On a visit to Bonanza Spring, threatened by the Cadiz corporation's plan to mine desert groundwater for profit, Alicia Pike talks about what she hopes to bring to 90MFN as cohost.
Alicia Pike: So reflecting on where we're sitting with this beautiful isolated source of water amongst what many would describe as a barren landscape? I can't help but think about John Wesley Powell coming down the Colorado on a mission to find out if we could civilize the West. And he reports back that there is not enough water.
And here we are, considering pumping this scant resource for the lawns and water fountains of the suburbs. I just don't know how we got here.
All these birds, the fox, the torts, the bobcats -- I'm sure there's some out here -- the coyotes, so many lives, depend on this.
The desert truly wouldn't become the barren wastescape that so many people believe it to be already if we took this away and I don't want to know what that looks like.
[Theme music, voiceover]
The sun is a giant blow torch aimed at your face. There ain't no shade nowhere. Let's hope you brought enough water. It's time for 90 Miles from Needles, the desert protection podcast with your hosts, Chris Clarke and Alicia Pike.
[end theme music]
Chris Clarke: Hey, hope you're doing well. Thanks for joining us with this second preview episode of 90 Miles from Needles, the desert protection podcast. I'm Chris Clarke. One of the things I've really wanted to do with this podcast is for there to be other voices within it and not just mine. I'm not just talking about introducing diversity in voices by way of interviewing the desert activists and scientists and creators and other folks that are trying to keep the desert alive, though we're certainly going to do that. But I wanted the different voices to be baked into the soul and the backbone of the podcast. And that is why I was really happy when my friend Alicia Pike agreed to be my co-host on this podcast.
I've known Alicia for a few years. She and her husband Tad Coffin live a few miles away from where my wife and I live with our dog. And like a lot of folks in the Mojave Desert who live here full time and who don't have an income from outside. Alicia has had to do a lot of different things in order to make a living. She's been an actor, a designer, an animal wrangler, a camping host, and a hiking guide. And she has more experience than most people want in a bunch of different aspects of the tourism-based service industry that provides most employment around these parts.
But most importantly, for our purposes here, Alicia is a devoted and passionate student of the desert. She is fascinated by the desert's history, its ecological processes, the geology that underlays it all. And like a lot of us Alicia gets really exercised when there are threats to the desert. Alicia sees the desert as a living thing whose life is being threatened.
A few days ago, Alicia and I went out to one of the places that is very threatened in the desert: Bonanza Spring, within Mojave Trails National Monument. We went there to record some content for an upcoming episode of 90 Miles from Needles that'll appear in early 2022. And while we were there, we sat down and chatted a bit about her background, her interests, and what she hopes to do as co-host of this podcast. Let's listen.
Chris: So, yeah, we were talking about the introduction teaser. We should probably do that. You have any idea what we should do?
Alicia: I do!
Alicia: I wrote some things down.
Alicia: I did. So I was thinking we should first talk about how we met, because I think that that's a good story.
Chris: Let me see if I can remember… I might've been a little… altered at the time.
Alicia: Well, it was in a bar.
Chris: Of course. Yeah, it was about as Mojave a meeting as possible.
Alicia: Yeah, I needed a job, but the goal of working at the local watering hole was to get access to all the locals. And I had sniffed you out as someone that I wanted to get to know better pretty much immediately. I could tell that you're a nature nerd. I was ready to pick your brain. And I remember when I came out of the kitchen after proposing pseudo anarchistic syndicalism to the kitchen staff, telling them, “Hey, guys, would you work differently if you had a stake in this business? How would you behave differently?”
And I kind of hit a wall back there. I mean, yeah, they said that they'd behave differently, but when I came through the double doors and I saw you sitting at the bar, I thought, “aha! I'm gonna talk to this guy about it.”
And I remember you lighting up like, “oh geez. Okay. So we can talk about something.“
Chris: Yeah. I think it was either in that conversation or within week that you talked about reading Chomsky as well. And I thought, “okay, we are essentially from the same tribe.” It's really a nice connection. And then, you know, meeting Ted and, uh, your family at one point, you guys were all in the saloon and you like ran over and grabbed my arm and brought me over to introduce me to folks.
Alicia: brought my mom and my step-dad in.
Alicia: I knew you were going to be my friend and I wanted them to meet my new friend because everyone was worried about me. I'm a social creature from San Diego with access to lots of people. And I moved out to the desert, you know, “what are you going to do out there?” Like immerse myself in nature and find new friends. Yeah. Not that hard.
Chris: Yeah. I had a similar interaction with a friend when I was first planning to move to the desert and I showed her the Google Maps satellite view of the house I was moving into and she went and she looked at this house in Nipton and then she scrolled out and then she scrolled out some more and then she scrolled out some more…
And then she scrolled like really, really far out like, so that her screen was showing a 20-mile-wide swath of the desert with nothing really there, except
Alicia: dots of creosote,
Chris: creosote, and some railroad tracks and my house, and maybe four other buildings that showed up and she sent me an email and said, “you cannot move there. You will go insane.”
Alicia: Oh, yeah. Is that a challenge?
Chris: I should've said that.
Alicia: So from meeting you at the bar, I decided you were going to be my friend and I felt like you were my mentor for a while there, you know, our early friendship, you don't just dive right in. That's not the type of person I am. I take it slow and get to know people.
And I felt like you kind of took me under your wing and helped educate me. I could tell that you had a passion for the desert and that you knew a lot more than I did. I was just dipping my toe in the pool, and I was able to send you photos of things I couldn't identify on my hikes and the first couple of years of our friendship, that's how it was. We were just talking through the internet and you're helping me learn. And I think that, that, that was a really great start to our friendship, to solidify our love for nature and for you to really broaden my repertoire of data.
Chris: And you gave me a chance to show off.
Alicia: And who doesn't like that?
Chris: The really important part though, that we have left out so far is that our relationship is anchored by the fact that my dog is your dog's girlfriend.
Alicia: That's true. Heart and Dos forever!
Chris: or, you know, forever in dog years. Anyway. He’s an older man, of course.
Alicia: Well, she wouldn't have it any other way. She needs a wizened Dos to show her the way.
Chris: Yeah, we are actually thinking for season two of having podcast artwork that’s us and the dogs, all of us playing poker in a painting. Martín, if you're listening, we can negotiate price.
Alicia: So, how did I get here? Why did I move from San Diego? It's a good question. Combination of elements in my life, my partner's mother died and he inherited the responsibility of a house down in Mexico. He long before meeting me had bought a house Joshua Tree, and we had a rental apartment in San Diego. So when his mom passed, all of a sudden, we were responsible for three households.
And that was a lot. So the only reasonable course of action was to cut the rental and to split our time between Mexico and Joshua Tree and Mexico, isn't really a place that we wanted to go live. It was more of a “go visit.” So we just decided, we talked about it. Let's move. And we knew that it would take at least two years to adjust and to make that big of a change, but we agreed that it was worth it.
And at this point I am beyond stoked that we took that leap hand in hand and jumped feet first into the dry desert wash. It has washed me clean. So moving right along, why am I doing this podcast with you anyway?
Chris: I was hoping you knew.
Alicia: it comes back to what we were just talking about. You know, the love for nature is something that I feel compelled and driven to not only share with others, but to encourage and motivate positive stewardship of this earth that we live on.
We've only got one life and we've only got one earth and what are we going to do with it? And that's pretty much why I’m here.
Chris: And you can do a whole lot of damage in the desert, even if you have the right intentions, just from not knowing how to act.
Alicia: five minutes could cause tens of thousands of years of scars on the surface of the earth.
And you're killing things that you can't even see. And I find that to be extraordinarily fascinating. I'm looking at you, cryptobiotic soil.
I can't picture myself doing anything else! I would like to do this for the rest of my life in any capacity that I'd be allowed. So thank you for giving me this opportunity to exercise all the passion that has been brewing inside of me and that you contributed to cultivating.
Chris: well, thanks for coming along on the ride. And I think it's going to be a really interesting conversation. I think we're both going to learn a lot, and I think that we're both going to help other people learn a lot and I'm just really stoked to get going on this. It's already exciting.
Alicia: Passion is contagious. I'm on my way as best I can living in this confused modern world, but that pull is very strong. And that's why I think this podcast is important. This is the beginning of the rest of my life for conservation and stewardship, advocacy and education.
Chris: Parting shot?
Alicia: Parting shot.
Chris: That's a good one.
Alicia: I'm all flying by the seat of my pants.
[Theme music and voiceover] This Season Zero preview episode of 90 Miles From Needles was produced by Alicia Pike and Chris Clarke. Podcast artwork by the amazing Martín Mancha. Intro and outro music is by Brightside Studio. Thanks to Bonanza Spring for hosting us. Follow us on twitter@90mifromneedles and on Facebook at facebook.com/ninetymilesfromneedles.
Thanks to our newest Patreon supporters:
Mary Ann Ruiz
Judith Lynn Laffoon
and Sarah Cardin
All characters on this podcast are entirely fictitious, even the ones that really exist. Help us launch this podcast by visiting us at patreon.com/ninetymilesfromneedles and making a monthly pledge of as little as five bucks.
I'm Bouse Parker, your unpaid computer-generated voiceover artist. DM me if you're interested in unionizing this podcast staff. See you all next time.