the sun come up and illuminate the mountains in the distance - a very pretty and peaceful way to start the day. (For the sake of accuracy, note that the Lopez quote doesn't quite match the picture - those mountains were to our west and were being lit by the sun that was behind me shining from the east.)

If you are interested in excellent landscape photography, take a look at NATURE'S AMERICA which captures images from around the US, or PLATEAU LIGHT which contains images from the Arizona-Utah redrock canyon country, or ARIZONA: THE BEAUTY OF IT ALL. All are reasonably priced for photography books of this type, and you'll find them endlessly enjoyable.

Also, there are many resources on the Web concerning various aspects of landscape and environmental issues, and more. Among the more interesting ones I can suggest are the Bureau of Land Management's Visual Resource Management program, the National Park Service, and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.


If You'd Like To Explore Some More...

There are several nature writers whose work I really enjoy reading, including Edward Abbey, Barry Lopez, Joseph Wood Krutch, and Henry David Thoreau and Everett Ruess. To see a list of their writings, please visit the Natural Escape Writer's page, and spend some time browsing through the titles.

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