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  • While driving to Joshua Tree, I impulsively turned off at the Big Morongo Canyon exit. It wasn't the first time I had seen the sign, but it was the first time I felt pulled to know more about this oasis of willows and cottonwoods next to the highway. With so many trees filling the small canyon, I knew there must be water nearby- an underground spring, or perhaps a small stream. With moisture and foliage, I knew this canyon was likely a rest stop for migrating birds. Walking along the trail, I looked up to see a flock of birds high overhead shimmering in the sunlight. They were too far away to note any distinguishing characteristics that would have helped me identify them, but someone with binoculars told me that they were pelicans. I knew when I took this photo, that I would not be able to capture the luminescent quality of this flock in flight, but I wanted something tangible to anchor my memory of this moment on.

    It was during this trip to the Mojave that I realized my father was dying. He was admitted to the hospital in August 2012 with end stage emphysema, and he died on November 8, 2012. What I didn't know at the time, is that I would soon be diagnosed with stage III colon cancer. My father and I talked often during my treatment- me from my bed at home, pump infusing, my father from his hospital bed. We spoke about our health, but mostly we spoke about mountains, the Sierra Nevada in particular, as he tried to remember the names of places he had visited and peaks he had climbed, and I made mental notes of the backcountry adventures I would go in search of once recovered.

    I completed chemotherapy two weeks after my father's death. I am currently "NED," which means they can't find any evidence of cancer in my body at this time. I recently visited Ruth Lake and Mono Pass, two of the places my father urged me to explore when he was dying.

    To learn more about Big Morongo Canyon Preserve:
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