My favorite cartoon has two thought balloons: One floats above a man with chin in hand – “What’s it all about?” The second is above an amphibian struggling from water to land – “Think, reproduce, survive.” I grew up in a sweep of states contiguous with the Canadian border and my main memory is snow. Four years ago I walked the lengths of Death Valley and Baja California and started to fall in love with the desert. The final straw was three years ago when I was abandoned by a guide in the Peruvian Amazon and nearly died paddling lost on rivers under rainstorms in a hand-hewn canoe back to civilization. I was wet and ready for something dry and warm when I met a 300 lb. canoeist in the California Sierras who claimed Sand Valley as his base and handed me a realtor’s card. “Say Big Jake sent you so I Collect a commission.” Dyslexic Big Jake, freshly shot, drove a custom, street-legal dune buggy and summer canoed the mountain lakes. I read him a newspaper article about himself, he gave me a map to my future home, and the rest is sand down the hourglass. Still, it only partially addresses “Why here?” I was raised in the thought balloon above the man’s head and wanted to explore the one above the amphibian. I wanted to learn heat as I knew cold. I knew from the walks that the every living desert entity is revered for its evolutionary past and adaptive present, and craved their first-hand knowledge. There was a lifelong compulsion to homestead or at least build a paradise from the ground up. The desert has a quiet, clean solitude that would require self-sufficiency and if by chance there were neighbors they’d accept me for it. I shrugged off present society and, ultimately, there was little gamble in the Sand Valley move. The rewards have been astronomical. I’m not qualified for “Toughest in the Valley” because the rules state one must live here one full summer but I haven’t, and will not run.