I have gone all over the West Coast and the US, interacted with all sorts of people and have been inspired by the places I have visited. I have travelled abroad, visiting places on my way to Pakistan, all of which has been amazing. I imagined from these experiences that “adventure” and “inspiration” weren’t to be found in my own backyard, but in far off places.
It was really last year, while driving across the South (of the United States) that I understood why people in the US have such a low rate of passports. Americans not only don’t travel abroad, but we don’t really have a reason to travel to foreign places. There are enough regional diversity to take up years of traveling time for an American without having to put them through the trouble of dealing with cultures, people, foods and customs alien to us. Though this is not a good thing, but I understand the pull it has on people. Inspired by that thought, I went out exploring my own backyard, having realized that I had hiked up to Angels Landing in Zion National Park but had yet to venture out to Vasquez Rocks Los Angeles County Park, twenty-five minutes from my house!
While exploring the Antelope Valley, my little part of California, the part where I grew up, I am discovering how little I know about this place. Its been my backyard for well over half of my life, and it seems to me that I keep finding myself astounded by how exotic my backyard truly is. That realization was not something I was prepared for.
I see things that astonish me, partly because I had viewed the High Desert as this harsh unforgiving place, where nothing of consequence existed. Granted the Mojave desert is a place of extremes, it is quite unforgiving, to the point that life clings dearly to survive, to make it through to another wet season, but there is an array of astonishing creatures and life here. And just as quickly the life cycle circles through in haste before the searing summer temperatures set in and kills off life.
The antelope valley, is surrounded by mountains. I never noticed all the mountain ranges that surrounded the valley as a kid. In fact, all the seasons during my childhood melted into two- extremely hot and extremely cold. But the “valley” is defined by the mountains that surround it, our valley is a bit of a weird U/V shaped valley that spreads open south by south east toward the great Mojave Desert.
As a kid there was just one mountain range that mattered, the San Gabriel Mountain range that loomed high above our heads, all the area around it was flat too me in comparison. Having observed the area more, I see that we are in fact surrounded by multiple distinct mountain ranges- the Tehachapi range being one that surprised me most because it lies to the far northwest and the range is more then ‘hilly’.
Its because of these two mountain ranges that the area is a desert, on our side of the mountains we lie in the rain shadow, clouds blowing across the Pacific ocean dump most of their moisture on the other sides of these ranges, unburdened they billow over the Antelope Valley on gale strength winds.
Everything that grows in the desert is cognizant of the precarious conditions that it grows in. There is nothing showy, vibrant dark greens or gigantic. Instead things are sparse, duller and delicate.