A constant keeper of high hopes, I had tried to set my expectations at least at a reasonable level. It's just desert, I was told. I didn't want to be disappointed. All the same, I couldn't help myself. I was excited by the prospect of the wild, open, endless land and the Joshua trees that look like something from a children's book. And disappointed I was not.
As we drove, the road seemed like it would never end. Busy southern California freeways in their confusing, interlacing patterns, had yielded to a narrow and open road. Between the mountains, cacti, sporadic flowers, and other desert plants added spots of color to the sun-bleached desert landscape. So this was Joshua Tree National Park.
The park lies at the intersection of two deserts, the Mojave and the Colorado. Visitors come from miles around to camp and hike and climb the many rock formations that have been sculpted by wind and rain. Much of the park is wilderness, home to unique plants and animals, meant to be enjoyed but left wild.
Walking off the beaten path into the sandy dust, I took in the unfamiliar but captivating environment that took over my senses. I snapped a few photos and decisively put my camera away to let the only remaining images be the ones that would be imprinted in my memories. What I saw was never meant to be fully put into the boundaries of a frame.
The desert is beautiful in its own right, somehow simultaneously barren and thriving, lifeless and full of life. It seemed to go on forever, imparting the delightful feeling that only wide open spaces can give. Cacti and Joshua trees occupied the landscape, colorful characters in skillfully practiced poses. Though the sky was the kind of sunny blue of an old film photo, the dry heat was not unbearable. And it was quiet, so quiet. I was immersed in a stillness that was broken only by the occasional breeze or discreet lizard slipping through my peripheral vision.
Now that I have tasted the wild lands, how could I not have an appetite for more? There is a strange call of the desert and the mountains, the vast expanse of the great outdoors.
Take me into the wild.
Maddie Buresh is a writer and photographer with an unquenchable desire to explore the great outdoors, from the ocean to the mountains. She finds joy in trying new things, living in community, and crafting stories that encourage people to go outside, have adventures, and enjoy this big, beautiful world.