Summer Skies And Clouds In the Hi-Desert

There is just a month left of our first summer living in the hi-desert, and we have been loving it here. We hope this is only the first of many years living at Casa de Gamma.

This is where the land of the Joshua Trees meet the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains. The air is clear, and the clouds and summer thunderstorms keep the daytime skies interesting… but when the sky is blue, it’s impossibly blue.

Here’s a small collection of photos from the last month of the clouds and skies in our new neighborhood.



August 12 – I stepped out front to have my evening coffee and let Suki hunt lizards while waiting for Tania to get home. I looked up and… Sunbeams – just sitting there looking all majestic and everything!


August 11 – UFO clouds over Gamma Gulch…


August 12 – Today’s moment of hi-desert heaven…

There is a thunderstorm north of here, just over Black Mountain, and another one to the southeast over Yucca Mesa (according to the weather map). Here in Gamma Gulch, between the storms, the weather is warm and humid with cooling gusts of wind that howls through the windows.

We were told when we moved here that Gamma Gulch has a special weather vortex. After 9 months here I tend to believe that now.


August 10 – I think Maxfield Parrish painted our sunset on this evening.


July 13 – 30 second exposure on a super moon night with stars and clouds…


August 17 – Impossibly blue.

Off-The-Grid In Hidden Valley

Tania and I don’t just go camping, we mount a small expedition in our Honda Element. We pack our car with all the camping gear and supplies we’ll need for the next few days. We’ve got our tent and chairs, a stove, 3 bundles of wood, 9 gallons of water, food, flashlights, lanterns, firestarter, pots and pans, cooking utensils and on and on… and usually nothing that we don’t end up needing.

We usually spend a couple days preparing our supplies in a process refined by years of camping, and especially camping at Hidden Valley Campground in Joshua Tree National Park, (where we’ve camped at least 7 times so far – each time a unique experience.)

Then, along with our two dogs, Moseley and Suki, we leave cellphones and computers behind and enjoy some time off-the-grid… this year we spent our time in site #25.

In Our Element

Our love affair with Joshua Tree began eight years ago when we got our Honda Element, which we bought because we wanted a camping-mobile (among other things.)

Here’s a photo from our first camping trip at Hidden Valley in June of 2004 with our green Element in the background.


The Element has been an awesome mini-expedition vehicle. Before we got the Element we had not gone camping for a few years and really missed the time away from the city, just the two of us together, or with a small group of friends.

Our history of camping together goes back twenty-some years. Tania and I even got married while camping in Big Sur twenty years ago on October 12, 1992.

Here’s a photo from just after the ceremony under the redwood trees at Limekiln Campground in Big Sur. We had a Volkswagen Vanagon back then for our expeditions…


Boulders and The Light

Over the years many different things have been my focus-of-the-moment in this love affair with Joshua Tree, from the Joshua Trees themselves to the Gram Parsons legacy to the broad landscape of trees and boulders.

Currently I’m fascinated by the way the light changes the shape, color and presence of boulders. As an artist I marvel at the light and wonder how to capture it’s majesty in some kind of medium – a painting, sculpture, something I haven’t thought of… It’s a problem I keep turning around in my mind.

So far, I can only capture a photo of the idea, a mere representation of the real moment. This (see photo below) is what the light really looks like at sunset in the fall, but the real moment was 100 times better than any photo we could have taken.

This year’s expedition was the first time we camped in Joshua Tree during October. Usually we camp around September 19th in remembrance of Gram Parsons, one of my favorite musicians.

The light in October is very different than September. The angle of the light is steeper and full of contrast. Around our anniversary on the 12th the light is magical, and this year we had an unseasonal cold front that added a coolness we’d never experienced in our September camp-outs.

This Year’s Expedition

We arrived in Hidden Valley on Wednesday the 10th. Of the 44 camp sites, only 3 or 4 were still available. One of those sites was #25, on a side of the inner loop we had never camped on before.

The first night we had thunder and lightning in the middle of the night with rain. Our Hobitat tent which we bought a few years back from R.E.I. was very water-tight, and just we laid there enjoying the sounds and lightning throughout the night.

The next couple of days were unseasonably cool all day with beautiful clouds flying across the wide open sky. I wore a hoodie and knit cap most of the time, and really bundled up for the evening’s campfire.

We spent our time taking walks with our dogs, boulder scrambling, taking photos, talking, hanging out, napping and generally relaxing. It was a bit of heaven. And everywhere we looked were beautiful boulders basking in the changing sunlight.

At night the temperatures dropped down to 38 degrees one night and 40 degrees another night – very cold when you have to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

On Friday the 12th we celebrated our 26th year together with special beers in the afternoon, a nice nap and a great afternoon walk… later Tania cooked-up an outstanding rib-eye steak and potatoes for dinner and then we relaxed around the campfire for conversation and more beers. A magical day all around.

The weather was finally warming up when we were packing up camp on Saturday morning the 13th to come home.

Moseley (a real homebody) was happy to be back home, while little Suki pup is already waiting for the next adventure.

Gallery of Photos

Here’s a selection of photos from this expedition into Joshua Tree. The photo order starts with morning photos and goes into the night, but covers several days of camping. All the photos have captions to tell you more about our expedition – Enjoy!