In Praise of Place: Lybrook Badlands, Part 2


IMG_7582_PainterlyThe terrain to the south, as I discover during my afternoon hike, is equally weird and wonderful. After traversing a cracked dirt mound that takes me beyond the bowl-like confines of camp and into the neighboring dry wash, I enjoy the open view to the east where a series of step-like benches culminate eventually at the overlook I visited a couple of years ago – and from which, frustratingly, I could find no feasible means of descent into this fairyland of erosional features.

South and east stretches a rim of peaks characterized by their corrugated flanks, varied coloration and low-level hoodoo battlements. Towering above a cadre of molar-like hoodoos is a most improbable cone of banded clay that rises precipitously to a point, as if recently attended by that great pencil sharpener in the sky. I’m struck by a visceral, lizard-brained urge to climb it, or at least climb up to the base of it to better grasp its significance and somehow absorb its radiating other-worldliness. But I resist.


To a point

IMG_7593_Interior 3

The great cone


Around the bend






The littlest hoodoo


Yucca view



I return to camp in time to relax with a beer and a good cigar before preparing for my evening walk up into the same terrain I visited this morning. I pack along a longer focal length zoom lens (though the trusty 16-35 never leaves the camera body, as it turns out), plus gorp for emergency energy and water  – because, duh, water! I also don an LED headlamp in case I tarry too long up above and need help finding my way back down to camp.

(In fact, the route back down is problematic, even in daylight. Being a natural-born worrier, I struggle with the idea of working my way back up into the broken country this close to sundown, with the specter of a cold overnight bivouac—or, worse, a head-first tumble down a precipitous clay slope—front of mind.) As I’ve done on prior such solo expeditions, I overestimate the rapidity with which darkness can fall and spend a couple of hours waiting for it once I’ve returned safely to camp.


Shadow of a cigar


Run away, sun


Flat as a pancake


In between


Breaking ranks


Abandon hope


Point of interest


The tail


Crack in the earth


Twilight in the garden of moral ambiguity

The air mattress I inflated earlier provides adequate cushion against the dusty ground for most of the night, and although I have my usual difficulty sleeping soundly (we’ll not go into the tribulations of advancing age and its attendant complaints) I don’t seem to mind it much. The privilege of simply being here makes up for any short-term lack of creature comforts.

During my 24 hours on site, the number of other visitors I encounter in the Lybrook badlands remains at a smirk-inducing zero. In fact, the last person I saw before turning off on this final spur road, and the first person I see again upon leaving it, is the driver of an oil tanker truck, who waves at me appreciatively as I pull to the side of the narrow track and allow him to pass.



No other visitors? That’s just the way I like it. As for you, I suggest you check out the far more well-known and routinely-visited BIsti/De Na Zin wilderness not far to the northwest. You’ll much prefer it. Trust me.


9 thoughts on “In Praise of Place: Lybrook Badlands, Part 2

  1. Pingback: In Praise of Place: Lybrook Badlands, Part 1 | Arthouse Photography

  2. Much prefer Bisti? Maybe, and nice try on your part! The odds of me interloping in Lybrook, within the next five years, are low. Besides, your photos do the Badlands total justice.

  3. Another great report! Especially love the photo of you, sitting, relaxing, and drinking beer. Miss you at movie screenings but happy you are still able to steal away to places like this. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I miss the movie screenings and the great people (like you!) that I was privileged to associate with among the critical community. Beer and wilderness just seem to go together. Cheers!

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