Happy Earth Day. In honor of our incredible planet I am celebrating everything desert! I love to visit the desert to get lost in the solitude and enjoy its quiet beauty.
One of my FAVORITE deserts in the world is the Sossusvlei region of the Namib Desert in the Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia, Africa (pictured above and below). If you are ever in southern Africa, it is well worth the visit. In the Sossusvlei you will be surrounded by towering red sand dunes, oryx, ostriches, and the stunning Deadvlei (pictured above). Tip: Get to the Deadvlei well before sunrise. You will have the clay pan to yourself and get to watch as the rising sun transforms the dunes and dead trees into silhoetted figures against the blood red dunes. You might even get lucky like we did and have a herd of spring bak gallop across the pan as we awaited the sunrise! More adventurous types can climb to the top of the highest sand dune, Big Daddy, on the edge of the Deadvlei.
I think one of the main draws for me as a photographer is how the light seems to dance and transform what seems to be a barren landscape into something truly remarkable. At sunrise and sunset the desert seems to set itself on fire as the soft light tucks into each fold and crevice that scars the land.
Another stunning desert is in Canyonlands National Park located in Utah. Here you will find one of the most iconic views of the desert southwest, the beautiful Mesa Arch. This arch frames the canyons below perfectly and should not be missed; at sunrise the rising sun bounces off the canyon wall below and sets the base of the arch aglow! Tip: If visiting Canyonlands NP get to Mesa Arch AT LEAST one hour before sunrise as it fills up with people quickly. Though the arch is large, you could be stuck behind a row of photographers if you get there too late! Just bring a thermos of coffee and enjoy the bowl of stars overhead! Deserts are often in remote locations and are great for stargazing.
Just because you are hiking in the desert, that doesn’t mean you can’t be both stylish and functional. Tip: I usually combine light colors with airy pieces, and always have a scarf and hat handy for sun protection. Also pack layers, evenings can get cool.
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona is often overlooked, but is quite beautiful. Just like animals, trees can become fossilized. The petrified trees in the park are about 225 million years old! Tip: When visiting the Petrified Forest National Park avoid exploring mid-day as the harsh sun washes out the incredible colors of the petrified wood. Instead opt for early morning and late afternoon.
I have whitewater rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon three times. I think it should be on everyone’s bucket list. There is simply nothing like being a mile deep in the earth and gazing up at over two billion years of the earths geology. In addition to the river, there are incredible waterfalls and side canyons to explore and hike.
Every desert is unique. Some feature sand dunes, some have canyons, and some seem to be nothing more than empty plains. However, there is always one similarity; my heart always aches everytime I have to leave! Happy exploring!