The Desert is an Ocean

As we walk through the desert I can’t help but notice how similar the desert is to an ocean.  It is as if, when the shallow seas retreated and left the land bare, everything that was living under the water just adpated to a new way of life.

There aren’t very many tall trees in the desert, so it doesn’t resemble a kelp forest, instead it has the feel of a coral reef.  Many of the plants are stiff and branching, beautiful cascades of white flowers softening their hard structure.  Tall grasses wave in the wind like eel grass in the waves, visible ripples move their masses like rain drops in a pond.  Scorpions scuttle crab-like over suculents, reminding me of sea anenomes.  Snakes slither, water beings in their own right, their bodies mimicking waves, water waves, UV waves, infared waves, heat waves, which rise off the trail infront of us.  A cactus does an impression of a sea urchin.  Everywhere there are outcroppings of rocks, reaching higher than the vegetation that surrounds them.  Rocks of all different colors, bleached by the sun, worn smooth by the wind, shapped by water, much like they would be under the sea.  Moss and lichen grows in the cracks and crevasses, little patches of land seaweed.  Gorgeous wild flowers dot the trail, purple and red and yellow and blue, colorful as a coral reef flecked with bright fishes.  Butterflies soar by like stingrays fly.  The sand moves under your feet, and you imagine your toes curling into the soft wet sand on a beach.  You look far into the distance, into the deep blue of the sky and imagine the way the ocean darkens the deeper it gets. Early in the morning when we are hiking and the air is cold there is an occasional warm patch, just like when your friend pees near you in the ocean. Maybe it is a stretch but neither the desert or the ocean hold drinkable water for humans.  They are both, in a sense, waterless.  The howls of coyotes sounds like the singing of whales, playful and mournful in one breath.  If all this is true, does that make us mermaids? Or manatees?  


When we are hiking and it is hot I tell myself we are under the sea.  I imagine that the light is being filtered down through the water instead of through leaves, dappling the path ahead of us.  We are walking on the ocean floor and I am expecting to see a whale swim by any day now. But honestly, I prefer hiking to swimming, so I think I am in the right place.  

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As Edward Abbey said, "An indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial."

10 thoughts on “The Desert is an Ocean

  1. Not sure that you will remember us. We (Marv and Sue) stopped by to visit you in Warner Springs to see how you were liking your Zpack Duplex tent. I loved mine! We struck up a conversation seeing that we are both from Washington State. I did the trail in 2015 and now was taking my wife Sue on a southern California PCT road tour to see some of the areas where I had been last year. Fortunately for me, it was NOT as hot as it is for you now, but then I was a month earlier on the trail. I hate heat! 🙂

    Hope you have an enjoyable trek north. We certainly ran into a lot of hikers as we drove north. Did a bit of hiker shuttling along the way, especially on highway 58 between Mojave and Tehachapi. We made it to Kennedy Meadows yesterday before returning to LAX for a late flight back to Seattle.

    Record numbers of hikers already hanging out at the General Store at KM. The volume of resupply packages is amazing to see. If they are any gauge of traffic, then 2016 will be another record year as the hiker traffic continues to grow almost exponentially. Darn book and movie! 🙂

    BTW. there is lots of visible snow to the north of KM, and so when not partying, a lot of hikers are re-examining their options. We took two PDX hikers back to Inyokern to catch a bus home while waiting for more snow melting before preceding north.

    Cheers..

  2. “The Ocean is a desert with it’s life under ground..” ~America

    There are many similarities and hiking and running through the deserts here in New Mexico it is very obvious this was all once underwater. It is a beautiful thought.

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