The Ruins of Joshua Tree (Part 1 of 4)

Photo by Rey Spadoni

There was a time, before covid, when I would always look for opportunities to add a bumper day (or periodically two) onto business travel to get out somewhere wide and open to photograph. The closer to a national (or even state) park, the better. My routine was: secure the business trip, scour my schedule for adjoining day opportunities, attack the internet to learn as much as possible about the area, plan and scheme, book it. Covid coerced these possibilities onto zoom and it felt as though I might never get my travel swagger back again.

Photo by Rey Spadoni

Happily, just a few weeks ago, I was in LA for work (and to promote my book) and so I was able to rinse and repeat my standard process. This meant Joshua Tree National Park, a venue I visited five years ago and enjoyed. The hiking was relatively easy and the photography was surreal. At the time, I visited nearby Salton Sea, a thought that crossed my mind for this trip. However, my time was more limited this go around, so I stayed strictly within the park.

Photo by Rey Spadoni

Joshua Tree is one of the nation’s newer parks and is distinguished by its geographic proximity (note: if you add typical LA traffic, you’ll find it feels much less close) to Los Angeles. Unlike many other parks which are bounded by large expanses of an approaching landscape, Joshua Tree sneaks up on you. You navigate highways (with lots of traffic) and then the shift happens quickly, the desert sneaks up upon you. One minute you’re surrounded, the next you’re alone.

Photo by Rey Spadoni

Because I was there fairly recently, I decided this time to search for the many ruins in the park and I also chose a much longer and more difficult hike. This week, I’ll be sharing images and thoughts from the trip.

Today, it’s about the ruins in an area once ruled by ranchers, miners, and industrious settlers. I would not describe it as a ghost town, but there certainly are remnants, spread out, that remind you of such a place.

Photo by Rey Spadoni
Photo by Rey Spadoni

Some of these sites are well marked on trail maps and are, for the most part, distinguishing features of the known landscape; they are destinations in and of themselves. Others lie off the path and are well hidden. It was these ones that intrigued me most of all. What was it about them that made them lesser locations, not worthy of identification? Many were, to me, equally interesting. So I focused my eye, and camera, on them.

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