“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure some of them are dirt.” ~ John Muir
I was once asked, “If you could choose only one, would you live in the forest or the desert?” This was a easy question for me to answer. While I definitely love and appreciate a cozy mountain scene, there is nothing like the vast, sometimes wacky, and almost always spiritual, vibe of the desert, especially our unique Mojave Desert eco system.
I moved to the Joshua Tree area back in 2003 when things were just a tad slower around these parts. Since day one, there has always been a certain magnetism about the surrounding vista’s, peaks, views, and endless canyons. If I needed to clear my head, gain a bit of personal insight, or just generally unwind, all I had to do was get up, get out, and get into the desert. No particular trail, fancy equipment, or reservations were ever needed. I could always count on good old Mother Nature to massage my soul, just by simply walking alongside her, like a trusted, old friend.
Almost 20 years, and likely thousands of miles later, she never disappoints. These days, if I miss a day of what I call “wandering” (exploring with no goal or trail in mind), it’s as though something is off. I feel uncalibrated, uneasy, off, like I’ve forgotten to replace the gas cap on my vehicle after fueling up.
Outside among these ancient, eroded canyons, mountains, and hills, I’m able to tap back into that simple, primal part of who I am, that has been lost for so many of us. Regardless of our heritage or our culture, we ALL come from nature. The current lives we live, full of constant technologies and devices, synthetic shoes and clothing, chemical furnishings, and paint, are not who we are, relatively speaking. What do I mean exactly? For most of our existence as a species, we didn’t have to turn off the TV and go out into nature. We were nature. Our entire lives were spent intertwined entirely in and around the natural world. Much like the clever coyote, the slow and steady tortoise, or the ever-elusive bob cat, nature is in our DNA.
Whenever I introduce someone new to our beautiful desert oasis by showing them an area that is “off the beaten path”, and they are able to smell the stout and beautifully twisted branches of the Juniper tree, or sit on an old wise boulder, while staring at a majestic hawk as it smoothly glides above us, you can almost see their DNA switches lighting up like a Christmas tree. Comments like, “I can’t believe how good it feels out here” are totally common. With a pleasant grin, I usually reply, “Of course it does, you’re tapping back into your origins, where you come from, who you are… you are nature.” If there’s one thing that has become crystal clear to me, it’s that immersing yourself in this beautiful desert area is a sure fire, fast track way to a happier mood, a clearer mind, and a rejuvenated spirit. Period.
Whether you have lived here for decades, or are visiting for the first time, make it a conscious point to soak up all the Mojave Vibes you can, as often as you can. Put the car in park, safely and respectfully venture out, deeply inhale this clear, soul cleansing, desert air, and pay attention to how elevated you feel. Look to the unique and wacky, ancient Joshua Tree as she points every which way towards inner harmony. Breathe, flow, be. No agenda, no deadline to be met, no stress; if only for an hour or two. It really is that simple.
Aaron is a proud father and author of Taming Your Crazy Monkey, and avid outdoorsman. He and his family live in the Morongo Basin where they regularly explore and wander among this wonderful, unique ecosystem. For private, guided hikes, Aaron can be contacted at: Aaronjhermanson@gmail.com