LOW and UPPER Desert


If folks aren’t familiar with the topography of California, they are surprised to find there are two different deserts that are part of our landscape. I always enjoyed the scenery of both deserts and the distinct vegetation variations. The Sonoran Desert is a North American desert which covers large parts of the Southwestern United States in Arizona, California, Northwest Mexico in Sonora, Baja California, and Baja California Sur. It is one of the largest and hottest deserts in North America, with an area of 311,000 square kilometers (120,000 sq mi). The western portion of the United States–Mexico border passes through the Sonoran Desert.

Californians just call it the lower desert. However there are six distinct regions, all with their own “desert” name and the vegetation is different and unique in each zone. Here in California we have two regions of the lower desert, the Colorado Desert and the Yuha Desert.

The Sonoran Desert is the only place in the world where the Saguaro Cactus grows and the only populations of Jaguars live in the USA. (Not the cars, the animals).

saguaro cactusjaguar                                                 In the Palm Springs/Indio area (lots of Jaguar cars here) the strange Joshua tree thrives and lifts its mournful branches to the sky.

Joshua_Tree_Sunrise_-_thumb                                     My traveling career would place me in Palm Springs for a few days’ work in that area, and then I would leave Desert Hot Springs and take the Twenty Nine Palms Highway and climb up into the Upper Desert to an area called Yucca Valley. The Upper Desert is the Mojave and although it is sparsely populated in California, the largest city in the Mojave is Las Vegas, Nevada. Because the altitude ranges from 2000’ to 5000’ the temperatures can be extreme. There are two distinct seasons in the Upper desert. The winters can have overnight lows of twenty degrees on the valley floor to below zero at the highest elevations. The summer highs are famous because Death Valley is located in the Mojave Desert and one hundred twenty degrees is common in July and August. Springtime in Death Valley is one of my favorite places. My buddy, Jerry, and I would play golf there every spring for many years. The temperature on the course would be around 100 to 107 degrees and the huge mountains overshadowing us would be packed with snow. I never remember sweating a drop, and in fact, if we pulled our cart into a shaded area, the air felt cool on our arms.

death valley golf

I have to digress:  I mentioned my buddy, Jerry. We share our birthdays today, December 10. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, we tried to spend our birthdays together, usually golfing. I remember one particular birthday in the early ‘90s when we decided to meet half-way between our homes and play golf. His home was Las Vegas and mine was Newport Beach.  So, we met in Victorville (Upper Desert) to play golf at the Green Tee Golf Corse in Victorville. I believe the record rainfall on that day still stands. It was almost raining too hard to get out of our cars without drowning. We decided we would bowl instead. The two nice things about the Victorville bowling alley were it was inside and they served beer. We bowled at least five games and drank twice that much beer and decided it was time to visit the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum. Roy and Dale lived over in Apple Valley and built their museum right off the main highway (I-15) to Las Vegas. The torrential rains were still pouring down and we were the only two visitors in the museum. Roy Rogers had all his animals displayed there (stuffed), so there was his horses, Trigger and Trigger, Jr, his dog, Bullet , Buttermilk (Dale’s horse) and standing beside the display was Nellybelle, their jeep. Jerry and I climbed in the jeep and tried to start it. It must have been out of gas. Since we couldn’t drive the jeep out of there we decided to take the horses instead. When Jerry was mounted up on the stuffed Trigger, the museum folks thought we should get back out in the rain. We were friendly drunks and obliged.

nellybelletrigger                                    After all it was our birthday.                                                                                                           And so it is…

Happy Birthday, JV.

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About bakoheat

Writer/Musician
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