Posts Tagged ‘White Mountains’

Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3

August 26th, 2014

Excerpts From The Text And Photographs of Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde, Part Three

Continued from the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2.”

Capitol Reef from Cohab Canyon, Capital Reef National Park, Utah, 1978, by Philip Hyde. Nationally exhibited and first published in "Drylands: The Deserts of North America" by Philip Hyde. A stronger, more majestic photograph than a similar earlier image published in "Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah" with Edward Abbey.

Capitol Reef from Cohab Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, 1978, by Philip Hyde. Nationally exhibited and first published in “Drylands: The Deserts of North America” by Philip Hyde. A stronger, more majestic photograph than a similar earlier image published in “Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah” with Edward Abbey.

Drylands: The Deserts of North America with photographs and text by Philip Hyde, developed out of nearly 60 years of exploring and defending western North American wilderness, with special emphasis on the five deserts of the continent. Yolla Bolly Press, which also packaged Mountain Light by Galen Rowell and other foundational landscape photography titles, recently donated its archive to Stanford University, where Drylands and its production can be viewed. Drylands is now out of print, but can be found at various online booksellers including Amazon under Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde.

The previous blog article in this series, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2,” tells the story of the making of the book. The first blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 1,” contained the beginning of the first chapter of the text of Drylands itself. We continue now where that blog post left off…


Passing through vast expanses of land that appear to be nearly bereft of any living thing, I wonder at the sight of a small plant braving the harsh environment. Its difficult circumstances do not evoke sympathy; I wonder that the plant grows in spite of difficulties, that it conserves what little moisture it gets and responds to the slightest moisture by blooming exuberantly.

Still another delight feeds the photographer within: the light. Desert light is crystalline and brilliant, making deep shadows and sparkling highlights. This is at least partly a result of the scarcity of moisture in the air—and, until recently, the scarcity of humans and their activities. When there were fewer people, the light everywhere must have had the clear quality that is still to be seen in some of the more remote quarters of the North American deserts.

As a mountain lover, I especially appreciate a characteristic that our deserts share with most of the country from the Rockies west: the deserts of North America are uncommonly mountainous. The two snowiest mountain chains in the country, the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades border the northernmost deserts on the windward sides. Scattered throughout all of the deserts are a large number of lesser mountain ranges that cast their own rain shadows on the adjacent areas. Some of these lesser ranges are high enough and wet enough to support forests on their upper slopes. Rising high above the parched plains and valleys below, they may be snow capped in winter, like the higher ones to the west. The White Mountains, Toiyabe, Snake, Ruby, and other ranges in Nevada, along with the high plateaus of Utah and Arizona and the Sierra Madre in Mexico, create their own microclimates: islands of plenty surrounded by desert.

Nowhere in the world is there as much diversity of desert weather as there is in western North America. In western Oregon, California, and Nevada precipitation occurs mostly in winter, in summer only rarely. In the eastern and southern parts of the Mexican deserts, summer is the rainy season. Where rainfall records are available for desert locations, they show radical irregularity. Downpours may occur at random intervals and locations, sometimes exceeding the year’s average in a few minutes or hours. In some places droughts can last several years, with no rainfall at all. The North American deserts are second to none for intensity of summer heat, but the dryness of the air makes the heat more bearable. Death Valley can be as hot on a summer day as any place on earth, while at higher elevations a sweater may be necessary when the sun sets and the air cools.

The great diversity of the vast desert landscape of North America suggests natural divisions that coincide with most scientific classifications. But the actual boundaries of these divisions are not so easy to draw within those of the larger desert region. In most cases, one desert shades into another, so boundaries must be somewhat arbitrary and indefinite, as are all attempts by humans to circumscribe nature. As I write this I think of Sir Francis Bacon saying: “Nature is a labyrinth in which the very haste you move with may make you lose your way.”

Continued in the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts of North America 4.”

Which is your favorite desert?

New Release: “Joshua Trees, Cholla, Granite Boulders, Joshua Tree National Park”

February 3rd, 2011

Now At New Release Pricing For A Limited Time: “Joshua Trees, Cholla, Granite Boulders, Joshua Tree National Park, California, 1977” Philip Hyde Authorized Special Edition Numbered Archival Fine Art Digital Prints

Philip Hyde only printed two 8X10 dye transfer prints of “Yucca, Cholla, Granite Boulders, Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave Desert, California, 1977.” The two dye transfer prints both sold in 1977. Now for the first time since 1977, “Yucca, Joshua Tree” is available as a fine art print again. Now at New Release Pricing.

The Making of “Joshua Trees, Cholla, Granite Boulders, Joshua Tree National Park, California, 1977”

Yucca, Cholla, Granite Boulders, Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave Desert, California, 1977 by Philip Hyde.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

In April 1977, by the time my mother Ardis Hyde, my father landscape photographer Philip Hyde and I made it to Joshua Tree National Monument, now Joshua Tree National Park, in our GMC Truck with Utility Body and Avion Camper, my mother wrote in her travel log that we had visited Alan Hoeny’s gallery in Tahoe City, which was successfully selling Dad’s prints. We also had scrambled on the rocks at the water’s edge at Lake Tahoe and watched the moon rise over Mono Lake. At Mono Lake Mom picked watercress for a salad from the stream flowing from under the Tufa Towers.

We stopped in Independence to see the Eastern California Museum, Dad photographed in the Alabama Hills and we watched the rising full moon make a partial eclipse while Mom read “A Tale of Two Cities” to us out loud. When we drove over Cajon Pass, it was the first time we had done so since the new freeway had obscured the old road. In San Bernardino Dad and I explored the railroad yards, large train station and defunct round house complete with a huge 2-8-8-2 Mallet steam engine on display.

At Anza Borrego Desert State Park we followed a track to a wash that looked solid and began to back in for good parking. The wash turned out to be soft under a solid crust and in a minute one wheel was stuck. It was about 6 pm and getting dark fast. Dad jacked up the camper and put plywood under the wheel. Soon we lurched about three feet forward and dug in again. It was too dark to see now, so Dad gave up until morning when he thought he would go for help. Mom fixed dinner and we slept in the camper leaning to one side.

The red sun rose at 5:30 am and “turned to apricot with the clouds responding in like colors as a big white full moon set on the other side of the sky. Dad had a good idea during the night to lay our rugs and duffle bags in the wheel path past the two plywood pieces. By 6:30 am we were out as the wheels rolled over the rugs and duffle bags perfectly. It was already hot when we reached the Palm Canyon parking lot at 6:30 am. Mom carried the lunch pack and Dad as usual lugged his 4X5 Baby Deardorf view camera on his wooden Reis tripod and his shoulder bag. Dad made picture stops right away. The flowers were gone but the Ocotillo was in bloom and the stream flowed with water bordered by lush grass and clover under the palm trees. The Birds sang abundantly. We ran across a large rattle snake in a striking twist on a rocky ledge “taking us in,” Mom wrote in the travel log. “He held his curvy pose for us to see him well. His most notable feature were the black and white bands at the base of his tale. We learned later that he was a Diamond Back Rattlesnake.”

Dad stopped many other times for flower photographs in Palm Canyon and after leaving Borrego Desert State Park on the way to Joshua Tree. We stopped at Haflin Date Grove for date milkshakes. At Joshua Tree we picked out a $2.00 campsite at Belle Campground. Most of the next day we explored around the campground area while Dad photographed wildflowers, boulders, Yucca and Joshua Trees. We then drove around on a survey of all the campgrounds from White Tank to Ryan and back to Belle Campground for an early stop at a nice spot with neighbors on only one side. I watched rock climbers scaling a wall while Dad photographed and Mom made cornbread. Mom’s log continued:

We left a marker at our campsite and drove to Live Oak. The Canterbury Bells bloomed in abundance among the rocks. David climbed the one big oak tree in the wash. We drove out the Queen Valley Road to the road head then walked over to Desert Queen Overlook and back in a few minutes. There was a cool breeze but the country was not very interesting in the light of noon day. After lunch we started out on foot to the Pine Springs area. We came into Pinion pines and Nolinas (related to Agave) in increasing profusion and various stages of bloom unfolding, from bud on the stalk to last year’s dry filigreed skeletons. At the huge boulder ridge after Philip made photographs of the boulders, we took the fork in the trail to the mine shafts. We followed the trail track to its end across country filled with attractive boulder lanes where there were other trail forks, eventually circling back to the camper and driving back to last night’s camp space we had reserved.

The following day proved less photographically productive again due to flat light. Mom finished reading “A Tale of Two Cities” at lunch.  In the afternoon we saw another type of rattlesnake that turned out to be a Mitchell’s rattlesnake with faint banding. We also saw a Rosy Boa near the path we set out on to explore. We walked through an area that had been recently burned and came to a surprising large amount of water in nice reflecting pools. Dad used up all but one sheet of film. He reloaded the next day before leaving for the Kelso Dunes. More on the Kelso Dunes and other Mojave Desert attractions of the 1977 trip in another blog post.