• ELISABETH BRENTANO

THE LAST DAY ON THE ROAD


After wrapping a tourism gig in Utah a few weeks ago, I arrived in the Mojave to shoot my next project. My plan was to spend six weeks between Death Valley and the Mexico border, camping and staying in the occasional cheap motel. In between shooting photos and writing, I'd hike and climb with friends. I live out of my Jeep from February to November, so that’s how I roll — and I love it.

But within a matter of days, the gig was cancelled, and there were rumblings that California would be hit with a stay at home order due to Covid. I chatted with a few other vanlifers and truck dwellers to see what they were doing, and renting seemed like the best option. I found a cabin in 29 Palms, and while the owner gave me a killer deal, I couldn’t check in for almost a week. With rain, freezing overnight temps and wind gusts so strong I couldn't even have a fire, I knew staying put and chilling in the back of my SUV was my best bet. The weather in the Mojave is usually mellow in March/April, but this spring it has proven to be rather unpredictable. I had all the supplies I needed, so I just had to be patient. I read, I wrote, I cooked some legit camp grub and I called my mom when I could, but I was going stir crazy.

On my last day, I noticed a winter storm alert just to my north. Great. Another evening crammed in the backseat under all of my blankets. As the monster cloud moved towards me, I considered shooting it, but before I could even open the door, the freezing rain started. And then it turned into snow. But this wasn’t the kind of fleeting desert snow that melts as soon as it touches the ground. These flakes were huge, and they were blanketing everything with a sparkling coat of white. The sun came out for a moment, and I ran down the dirt road shooting whatever caught my eye. I was yelling in disbelief, because of all the times I’ve been to the Mojave, I never thought I’d see snow here. Blue hour hit about fifteen minutes later, and I snapped this shot on my long lens. All the rotten weather I endured that week rewarded me with this magical moment. This spring has been...strange. But so far this has been the biggest highlight, and I'm still hanging onto that.