Our friend Lulu just bought a house on a sweet little hill in Yucca Valley just a couple of miles south of the legendary Pioneertown. Yucca Valley is on the opposite side of Joshua Tree, only about two hours away from L.A., but it might as well be a million miles away as it is another world made of magical rocks, boulders, cacti, yucca plants, and sand.
We got invited to spend a weekend there and have a taste of the high desert life. The heat was intense but not unbearable, as the elevation bring a nice breeze. We enjoyed the views from the front and side lawn of the house between sips of iced tea and beer and waited for the glorious sunset, before going to the neighbors’ barbecue across the street. On our way there, through the gold sand and cacti, we spotted different wildlife (mostly cute jackrabbits and quails) but always kept an eye out for rattlesnakes (which are very popular, too). There are about six households in Lulu’s area and most of them live a simple Western lifestyle, with horses stables, chickens, and big trucks. Everyone is so welcoming and generous with their produce — in fact, the next day we had breakfast with fresh eggs courtesy of Denise’s hens.
When night falls, the sky becomes an epic blanket with the most breathtaking shining stars dropping against the silhouettes of the pinions. We greeted the sun early Sunday for a power hike behind Lulu’s hill; we walked through and above a water bed that, at this time of the year is dry, and explored the landscape and the geological formations. We believe we found some signs of the Indian tribe that used to live there, as we saw some rocks that appeared chiseled and modeled to accommodate perhaps a kitchen or an art room. We saw some carcasses of rattlesnakes and coyotes, too — and that would explain the group of seven hawks that was circling the area.
In the afternoon, we drove to Pioneertown where we had delicious steak nachos and margaritas at Pappy and Harriet’s. This place is a trip! It’s an old cowboy saloon that smells of beer, gin, and gun powder. It has a center stage where many bands (known and unknown) have performed and perform on a regular basis. The bathroom area looks like a Disneyland Old West ride with a Sheriff’s office, jail, and different paraphernalia hanging on the walls. The outdoor is just as wild and fun: Right behind Pappy and Harriets lies sleepy Mane Street with a motel and a several buildings in the same Old West style. Pioneertown was built in 1946 as a live-in movie set but it looks like the real deal to me — I expected to find a horse instead of our car when we headed back to our parking space.
Pioneertown blew us away, but our friend Garth’s alternative paradise even more so. It’s only a couple of miles away from Mane Street, a little tricky to find (drop me a line if you need directions), but totally worth it. It’s located by the magical boulders of the Morongo basin at the end of a sandy road providentially called “God’s Way Love”, but it is not affiliated to any organized religion or church. Garth bought the land 30 years ago and started an alternative sustainable community by building houses inside the biggest boulders. He has an outdoor kitchen that works with solar panels and a rock pool that cleans itself. There’s a beautiful pond, a nice landscape all around, and even an amphitheater. It’s a very special oasis.