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desert

Badlands

We wake up in the badlands when the sun begins to rise. It was a mistake to keep walking in the dark last night. Every pathway the same, we could have walked in a hundred circles. We put our hands on the ravine walls and used the planets and the stars to orient ourselves. Walk south. We said it, “South, south, south, please, south.” But the planets and the stars, they shifted themselves. Venus, the North Star, Orion’s Belt, they hung themselves in different places each time we looked up. The moon set and the ravine walls became black as the sky and the stars were so bright and close we felt as though we were wading through the dark matter the universe is made of. We had to lie down, we had to sleep.

Photo by BIll Driver

Dropping In

From the early ’60s to the late ’70s, the Desert Gardens Ranch nudist colony was secreted away in the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains. This is Desert Hot Springs, California, two-ish hours east of Los Angeles. The story goes that the grounds were built as a hush-hush haven for Al Capone, and, after things went south for him, a pair of entrepreneurial nudists bought the place and set up shop. In its prime, Desert Gardens Ranch offered a lifestyle of seclusion and liberation, of year-round sun and bathhouses, an in-ground swimming pool and a water well for landscaping and, not ironically, laundry facilities.