This is the third time in four years that I’ve driven Route 62 along the north side of Joshua Tree, where the mountains fade out into the Mojave desert. I usually chafe at driving the same road twice; I actually keep an atlas where I highlight the roads I’ve driven so I can figure out new routes when I go back to an area. But Route 62. I could drive this every damn day, it’s that beautiful.
This image below? Just a snap out the window as I slowed down to take the shot with a point-and-shoot camera. The colors, the shapes, the division of light and dark… the desert is full of this kind of beauty if you just look out the window.
Most people take I-10 along the southern side of Joshua Tree. Yeah, it’s faster. But you’re busy dodging cars and trucks and everyone’s going 70 miles and hour and you never see what you’re driving through.
I like Route 62 way better. Maybe one other car every 10 or 15 minutes. No trucks. Speed limit 55 miles per hour. Lots of turnouts where a photographer can stop and compose a shot. Like this one, looking north towards the Mojave National Preserve.
Then, standing in the same place, pivoting 180 degrees, this was the view south of me. I literally can’t take a photo that explains how beautiful this isolation and wilderness is.
So next time you’re heading in or out of LA by car, give yourself a treat. Search out Route 62 (Twentynine Palms Highway on some maps) and skip the whole I-10 thing. Give yourself some time to go slow, stop and feel the silence that stretches for miles and miles. You’ll thank me by the end of the drive.
I’d forgotten how enlivening it could feel, seeing clearly and far. Aridity frees light. It also unleashes grandeur. The earth here wasn’t cloaked in forest, nor draped in green.. Desert beauty was “sublime” in the way that the romantic poets had used the word – not peaceful dales but rugged mountain faces, not reassuring but daunting nature, the earth’s skin and haunches, its spines and angles arching prehistorically in sunlight.
Julene Bair, The Ogallala Road