Someone on the NaNo forums was asking what it is like to be in the desert, so I posted this reply. I hope it helped him/her to understand how special they are.
My husband and I have spent a lot of time in SW Utah, in Capitol Reef NP, Arches NP and Canyonlands NP, as well as the San Rafael Swell and Cathedral Valley. What has been said before is true - very good advice - but one thing I wish to stress; the desert is a beautiful, amazing, humbling place. It can be so very harsh, with the dryness and winds and extremes in temperature, but when you find a lifeform in the desert after spending a little time there, you realize that if this being has survived so much just to exist there. Not just exist but also thrive enough to spare energy to reproduce and bring more life to such desolation, even if it takes surviving five droughts and seven record-breaking winters to get up the reserves.
One of the most humbling visits for me was when we camped in Bentonite Hills, Cathedral Valley. Because of the almost cement-like characteristics of dried bentonite, there were no plants and no water where we'd set up for the night. It was perfectly still; no insects and no birds of any kind because they had nothing for which to be there. The only light (other than our headlamps) was from the stars and later a crescent moon . Things were so quiet I could hear my own blood running through my ears. I felt like I was on another planet where the vacuum attenuated all sound. I'd never experienced anything so foreign in my life.
The coolest part was, when we returned to "civilization", I felt like I had been reunited with long lost friends. There was a gush of gratitude for the birds chirping in the sky and wind rustling through leaves with commonplace familiarity. I was actually grateful for the buzz of insects. Nothing makes me appreciate my senses like the feeling of having them robbed from me. I came to love the Bentonite Hills because they reminded me of what I have; life.