Issue 22: The Desert Is Coming

Inside the Winter 2023 edition of Alta Journal.

alta, issue 22, cover



michael helzer, city, land art, megasculpture, garden valley, nevada
Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Hubris in Art Form

Land artists insist on making their mark on the ancestral grounds of Indigenous people. By Jason Asenap • Photo by Adria Malcolm

desert handbook
Emily Underwood

High Desert Handbook

The insider’s guide to one of California’s hottest zip codes. (Seriously, it hits triple digits by 9 a.m. here.) By Stacey Grenrock Woods • Illustrations by Emily Underwood

joshua tree national park, echo cove, california, desert, alta journal
Gregg Segal

‘This Place Belongs to You’

Joshua Tree National Park is synonymous with the desert. Yet record numbers of guests threaten to overwhelm its beauty, wildlife, and small staff. By Brad Rassler • Photos by Gregg Segal

tim shields, tortoise, mojave desert, technotort, laser, raven
Gregg Segal

The Desert Tortoise Defender

In the Mojave, an inventor uses lasers and drones to deter ravens. By Anisse Gross • Photos by Gregg Segal

ken layne, desert oracle, periodical, magazine, quarterly
Philip Cheung

An Ode to Desert Oracle

The brief history of “a pocket-sized field guide to the fascinating American deserts: strange tales, singing sand dunes, sagebrush trails, artists and aliens, authors and oddballs, ghost towns and modern legends, musicians and mystics, scorpions and saguaros!”—and its imminent return. By Ken Layne • Illustrations by Joe Ciardiello

the joint, biker bar, randsburg, california, harley davidson, motorcycles, desert
Tod Seelie

The Joy of a Great Desert Biker Bar

Six spots across Southern California to go hog wild—and get some delicious food, too. By Louise Farr • Photos by Tod Seelie

new cayuma, blue sky center, the pope, huts, overnight stays, alta journal
Matthew Smith

A Company Town Comes Back to Life

The nonprofit Blue Sky Center returns power to the people of New Cuyama. By Ed Leibowitz • Photos by Matthew Smith

clay worst, goldfield, arizona, lost dutchman mine, gold, alta journal
Scott Baxter

The Cactus with 12 Arms

Dozens of people have been killed searching for the Lost Dutchman Mine in Arizona’s Superstition Mountains. At 93, Clay Worst is the last living connection to those who claimed to know its location. By Clay Worst as told to Geoffrey Gray • Photos by Scott Baxter

oasis california, scorpions
Zoe Matthiessen

Fiction: “Oasis, California”

By Susan Straight • Illustration by Zoe Matthiessen

death valley, california, tourists, pilgrimage, extreme climate, extreme heat, alta journal
Gordon Wiltsie

Living with Death Valley

Climate is making a place of extremes feel a lot more normal. By Chris Colin • Photos by Gordon Wiltsie

proving grounds, mojave air and space port, mojave desert, spaceshipone, dry lake bed, el mirage, vandenberg space force base, alta journal
Getty Images

Proving Grounds

The desert holds its secrets—which is why it’s been an ideal place to test out what’s next. By Jessica Blough, Elizabeth Casillas, Robert Ito, and Ed Leibowitz

tony soares, mojave desert, pottery, idyllwild arts academy, lost art, cahuilla style pottery, alta journal
Gregg Segal

Pottery as Cultural Survival

Tony Soares is reviving a lost Mojave Desert Indigenous art form. By M.T. Hartnell • Photos by Gregg Segal

desert hot springs, california, natural spring water, miracle manor, hotel, midcentury, alta journal
Christina Gandolfo

Soaking Up Some Wisdom

In the middle and feeling a little spent, a writer relates all too well to Desert Hot Springs. By Monica Corcoran Harel • Photos by Christina Gandolfo

desert pop culture moments


    By Robert Ito

    drought, american west, dry irrigation canal, colorado river indian tribes, colorado river, arizona, alta journal
    Gordon Wiltsie

    The Drought

    A road trip along the diminished Colorado River reveals the hot, dry, and terribly inevitable future of the western United States. By Rob Schultheis • Photos by Gordon Wiltsie


    jaime hernandez, love and rockets
    Dustin Snipes

    Why I Write/Draw

    By Jaime Hernandez

    Why You Should Read This: Maggie the Mechanic

    By David L. Ulin

    andrew sean greer

    The Glee of Playing with Language

    By Andrew Sean Greer

    Why You Should Read This: Less

    By David L. Ulin

    isabel allende

    A Conversation with Isabel Allende

    By David L. Ulin

    Why You Should Read This: The House of the Spirits

    By David L. Ulin

    doug peacock
    Scott T. Baxter

    Yes, It’s Worth It

    Doug Peacock’s writing and love of the wild continue to inspire the radical environmental movement. By Terry McDonell • Photos by Scott Baxter


    mike henderson at his studio in san leandro, california, as an artist, he’s reinvented himself several times during his nearly six decade career
    Christie Hemm Klok

    Mike Henderson’s Personal Renaissance

    Now late in his career, the Bay Area artist is seeing his paintings praised as much for their craft and creativity as for their social critique and cultural representations. By Marcus Crowder • Photos by Christie Hemm Klok

    claude monet’s "the portal of rouen cathedral in morning light," 1894
    J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles/HIP/Art Resource, NEW YORK

    Why This Art

    Traveling through time with Monet’s The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light. By Raffi Kalenderian

    orange county museum of art exterior
    Tom Bonner

    Take That, Guggenheim!

    Architect Thom Mayne’s new home for the Orange County Museum of Art is a head-spinning force of nature. By Joseph Giovannini • Photos by Tom Bonner


    Poetry: “Teach Your Children to Remain Small and Invisible”

    By James Cagney

    peter orner, jimmy, victor juhasz
    Victor Juhasz

    Fiction: “Jimmy”

    By Peter Orner • Illustrations by Victor Juhas

    alex foster
    Dustin Snipes

    Trailblazer: Alec Foster

    Making gun violence everyone’s problem. By Jessica Klein • Photo by Dustin Snipes

    In Every Issue


    By Will Hearst



    Advertisement - Continue Reading Below