Remote Landscapes in the California Desert: A Mixed-Methods Approach.

The remote wildlands of California are difficult to categorize and qualify as they are at once an "idea" and a "place." Historical definitions of remote landscapes are tied to ideas of wilderness and have evolved over time and though different cultures. The cognition of remote landscapes is a personal construct that is contingent on individual experience. Remoteness is often seen as a feature of wild lands and/or a quality that modifies collateral aspects of the broader topic of wilderness; such as naturalness, primitiveness, opportunities for solitude, and overall accessibility. Past administrative regional planning tools, such as the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS), have been an attempt to quantify and qualify the varying interests/agendas of those who utilize remote areas for recreational purposes. Recent advances in digital geo-technologies as well as the rise in adventure recreation communities on the Internet have meant that people can be informed of and interact with remote landscapes like never before. This paper asks what the most remote areas are remaining in the California Desert. What is their extent and condition? And can they truly be called wilderness and how are the digital mapping and geovisual technologies changing both the idea and place of remoteness? To answer these questions, this paper will use publicly available data on roads and road volume to generate an overview of remote places in the California Desert. Candidate areas identified in this process, and from collateral data sets, will be refined and mapped at finer scale for further study. Resulting areas will be cataloged and an index for ranking and assessing their remoteness applied; using ROS standards as a guide and incorporating qualitative, experiential data as a modifier. Experiential data collected by the author will be analyzed having on the perception remote landscapes and the physical settings they occupy.