Desert to Desert

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(This was actually almost a week ago – I’m writing this from Oregon). The road from Flagstaff to Arcosanti was nuts! Straight downhill, cliffs on one side, mountains on the other, snow at the top and 26 degrees with burning sun at the bottom.

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We decided to stop en route at Arcosanti, an experimental town in the desert. It was designed by the architect Paolo Soleri in the late 1960s, and building began in 1970. The whole project is meant to be a model for sustainable living, combining vertical models of housing with communal spaces, all in the center of a relatively untouched wilderness. The ideas behind it are pretty interesting. It’s supposed to eventually house 5,000 inhabitants, but currently only supports 150.

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Part of the studio, and one of the Solari bells that are made on site and that sustain the project.

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Lucy, looking out at the clay studio and the outdoor workspace.

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The ceiling of the ceramics studio.

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Part of one of the apartments (with the ceramics studio in the background).

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View over the top of the apartments to the surrounding desert.

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Arcosanti was inspirational, but it also felt like the plan as it was set out will never come to fruition. You can do 6 week workshops to help build the site – right now they’re working on the greenhouses. And you can also stay there for $40 a night. I wish I’d known that before, because we kept going to Phoenix just to stay the night and then backtracked to Joshua Tree. But then, if we hadn’t gone to Phoenix we wouldn’t have seen the bizarre cactus forest en route!

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From Phoenix to Joshua Tree it is desert all the way. Crazy desert. Empty for hours with nothing but sand and tumbleweeds (we only saw one, but still…). And I think every road chase movie was filmed on this road.

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Hanging out in Joshua Tree.

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We stopped in 29 Palms for the night, and I was a little disappointed. I had it in my head that the desert in Joshua Tree was something special, but 29 Palms (which is the entrance to the park) looks like this. It’s just not very inspiring, especially after a long drive.

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So we went for a walk, and found some cactuses.

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And some palm trees.

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And a stupendous sunset.

In the end, it turned out that we just hadn’t gone far enough. 10 minutes up a huge hill behind 29 Palms, here is the first little joshua tree.

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A few more minutes and it starts to look like this.

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And then it’s just breathtaking.

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I am (apparently) demonstrating what I just learned – the branches of a joshua tree split each time it flowers.

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We couldn’t take Lucy very far in Joshua Tree, partly because she wasn’t allowed, but she was also just too hot.

So we walked as much as we could, and then made our way to Pioneertown, which was built in the 1940s as a working movie set, where the actors and crew could live behind the facades of the western buildings. It’s still kind of like that!

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Then in the Yucca Valley we stumbled on this little gem:

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The museum said open, but there was just a key in the lock and you let yourself in to look around.

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So amazing!

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Poodles everywhere.

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Despite the inauspicious start, Joshua Tree really was special. I am determined to go back to spend a long time there, camping, hiking, basking in the sunshine. Because after Joshua Tree it’s this:

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