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Dispatches from the Road

A selection of travel logs from both near and far.

Filtering by Tag: National Monuments


Laurel Dailey


It starts in February.

In the last days of the month, you have a pretty good indication of the kind of winter it’s been. Mild, sure, that’s a given for much of California. But specifically: how much rain has there been? The bulk of our rains soak the grounds in January and February, so by the end of the second month, you start asking the inevitable question: What about the wildflowers?

And what about them? They’re finicky, to be sure—prone to fits and starts like any delicate thing. It can neither be too hot or too cold, and timing is everything. But the most important element is rain. The best blooms happen when there’s a whole lotta rain—buckets of it.


The winter of 2018-19 produced just such a scenario wherein a super bloom was likely. Beginning in February, I was checking the DesertUSA report daily, monitoring the bloom along with thousands of other flower nerds. By late march, Carrizo Plain National Monument was nearing its peak.

It was worth the 4.5-hour trek to the grasslands east of San Luis Obispo to see these hills awash in vibrant yellow—bursting with it, oozing with it. Positively resplendent.

Come February 2020, you’ll know where to find me: feverishly hitting refresh on my browser and asking that crucial question: What about the wildflowers?

The view of Soda Lake

The view of Soda Lake

WHITE SANDS | Sunset in New Mexico

Laurel Dailey


In the summer of 2013 took a trip to Texas—my first, unless you count the many times I've ridden the tram at the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport from one terminal to another, which, for the record, I don't. It was delightfully ironic, then, that my first trip to Texas was to El Paso, a city wedged between New Mexico to the north and Original Mexico to the south.

El Paso is a city flickering on the border of international cellular coverage and two time zones, its mountains emblazoned with an illuminated star to remind us that, yes, we're still technically in the Nation of Texas. Flung to the westernmost reaches of the state and underlined by the Rio Grande, El Paso is primarily forgetful, and secondarily familiar—a midsize city strewn with Circle Ks and strip malls and gyms and Chevrons, as American as it gets. I didn't take any pictures in El Paso; the bulk of my adventures with Dustin took place in New Mexico. 


White Sands National Monument is a 275-sq mile gypsum crystal dune field—the largest in the world. Even after a day baking in triple-digit temps, the sand was cool enough for bare feet. Miles and miles of undulating dunes surrounded us, suspended over the horizon like a sheet flung over a mattress. As the sun sank further to the west, the effect was unlike anything I've ever seen: austere minimalism with a Lisa Frank color palette, both soothing and savage. 

The photos in this dispatch have not been manipulated beyond light contrast/exposure adjustments. Those colors exist, people, and you can find them at sunset in New Mexico.