(Almost Exactly) 5 Years Ago Yesterday

I am hanging out with my love under the stars around fire-pit… it’s the perfect temperature and breezeless. Shadows are dancing on a pile of a freshly delivered wood next to us…

We are reminiscing about the last time we were sitting around a crackling fire camping in the hi-desert. It seems so long ago. So long ago because we basically stopped camping when we moved here. We felt like we’d moved into the National Park when we landed in Gamma Gulch. It was better than camping. We had a whole little cabin instead of just a tent, smack in the middle of endless gigantic boulders- and right out the front door were hiking possibilities in several directions. 

Better than camping. Our Gamma Gulch cabin.

 

So the last time we sat around a crackling campfire at a campsite… was almost exactly 5 years ago today at Hidden Valley Campground in the Park. It was our anniversary week… there was an unseasonably cold front storm warning for that evening- and wow did it live up to it- we’d only experienced mildly chilly desert nights up to that point. Late night it got crazy windy and crazy cold and rained like a mad dog- our portable thermometer read 33 degrees in our tent. 

We wrapped the pups in a down comforter and lay zipped up in our 20 degree bags with the air so cold on our faces it almost stung. We weren’t used to this. We woke up to frozen water bottles and realized- the desert can get COLD. Very cold. 

Pups waking up after the 33 degree night.

 

That day it warmed right back up though- and was so clear and so fresh our city eyes and lungs didn’t even know what to do…

After the storm.

 

We hiked around and imagined what it would be like to actually live in the desert… a conversation that had been ongoing for at least 5 years… discussing different aspects and wonderments and puzzlements… we had no idea that just a little over a year later we would live here! 

Now here we are at the Outpost- our second dwelling place in hi-desert… with a view that knocks our flip-flops off and astounds us everyday. With a porch that constantly beckons us to hang out and behold the view as the light and colors subtly shift and change across that vast expanse we’d been longing for. 

Here we are around a crackling fire under the stars not so much dreaming as we are appreciating this exact moment. So happy to realize that we love living here all year round and being hi-desert people as much as we hoped we would- even more actually… even our pup Suki has proven to be the ultimate desert dog. (The only thing she misses is eating grass- so we have a little pot of organic grass for her to nibble which she loves- and is much healthier than the pesticide-ridden lawn grass she used to munch.)

Suki and her desert grass.

 

We drove home 5 years ago after camping feeling crestfallen and wondering- why does this desert heaven always have to come to an end? Can’t we figure out how to stay? Of course, the rest is history… 

-by Tania

 

This Week – Snow in the hi-desert!

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The El Niño storm we’d heard so much about began 4 days ago.

Long story short- much perilous driving took place (from home to work and work to home) on roads that had turned into rivers of mud and debris sweeping into washes, etc.

When I pulled up to our little cabin all aglow on Wednesday the pouring rain had turned to snow and I was home sweet home and it was beautiful.

And then it stopped. We were disappointed.

IMG_8158Jon woke me at like 4:30 a.m. the next morning and opened the curtains to our deck and turned the outside light on and we watched it snow and snow…

Jon put on coffee and we watched the glow of sunrise slowly light up our surroundings. We were blown away.

The last time it snowed (our first time last December) it came along with a fierce wind- so the Joshua Trees and the Pinyon Pines and Blackbush and Scrub Oak did not retain much snow. That morning it was covering everything. Thickly. Beautifully.

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We quickly prepared and inhaled a breakfast of hash browns and over-easy eggs and slipped into cozy-wear and took off out into the winter wonderland.

The snow was way deeper than we’d imagined and I realized “there’s no WAY I’m driving in this… I wouldn’t even know how.” I texted in a “snow day.” There began a most fun day with my love and my pups- marveling the entire time at how blessed we are to be right here. Right. Here.

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What a super-fun day!

This Week – The Lay Of the Land

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In our blog we often refer to the “hi-desert,” but we haven’t really defined the area we’re talking about on our site… until now. There are several different places in Southern California that can call themselves the hi-desert. When we talk about the hi-desert we are specifically referring to the Morongo Basin in the southwestern Mojave desert.

The Morongo Basin covers the area from Morongo Valley through Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms and on to Wonder Valley in the east. It extends from the northern half of Joshua Tree National Park up to Pioneertown and over to Landers – the home of the Integratron.

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Above: The Integratron

Highway 62 runs through most of the Morongo Basin and is one of the most used routes to reach the hi-desert. Most people coming from the L.A./O.C. area take Interstate 10 towards Palm Springs. Highway 62 is a few off-ramps after the Palm Springs turn off. I always watch for the freeway sign that says “other Desert Cities” to know I’m close to Highway 62.

This is the land of giant windmills turning wind into electricity. Now I know the hi-desert is just a few off-ramps ahead.

Highway 62 is also called the Twentynine Palms Highway or 29 Palms Hwy – take your pick. I always call it “the 62.” It’s the ribbon that ties my hi-desert world together.

highway-62-zero-marker-800pAbove: 0.00 marker at the beginning of Highway 62. Image by Google.

I love to glance at the highway markers as I leave the 10 and ride the sweeping turn that curves onto the 62 and see the 0.00 marker.

Something in me always feels a sense of relief, like I escaped and made it back to my beloved hi-desert. The 62 has officially begun, and several wind-swept miles down the road I’ll pass the light at Indian Canyon and start heading up “The Hill”.

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“The Hill” is what separates the low desert from the hi-desert. It’s a several mile stretch of winding road that takes you out of Riverside county and into San Bernardino county, from the arid low desert to the Joshua Tree filled hi-desert.

After climbing the hill you will find yourself in Morongo Valley. There is a great shop called The Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley filled with locally made hi-desert items and an amazing selection of cacti and succulents.

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You’ve just entered the hi-desert at this point, and if your destination is Joshua Tree you still have about seventeen miles to go.

Willie Boy’s Saloon and Dance Hall is in Morongo Valley. You’ll see it off to the left as you reach the edge of town. It has a giant (re-purposed) P.F. Chang’s horse (all cracked up from being blown over during an intense wind) in the parking lot and a buffalo on the roof. You can’t miss it.

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If you have the time I recommend stopping, otherwise, it’s time to head up “The Grade”.

The Grade is a very long crawl up from Morongo Valley to Yucca Valley. The speed limit is 60 mph and I recommend sticking to that speed because the CHP is almost ALWAYS on the highway here watching for speeders. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve traveled up The Grade without seeing a highway patrol car.

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About halfway up The Grade you might notice that you’ve entered the elevation where Joshua Trees grow. Again I feel a sense of relief as another milestone towards home has been passed. Back in the land of Joshua Trees, hurray!!!

Immediately as you crest the top of The Grade you are in Yucca Valley. You’re now at 2900 feet. Yawn if you need to clear your ears. The speed limit in Yucca Valley is 40 mph on the 62. Only out-of-towners speed through town. You’ve reached the hi-desert. We like to move a little slower here. It’s taken me several years now, but I’ve slowed down too.

Yucca Valley is the place to shop before you hit that campsite at JT National Park. Need a grocery store? Yucca Valley has them and Joshua Tree doesn’t.

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Big 5, Rite Aid, Home Depot, Petco, Staters, Vons, Starbucks… all the standard issue chain stores – Yucca Valley has ’em.

Once you’ve passed the Home Depot you are nearly out of Yucca Valley, and Joshua Tree is just a few miles down the road. The road opens up and the signs on the roadside say “Slow Down And Enjoy The View.”

It’s always like a moment of transcendence and transition for me as I enter Joshua Tree proper. First I pass Sunny Vista Rd. and I notice the big red arrow stuck in the sand to the left, and then The Playhouse and The Joshua Tree Inn on the right.

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After passing Sam’s Market (good beer here) on the left and The Beatnik Lounge on the right – I have just about reached Park Blvd and the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park – the destination for many people coming to the hi-desert. This is the heart of the town of Joshua Tree.

Another 15 miles down the 62 will get you to 29 Palms. Wonder Valley is just beyond 29 Palms. The best thing in Wonder Valley – hands down – is The Palms Restaurant – a hi-desert roadhouse/music venue. It’s the real deal. Kick back and have a beer and take it in.

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On your way back stop at The Glass Outhouse Gallery – a first-rate art gallery in an unexpected location.

That’s how the hi-desert rolls – great stuff in unexpected locations.

Buttons At Coyote Corner!

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So guess what? As of last weekend our buttons are now in Coyote Corner! We are honored- ’cause we think this shop is one of the coolest shops in JT!!!

I’m sure many of you have popped in- either on the way into the park or on your way out. If you haven’t- check it out next time!!!

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Above: This was all that was left when Jon brought their second order of 50 more…

Handmade Hi-Desert 1″ Pin-Back Buttons!

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Button, button, who wants a button?!!

I’ve always loved 1″ pin-back buttons! When Jon and I met both of us had our own little collections of band buttons– and at some point we decided we wanted to make buttons with our own images on them.

Jon borrowed a button machine from a friend and started creating his own graphics, sometimes using photos I’d taken. A little later Jon got his own button machine (and all the supplies) as a birthday gift from a friend.

That was over 7 years ago. We’ve been making them ever since- sometimes for ourselves to pin on jackets and backpacks and t-shirts and my purses- little expressions of the day- little souvenirs of the moment.

Some art buttons we sold on various project sites (and here).

One year we made a little Christmas tree out of buttons, and photographed it for our Christmas card, and then included a button in each card.

Now that we’ve been here a year, living in the hi-desert, and taking photos like crazy, we have begun yet another round of button making!

We’re happy to introduce our first 10 designs, with several variations of each, created from photos I’ve taken over the past year along with a few graphic images from images/stills of westerns filmed in Pioneertown that Jon has manipulated.

Maybe one or two of them will connect with you…

Get your own handmade hi-desert 1″ pin-back buttons here!