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Reminiscing on 100 Days of Desert Exploration

April 10, 2019

Last week was the start of the 100-Day Project for those who decided to participate this year. Seeing everyone's post made me reminisce about 2015 when I participated in the project and had created #100DaysOfDesertExploration.

For those who don't know, the 100-Day Project began as a grad school project by Michael Bierut. Elle Luna took the idea to social media in 2014. Those who participate choose an activity (with little to no criteria) and repeat it for 100 days.

I loved the idea of the challenge, and I had a secondary reason why I chose my activity. My desert exploration project was a push for me to get out and explore the desert by which I'm inspired. In the past exploring had made me happy, and I decided to get unstuck from a creative block I was having by practicing my photography skills using the desert as my subject. By participating, I was hoping the project would:

  1. Give me focused time on a project
  2. Hold myself accountable to do it because I’m sharing it on social media
  3. Get better at what I was doing because it was a repetitive pattern for one activity
  4. Be forced to think about it differently the more I do it

It wasn't easy though. The first few weeks were pretty good. It was April and desert flowers were just beginning to bloom. As the weeks went on, though, the temperatures were rising. It was HOT going out and exploring. And while I did hit a few familiar spots, the goal of the project was to discover pockets of the desert I have never been. These spaces didn't have to be huge. They just had to be public and accessible where I wouldn't hurt any desert life with my wandering footsteps. Maybe it was a new hiking trail I hadn't traversed, or maybe I went down a road I had never been on.

At the time, I was working in the Coachella Valley, so if I didn't set aside time in the early morning to explore, I got really creative finding spots in the suburban sprawl of the low desert. When I did explore the low desert, it was midday which means it was over 100°F and clear, blue skies. But it also meant I was usually alone on some trails so I could photograph and explore at my own pace. I found it a relaxing and peaceful break.

From colorful springtime blooms during a major drought to the 30,000+ acre Lake Fire that burned for 34 days in the San Bernardino National Forest, this project told a story I could not have guessed. This project's photo collection still resonates with me.

I had also improved my photography skills as I had wished. I had gotten out in nature for 100 days and gotten to know the desert even better than before. Although I was pretty exhausted by the end of the project, it helped me get around my creative block and gave me new avenues to explore with my creativity.

Although I have not participated since 2015 and am not participating this year, I enjoy watching others' daily posts as each person finds some sort of growth during their own 100 day journey.

A few selections from the The 100 Days of Desert Exploration Project:

100 Day Project #100DaysOfDesertExploration

Day 7: An Indigo bush in bloom

Day 12: Cholla bloom

Day 13: Canyon exploration: light and shadows on canyon walls

Day 17: Mojave Desert California Buckwheat

Day 21: Boxthorn (Lycium andersonii)

Day 23: Desert Senna

Day 25: The beautiful gray bark of the Smoketree (Psorothamnus spinosus)

Day 27: Two Joshua Trees make an X and mark the spot

Day 29: Moon rise over Joshua Tree

Day 30: Zebra-tailed lizard

Day 31: Northern mockingbird

Day 34: Scaly-stemmed Sand Plant (Pholisma arenarium) AKA Desert Christmas Tree

Day 36: Lone Joshua tree on desolate dirt road

Day 42: Mojave prickly poppy

Day 49: View from Warren View at Black Rock Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park

Day 50: Two Desert cottontails eating in my yard

Day 52: Coyote melon

Day 53: Blooming smoketree

Day 54: A cactus wren

Day 59: Angles on the mountain side

Day 62: A gathering of shrubs in a wash

Day 63: Sunrise on a Sunday morning

Day 64: Morningtime moon

Day 65: The Milky Way expands behind a Joshua Tree

Day 67: Rattlesnake weed

Days 71-72: Joshua Tree National Park's Indian Cove

Day 74: The setting sun wears a red mask caused by the smoke from the Lake Fire

Day 79: A Joshua Tree marked for removal with a wildfire smoke-filled sky as a backdrop. With Joshua Trees battling against the odds – like fire and climate change – it pains me to have humans treat them like they are easily replaceable.

Day 80: The Lake Fire's edge creeps closer to the desert terrain. Bright light at the top is Venus.

Day 84: A female Anna's Hummingbird on a blooming smoketree

Day 90: Pygmy cedar aka Desert Fir aka Romero del desierto

Day 92: The pods of a Catclaw acacia

Day 95: The cliff sides of the Black Hill mesa at dusk