The Things I Saw in Joshua Tree National Park During the US Government Shutdown

J-Tree at Sunset

Joshua Tree was in the news a lot during December and early January, thanks to the US government shutdown. And if the Congress fails to reach a more permanent agreement by Feb 15, the government will shut down anew — and Joshua Tree may be in the news once again.

Why was Joshua Tree in the news?

A number of articles seemed to put forth the narrative that without US government workers to safeguard the land, irresponsible users were utterly consuming and destroying the park.

I’m an avid outdoorsperson and a huge advocate of Leave No Trace principles. I believe our public lands need to be protected and preserved for future generations.

But I’ve also spent the last few years working in online media, and have built a pretty healthy distrust for blindly accepting ‘reporting’. Here’s why:

  1. The media always has an agenda — and any given story is framed to advance that agenda. Sometimes this is done intentionally, sometimes it enters the writing unconsciously. But it’s always there.
  2. Reporters rarely have the time and resources to actually investigate their stories. In most cases, outlets simply parrot what the other sources are saying — resulting in a million versions of the same story, all based on the same dubious source. For example: the above photo of a Joshua Tree that was allegedly chopped down during the government shutdown (widely shared) turned out to be of a tree which had fallen down PRIOR to the shutdown

So, I’m not saying it’s all “fake news”. But I am saying, you should measure what the news says up against independent observers and expert voices.

I’m no expert, but I was observing Joshua Tree during the shutdown. 

And in my experience, people were being caring and respectful.

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Climbing Hidden Valley Campground in Joshua Tree National Park

Hey all, I just got back from a pair of trips: a climbing trip to Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California; and a long-weekend of ice climbing in Ouray, Colorado.

Words are forthcoming about both ventures, but for now, I just wanted to share some photos my climbing partner Jose took while we were in J-Tree.

I brought all the climbing toys, and Jose brought his photography toys. Let me tell you — it pays to adventure with a professional photographer! It makes a biiiiig difference to have someone who knows what they’re doing along! (and someone who has all the expensive lenses, hehe).

Check out some of his best shots of Hidden Valley Campground, below.

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Book Review: “California” by Jennifer Denrow (poetry)

Jennifer Denrow Poetry

My girlfriend has never been to California.

We lie awake at night, snow falling softly outside the window of our ski-town cabin. Cozy under the blankets, we stare at the flakes obscuring the bright mountain stars, and wonder about someplace else.

“California is the sort of place where it seems like anything can happen,” I tell her. “We’ll go there, someday.”

This is the sort of exchange which underlies Jennifer Denrow’s audacious book of poetry, “California.” Denrow is a young American poet from my home state of Colorado. As with all modern poetry, her work is obscure except in certain circles. I’m doing my little bit to change that.

The title poem, “California” is my favorite piece of poetry.

“California” is broken up into three sections. The first is a long poem titled “California.” This is the gem of the book. The second section consists of more traditional, shorter verses. This section, like many poetry collections, is rather hit-or-miss. The third section consists of a back-and-forth dialogue between ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy, Charlie. This section struck me as too avant-garde. Perhaps I lacked the proper context to understand the subtext of this section, but it never clicked for me. It doesn’t matter though.

Section 1, the “California” poem, is worth the price of admission alone.

“California” is a poem about escapism and the lingering dissatisfaction of modern life. The opening lines of the poem state this mission well enough:

“Forget Your life
Okay, I have
Lay down something that is unlike it
Sold boat, Italian song”

The poem goes on for 19 pages, and it continues to expand beautifully and elliptically on the abstract idea of California as a stand-in for satisfaction, exotica, and adventure in our everyday lives, which find themselves dulling more and more as computer slowly remove the very essence of living from many situations.

I won’t transcribe the whole thing here, because Denrow is a young poet who very much deserves your money. I encountered this book during an advanced undergraduate course I took, “E 479: Modern American Poetry.” The class was taught by Dan Beachy-Quick, himself a successful modern American poet. Beachy-Quick is the closest thing you’ll encounter to a genius at a state university, and I’ll always hold a respect for the man. His rambling nature of speaking made going to class every day absolutely worth it, just to hear the strange tangents he could touch on and still leave you with something of value.  He told us to go buy a random book of modern poetry off of Amazon, because the library wouldn’t have anything and the authors appreciated every purchase they could get.

Live Your Passion: Dan Beachy-Quick from Colorado State University on Vimeo.

So I’ll repeat this man’s great message: buy Denrow’s book. Both of you and she will appreciate it.

The book is melancholy, looking inward and outward simultaneously as it explores the concept of leaving. “California” tiptoes past suicide, depression, and the spectre of a rapidly receding youth with gorgeous, deadly quiet lines.

I’ve written academic criticism on the poem, but that defeats the point, really. Read it yourself, and then think on it for a few days. Think about California.

California Jennifer Denrow Poetry

Then go.

(If you’d like to purchase the book, you can throw TWO poor writers a bone by buying it through my Amazon affiliate link)