On the Fringe

Joshua Tree National Park has been an inspiration to me in more ways than I can articulate. Shortly before my 13th birthday I moved to 29 Palms California, and I... a New York City kid, had to learn to love a place that was foreign. The Mojave was relentless. It was a dry sparsely populated fragment of rock, dirt, and tumbleweed. I hated my new world. I craved the odors of Manhattan, street vendors, and sewers... I just wanted to go home. 
Like any lost kid, I adapted. I looked for anything to help me waste away the endless hours of boredom. I took long hikes into the desert, investigated abandoned shacks, and fished for lizards (yes... we use to call it fishing!). By the time I left JTree in 1979, I'd fallen for its charm. In this seemingly simplistic world, I discovered complexities.    
My studies in college led me back to the Mojave... This barren landscape that was the place of my youth was also where I found my wife. While I no longer call the desert home, I am a frequent visitor. I have camped, hiked and photographed this harsh landscape for more than two decades, and have spent hours searching for elusive creatures. During a recent outing to Joshua Tree National Park I had a brief encounter with the herd pictured throughout this essay. While I've seen Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) across montane regions of the U.S., I had never observed them here. The herd traversed rocky outcrops as they ushered their lambs up and over the mountain pass. Their cryptic form allowed even the largest rams to disappear into the mountainscape like a desert mirage on a sunny day. I am forever amazed by the complexity of life and its capacity to evolve and adapt to marginal habitats across our planet. The desert is a beacon for the evolutionary process... competition for limited resources drives change and allows only the most fit to thrive, reproduce and contribute genes into the next generation. If you want to see evolution, look to the fringe... in the desert, the footprint of biology is too large to be ignored. 
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