This prickly pear cactus, Opuntia chlorotica, is an common image when deserts are discussed.
And you wouldn’t have a desert without scorpions, this one found crossing the road and quite aggravated by having a large vehicle whizz by over it.
Most people think of deserts as hot dangerous places filled with scorpions, rattlesnakes, and cacti. Sounds perfect to me. While the thought of a desert as an inhospitable place devoid of life is common, it couldn’t be further from the truth. I made my first trip to the desert near 25 years ago. One of my best friends showed up at my apartment bored. We had nothing going on for a few days so in the crazy thought process of youth we jumped in my barely functional car with no money or food and headed to Death Valley. We brought along a couple beat up tents and a bottle of cheap tequila. We drove late into the night crossing over the southern reaches of the Sierra Nevada range east into the edge of the Great Basin before turning north then east into the Panamint mountain range. Pink Floyd’s Meddle album played over the cassette player. The music seemed to so perfectly fit the desert feel. I can’t remember which of us was driving, but I distinctly remember whoever it was was, was now sleeping! We couldn’t make out the topography in the dark and eventually pulled into a dusty turnout to sleep; before inevitably crashing. That was a good thing because when light first broke I remember getting out of the car and realizing we were on a winding range with steep precipices. Dangerous! But the views were spectacular. We were in the desert. The feeling hooked me, badly.
Desert grasses seem to sprout impossibly from dry sand at Kelso Dunes.
Dipsosaurus dorsalis is frequently found in hard pan flats where creosote bushes are common. These vegetarian desert iguanas are known for being able to maintain higher body temperatures than any other vertebrate.
Also found among the creosote flats are long-tailed brush lizards, Urosaurus graciosus. These slender lizards prefer to spend their days well camouflaged within bushes hunting for small insects.