Rainshadow Farm Sky

One of the things you cannot ignore about the high desert is the sky.

Rainshadow Farm is situated  at an elevation of approximately 3,800 feet, five miles east of the western face of the San Gabriel Mountains .

The rainshadow of the San Gabriel Mountains, the desertification effect after which the farm is named, creates a semi-arid high desert climate as opposed to the general (and well-advertized) Mediterranean climate of the Los Angeles basin and beach areas.  Rainshadow Farm is approximately five miles due east of West Cajon Valley, which is located just below the summit of the Cajon Pass. Cajon Pass is a geological gateway into the Mojave Desert from the coastal plains to the south. This narrow, linear valley produced by the San Andreas fault system is the main opening between the San Gabriel Mountains on the west and the San Bernardino Mountains on the east. It is a relatively well-watered ecotone location, situated among the rich floral and faunal resources of a largely chaparral plant community, halfway between the mountains and the desert. Local weather patterns allow fog and rain to rise through the Pass area and into the nearby mountains and desert, giving the north side of the mountains more moisture than would be expected in the rainshadow of the San Gabriel Mountains. This entire region of the southern Mojave contains many unique mixtures of plant communities and many localized ecotones. Quite often, woodlands, alpine and desert, blend and extend to quite low elevations on the mountainsides. The whole region is biotically diverse.

Although Rainshadow Farm is only five miles from the pass between the San Gabriel Mountains to the south and west and five miles from the edge of the San Bernardino Mountains to the south and east, the vista from the farm is composed of one mountain chain nearby our front yard and the other appears to be between twenty and fifty miles from the back of our acreage.  The opening of the Cajon Pass to the south is a long desert view with rows of gentle hills all the way to the Pass.  To the north, desert plains, scattered hills, and ancient cinder cones stretch as far as the Tehachapi Mountains, the city of Bakersfield, California’s Central Valley, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This leaves plenty of room for sky.  On a clear night the Milky Way stretches across our farm and the track of the planets can be followed all night long. During the day, we can read the weather approaching from the Coast to the west as weather sings move across the expanse of the western San Gabriels. During stormy weather we watch clouds pile up and roll across the mountain ridges.  Fog moving up the pass  is visible from the farm and if the rain from below is going to rise up into the southern Mojave, we can watch the fog bring it across the land to our south and west.  Huge Pacific storms are preceded by huge winds from the mountains and the pass and then the high desert  has its time of rain, thundershowers, or snow.

Fog in the Cajon Pass climbing up Highway 138.

Fog in the Cajon Pass climbing up Highway 138.

About rainshadowfarm

I teach anthropology, am an archaeologist, a drylands agroecologist, community educator, and a single mother of eight grown kids. I currently own and operate an educational and research farm in the southern Mojave Desert, Rainshadow Farm. I'm 100% West Virginia hillbilly. Not necessarily in that order.
This entry was posted in socioecological intelligence, sustainability education, sustainable agriculture and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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