Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Joshua Tree National Park

We drove 38 miles from our r.v. park near Salton City to the south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. There are two entrances from the north, also. The drive we took through the park was 63 miles on paved road. With only short stops along the route, the drive through the park is estimated to take up to 4 hours. Although we had seen many miles of desert during our recent travels, we still found Joshua Tree Nation Park to be beautiful! Unlike our experience with Organ Pipe Cactus National Park, Joshua Tree National Park felt very safe and welcoming. The park road is interesting in that it follows the transition zone between two distinct desert environments! The eastern half of the park is the Colorado Desert. It lies below an elevation of 3,000'. The western half of the park is the higher elevation Mojave Desert, which is home to the Joshua Trees. It is only after the junction in the road where you must decide to head north to the community of Twenty Nine Palms or follow the road west that the Joshua Trees appear.
The Colorado Desert is a sub-region of the vast Sonoran Desert.
This is a walkway at the visitor's center.
The Colorado Desert is made up of broad plains of sand, rocks, mountains and a variety of scrub bushes.
It's interesting how certain types of cacti will suddenly appear in mass and then just as quickly be gone. We've notice that they seem to come and go with the elevation. The cacti you see are called Cholla, pronounced Choy-ya.  The double L in Spanish is pronounced as Y.
The rock ridge was created by a magma chamber that at one time would have been below the ground surface. You can see evidence of the chamber in the exposed rocks on the hillside. Over time the exposed rocks are sculpted by the weather.
This is a nice view back through the park. From the south entrance the park road gradually climbs in elevation to the higher Mohave Desert.
Along the park road are wonderful campgrounds with easy access. There are 9 campgrounds within the park offering a range of amenities. I would recommend staying at least one night in the park for a more leisurely tour and time to hike some trails.
It seems there aren't any Joshua Trees and all of a sudden you round a bend and there they are in their magnificence! Amazing!
They are reported to only grow about 3 inches a year for their first 10 years and then slow to a growth of only an inch a year! They grow to around 49' tall and can live for hundreds of years up to a thousand years old!  Wow! That's something to think about!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Slab City, CA

Slab City is a coming together of people from all walks of life. It is an unofficial community. I'll say right up front that I don't understand it, but am open minded to people's lifestyle choices and will attempt to understand. All the pictures you see are from the Internet. It just didn't feel right to me to be stopping in front of individual's homes, no matter what they consist of, to take pictures.
Slab city lies on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) desert land just beyond Salvation Mountain outside Niland, California. Slab City or The Slabs takes its name from the concrete slabs that remain from the abandoned World War II Marine barracks of Camp Dunlap. The camp has no electricity, no running water, no sewers or toilets, and no trash pick-up service. It is humanity at it's basics. Slab City is home to approximately 150 year round residents. Snowbird retirees flock to the area for the Winter months raising the desert population to about 2,500! Slab City is subject to the same laws as elsewhere.    
Let's begin our tour with arriving in Niland on Highway 111. It has rundown buildings left from better economic times. The 2010 census reports Niland to have a population of 1,006. It is reported to have a market, post office, and a few other businesses. The active businesses aren't readily seen, so the town seems pretty desolate. Turn onto Main Street to go to Salvation Mountain and Slab City.
There aren't active businesses like one expects on a Main Street, but there is this large deserted looking building. Main Street turns into Beal Street and there is a sign indicating the dump is ahead.
There is a desert lot with lots of broken glass, as though it was deliberately done as an artistic expression. Glass in the desert sparkles in the sun and is pretty seen from afar, but the sheer abundance of broken glass in this area also made it look like trash that should be cleaned up.
A bit further down Beal Road are these high powered electrical lines. My first thought is that the people of Slab City are not choosing the lifestyle from a health conscious or aesthetics mindset or they wouldn't choose to live close to a power station.
A bit further is the Niland Gas Turbine Plant! Same thought as before. If you are going to choose to live in a desert, why not pick a beautiful location?
The people of Slab City can't be living their lifestyle from a back to nature mindset, at least in the more common interpretation of surrounding oneself with the beauty of nature. The concrete building ahead would have been a guard house for the military base.
Further on one passes Salvation Mountain on the right.
The concrete building on the right is just past Salvation Mountain and is an old guard house from the military base. It seems to denote the beginning of Slab City.
In the open desert across from Salvation Mountain are what seem like average motor homes, Fifth Wheels, and Campers. I'm guessing these are the Snowbirds. I don't understand why they would choose the inconvenience of fueling and running generators; rationing water and seeking water for fresh water tank refills; and having to go to a dump station for the black water tank, when there is electricity, water, and sewer available for only $300 a month in an r.v. park! Why are they choosing a location that clusters them together like an r.v. park rather than seeking a more scenic and secluded location? Maybe they come to be near the inspiration of Salvation Mountain.
Further into Slab City is a community sign and bulletin board. It struck me as odd that there is a community bulletin board. A community bulletin board must mean that at least some of the residents are seeking a sense of community and wanting to come together with others. This somehow seems to go against living off the grid and breaking away from society norms.
Just down the road from the Snowbirds would be rigs that require financial backing. This person has the means for a nice Fifth Wheel, truck, solar panels, and an exterior water tank that is serviced by a company. It is the square plastic container behind the rig surrounded by metal mesh. This person may work in the area.  
This older rig also has funds for solar panels. Note how with any community, Slab City seems to have the wealthier suburbs and financially declines into the slums the further one drives into the interior!
Boundaries and clutter start to appear, as well as, signs.
This trash seems to be set out for trash pick-up, but unless things have changed it was stated that there isn't any trash pick-up service. It might just be organized for the owner or a friend to haul away.
The flag seems poignant. Proud to be an American!
Living amongst trash strewn about! Why?
Again, why choose to live amongst strewn about trash? Life can be simple without surrounding oneself with junk!
This place is well kept and has a cute artistic flair. What bothers me a bit with this place and more you'll see is a tendency within Slab City to create artistic expressions leaning to the weird. I'm not saying I don't appreciate the clever and artistic use of things, but it felt like people were trying too hard to prove they are individuals apart from societies norms! It made me wonder why we can't just choose to be individuals and not have to work so hard at proving it to others!
Next came the nicer tent area.  
There is a definite sense of property boundaries throughout the community!
Here is an open lot with the property boundaries denoted with cans.
Sometimes a monied rig would be found parked down in the interior of Slab City. I suppose they want to experience living in Slab City, but can they really?
The tent areas decline into communal clusters. Human waste disposal is an issue. The environment and sanitation is an issue near these camps. It has become a source of contention between those with self contained rigs and those that dwell in tents. 
Deep into Slab City is what I'd consider the slums. There is a large amount of trash and even the landscape seems less healthy.
There are those with tents and those without! They are clustered together. Are they together in a like mindedness or in support of one another? It starts to make one think of what one has to offer, if living in a community such as this.

The community has its artistic expression.
This artistically placed pile of cans elicits lots of thoughts. Doesn't the person have anything better to do? Even though it's just a bunch of old cans, their placement did turn out kind of cool! The solar light in the center is a nice touch! What is this thing in Slab City with using junk to make things? What is the mindset? I just don't get it!
Here is the Tree of Soles.
There are signs welcoming the public. These people don't want to be reclusive, but they have their private lives, too. East Jesus is a colloquial term for way out there, such as I had to drive clear out to East Jesus to get the part I need! The more recent term is to say East Jesusville!
East Jesus is a sculpture garden within Slab City and a compound for artists.
There is a christian center .
There is a 24-7 library. I'm still baffled by people living off the grid, but being communal and incorporating many aspect of general society.  
This is an interesting picture of the open air library!
I guess people are people and there will be those that are respectful and those that aren't.
Signs like this make you wonder if it's real. I read of an internet cafe in Slab City that charges a modest fee for use of the internet. I don't know about the cafe part.
There is this sign for a golf course and one for a movie theater that makes you wonder if something has been put together for these purposes.
This is the communal hot springs for bathing.

This is the shower. It is a deep culvert where water runs off from the hot springs.
Here is how it works! If you wear your clothes, it serves as a laundry, too!

The Range in Slab City is known for its weekend gatherings and entertainment!
Here is the sign on the guard house as one leaves Slab City! Slab City definitely tweaks one's mind and leaves one with more questions than answers.