The following writing is extracts taken from the above article, which has been published in the Sacramento Bee…great read on Joshua tree.
By Sam McManisfirstname.lastname@example.org
Published: Sunday, Apr. 7, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 1H
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2013 – 3:00 pm
JOSHUA TREE – Deep in the desert, searching for enlightenment at a spot called Samuelson’s Rocks that is unmarked on any map, all I find are shaggy, gnarled trees that give this area its name, bulbous monzogranite rock formations and the triad of cholla, creosote and prickly pear that scar my legs and test my resolve.
Wait a moment. Did I just say all?
Have I, after a mere four days at Joshua Tree National Park, become so inured of these wondrous surroundings that I have ceased appreciating the geologic and floral delights to be experienced?
Perhaps. And that’s a shame. Because, if a visit to Joshua Tree teaches you nothing else, it should foster an abiding affection for the hidden natural abundance in what the uninitiated may see as a vast and arid open space bereft of possibility.
This connection to the landscape is why the multitudes come to the high desert: to climb and to hike, to camp and worship at nature’s altar, to seek spirituality and artistic inspiration, to trade the claustrophobic city for a bigger piece of sky. I am trying – really, I am – to become such a seeker.
I have trekked deep into the Wonderland of Rocks, where forests of Joshua trees exist peacefully amid mounds of monzonite quartz stacked so precisely, if precariously, that even the staunchest atheist might suspect it as the work of an unseen hand.
I have driven beyond the galleries to the fringes, where “outsider” artists have assembled found-material sculpture “environments” that incorporate the land itself as both canvas and object.
Yes, I have done all that. But here I am on my last morning, wandering in the desert, looking for a small cluster of rocks upon which a Swedish immigrant in the late 1920s named John Samuelson carved philosophic messages.
Somehow, the trip will seem incomplete without finding these stone tablets, even if (or maybe especially because) they were the work of a crank with ideas far outside the mainstream.
Joshua Tree, after all, is that kind of place. It brings out a guy’s contemplative and quirky sides…
Rock legends all around
Don’t even try in a week’s stay to cover all 794,000 acres of Joshua Tree, 70 percent of it designated as wilderness. Instead, pick your spots based on your interest.
Many come to climb the big rocks. The most popular and challenging spots are at Hidden Valley, about 14 miles southeast of the visitors center, with climbs ranging from relatively easy to difficult.
“Hidden Valley is the climbers’ place,” said Gary Chandler, who through Joshua Tree Outfitters sells and rents climbing and camping equipment. “There are hundreds of climbs within walking distance of the campground. The farther you go, you get to what’s known by climbers as the real Hidden Valley – the best climbs.”
Climber Les Walker of Idyllwild had just rappelled down a rock face, preparing to take a group of novices for a session.”Joshua Tree gets some of the world’s best climbers,” he said. “But there also are a lot of great rocks for people just getting into it. You don’t want to have a novice try Intersection or Old Woman first time out.”Hiking, however, is relatively easy for most, provided you bring ample water (yes, even in the early spring, when the temperature hovers just under 80). Trails range from as short at a half-mile to as long as the 37-mile Riding & Hiking Trail that extends from the Black Rock Canyon entrance to the Oasis Entrance.
Many of the trails are flat with soft, sandy surfaces, but some killer climbs await.
Perhaps the most popular route, the Boy Scout Trail, combines flat, sandy stretches and challenging but not lung-busting climbs with views of the Wonderland of Rocks. It’s a 16-mile out-and-back, but many choose to camp along the way and make it an overnight excursion.Hiker Lynne Tremkilbach of Akron, Ohio, chose that option
“I’ve never backcountry-camped before, so of course, I chose to do it by myself in the desert,” she said, laughing. “I camped out last night, and it was wonderful. It’s just so beautiful out here. This is so not Ohio.”
Art blooms in the desert
On a 7 1/2-acre parcel about 5 miles north of town, where the roads cease to be paved and handsome houses give way to shacks that give way to trailers, one of Southern California’s famous “outsider” artists has created a world unlike Ohio or any other state.
It’s called Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum, and it’s a trip. About 40 art pieces, some as small as a refrigerator, others as massive as a building, dot the landscape. From found metal, burned or decayed wood, old tires and pipes and discarded electronics, the late Purifoy built elaborate, often politically pointed, outdoor sculptures here from 1989 until his death in 2004.
His work has been exhibited at mainstream museums such as the Getty, Whitney, Oakland and California African American museums, but Purifoy had said the proper place for his sculptures is the desert, where the process of decay becomes part of the work.
Installations range from the silly to the sublime, often touching on social issues. One of his more famous works is “Kirby Express,” in which old vacuum cleaners, baby carriages, smudge pots and swamp coolers are affixed to bicycle wheels and placed upon railroad tracks. It represents, according to the Noah Purifoy Foundation, “a symbol of hope and progress for the well-to-do, built by the poor (symbolizing) lost hope and dreams.”
Purifoy’s may be the most famous of the desert’s art installations, but it is far from the only one. Among the pieces belonging under the umbrella organization called “High Desert Test Sites” is Sarah Vanderlip’s piece that welded two aluminum discs together to shine like a crystal egg amid the boulders; Shari Elf’s “Art Queen” gallery in town that features outdoor work, and the kitschy “World Famous Crochet Museum” inside an old Fotomat-type building.
Even some of the hotels are as much art projects as commercial dwellings. “Artists move here, well, maybe because it’s not expensive,” Elf said…..Sometimes, the art pops up at you unexpectedly.
While driving on a dirt road way northwest of Joshua Tree, near the settlement of Pipes Canyon, my eye caught a glint in the desert. I pulled over and followed the shiny light. It was a giant orange arrow, at least 30 feet in height, pointing down into the sand. Next to it was this message, nailed to the post: “You Are Here.” No direction home But I am not there – meaning, I have not yet found Samuelson’s Rocks. The morning has worn on, it’s warming up, and my water bottle is running low.
I was warned it’s not easy to find the rocks – it’s not an official National Park site, so there are no directional signs and no trail – and 45 minutes into my search, I’m getting mighty frustrated.
I try to remember what Chandler, the Joshua Tree Outfitter owner, told me.
“The reason the park won’t tell you is because it’s a private in-holding, but there are a couple of pullouts on the road about two miles from Quail Springs (picnic area),” he said. “Head southwest and you’ll see a dark mound a couple of miles across the desert. It rises about 200 feet. Walk toward that.”
I have done as told, but I’m lost. Three separate rock clumps have proved absent of inscriptions. Somehow, I have gotten turned around. Amid my wanderings, I’ve scraped my knee on a yucca plant and rivulets of blood run down my leg.
I’m just about to admit defeat when I decide to walk another 100 feet and see another rise in the landscape. I squint and spot marks on a boulder. I run through rocks and prickly pear and find them.
There are seven stones with chiseled rants against God and man, Herbert Hoover and Henry Ford, as well as other deep thoughts. It’s akin to 140-character Twitter messages, sans spell-check, from a previous generation.
One of Samuelson’s all-caps ramblings strikes me as relevant, especially to a Joshua Tree visitor. I take out my smartphone and capture it for my screensaver:
STUDY NATURE OBEY THE LAWS OF IT YOU CAN’T GO WRONG
IT PAYES COMPOUND ENTEREST FOR LIFE AND NOT ONE PENNY ENVESTED.
A recent review from a guest that stayed at the motel.
“Harmony Motel Rocks”
Tom W New Orleans, Louisiana
I recently stayed at the Harmony motel because the accommodations on the Marine Corps base were full, and I wanted a room that had a kitchen. What I discovered was an awesome and overlooked billeting opportunity for travelers to the area. The inn is quiet and has the feel of a small family-operated establishment where you could probably leave your door unlocked all day and be fine. The rooms have a large glass window facing East, giving you the most beautiful sunrises you could ask for. The pool and hot tub are well kept and are PERFECT for the post-workout soak. The staff informed me of a nearby Oasis in Joshua Tree National Park, and twice I ran there and back from the hotel (it’s probably about 7 miles total with some decent elevation changes). The proximity to this awesome, not-so-well-known landmark is one thing that makes me want to stay at the Harmony every time I have to visit 29 Palms. Let’s see….treadmill in a big chain hotel, or desert oasis run right behind your motel? Let’s see…. long unfriendly hallways in a big chain hotel, or a nice table and chairs just outside your door where you can watch the sunrise/sunset and down a bottle of beer/wine? Yep, this little motel wins every time.
Stayed February 2014, traveled on business
The Hang Town Hikers.
I feel totally relaxed and comfortable on my favorite chair, as I view the amazing critter activity in my desert garden this gorgeous spring morning. The refreshing cool breeze and the warm sunlight strokes my skin gently, this magically rejuvenates and uplifts my spirits, whispering to me, the appearance of my most favorite season of the year, yes! Bright, beautiful and blossoming spring always awakens my soul to the wonders of Mother Nature.
In the desert spring is very flirtatious with her climate, some days she is light and breezy or she can be cheerfully sunny, sometimes she gets moody and places a damper on your day, (rudely interrupting your plans), by showing up overcast, rainy, damp, windy and cold.
Spring generally glitters and glow in colors that are bright greens, purples, warm pinks, oranges and yellow as she paints the desert landscape with sweet smelling wildflower blooms. She Rejuvenates the desert wilderness with blankets of green grass, fragrant smelling flowers, sweet sounds of chirping humming birds, merry quail families and over protective fussing doves that are nesting high up in the trees.
My desert garden is always a delightful picture of my favorite desert critters buzzing with joy and love, obviously happy to meet all their friends at their favorite play place, after a cold, dry and harsh winter. I hear chatting from the critters?
Mr. Tortoise whispers to Mr. Bunny “did you notice Ash is so happy, she did not even shoo Mrs. Red Racer away, when she found her in the garden this morning.”
“Off course she is always full of joy and happiness in spring because her favorite guests will soon be arriving”, replied Bunny.
“And who may I ask are they?” squeaked Lizzie,
“Or come on Lizzie don’t you know them”, replied Mrs. Red Racer in her husky voice.
“The famous “ Hangtown Hikers” the biggest fans of the Harmony, they adore Ash, love the desert wilderness, and totally appreciate critter land. They have been coming to the Harmony for the last nine years; they are a merry crowd that is always full of laughter and always in the mood for their happy hour celebrations.” Expressed bunny in a happy tone of voice.
“That’s right,” cried out Mr. Roadrunner,” “I like them too, they love Joshua Tree Park, always going on their long hikes and they enjoy eating at their favorite restaurants in town. Every year they do my favorite trail, the boy Scott Trail.” explained chirpy Mr. Roadrunner.
“I wonder why they call themselves the Hangtown Hikers.” (Whispered Tortoise to himself), to which Bunny chuckled,
“I know, on the last trip I heard Bob the leader explain the history of their name to Ash.”
“So it’s time for a story Bunny,” shouted Roadrunner delightfully.
Mr. Roadrunner than proceeded to instruct everyone to find a seat on the comfortable dirt. Bunny cleared his throat and began to narrate the historical story of the name of the town Placerville (as to why it once was notoriously called Hangtown).
Bunny loved the attention from his friends, he squealed with laughter, as he began narrating the story with excitement in his voice. “as history explains after the discovery of gold in nearby Coloma, California by James W. Marshall in 1848 sparked the California Gold Rush, the small town now known as Placerville than was called Dry Digging’s (after the manner in which the miners moved cartloads of dry soil to running water to separate the gold from the soil).
Later in 1849, the town earned its most common historical notorious name, “Hangtown”, because the miners quickly became short-tempered, and with the rising crime rate and the lack of readily-available law enforcement, they took the “law” (or lack thereof) into their own hands. Criminals were punished in short order, whether it be flogging or hanging, based on snap decisions made by impromptu courts with hastily-formed juries.
The first lynching in the camp, a triple hanging, came after a gang of five tried to rob a miner of his gold dust. However someone in in the crowd of 2,000 said he recognized three of the five (two Mexicans and one Yankee, that had been involved with a murder on the Stanislaus River).
The three suspects were hanged together from the huge oak tree in camp. The location of this well-used hang in’ tree is marked by an effigy dangling by his neck from the second story of the Hangman’s Tree Historic spot in downtown Placerville. The stump is said to be in the cellar. That is how the Town Placerville acquired its historical notorious name “Hangtown” as there were many such hangings during this period in the town.”
Bunny continued, “So my dear critter land that is why our dear friends from Sacramento call themselves the “Hangtown Hikers”
“I get it they like the history of their towns name,” whispered tortoise.
“Or maybe there name indicates that they will not tolerate bad behaviors from their hiking team, like the pioneers of their town” suggested Roadrunner.
“Gosh I rather be on my best behavior the next time they are here stuttered anxious Mrs. Roadrunner”.
“Yes, listen to Ash, you need to hide yourself the when her guests are around because they are afraid of you,” Lizze uttered naughtily.
The above information on the history of Placerville was taken from:
http://www.comspark.com/chronicles/hangtown.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placerville,_California
An article on Joshua Tree National Park. Feature as the worlds most beautiful destinations. Joshua Tree National Park is the one of the world’s 100 unforgettable destinations.
As I briskly hike the 49 Palms Oasis trail (one mile away from the Harmony Motel) I feel the warm July breeze lightly blowing onto my skin, signaling to me the approach of the heat which bathes the high desert in a boisterous manner during our summers. I always enjoy the end of the trailhead; it has a scenic oasis which houses its resident palm trees, “in a rocky gorge amidst an arid desert landscape. The palm trees wear their giant fan palms heavily hanging down…”
“Its distinctive leaves are shaped like a fan and folded like an accordion….. Looking much like petticoats, the fan palm’s dead leaves remain attached to its trunk until removed by fire, wind, or flood.’’ (www.nps.gov).
I notice Mr. Tortoise merrily making his way to the oasis as well, his chunky hind legs are struggling to move faster. Every now and than I sense Mr. Tortoise getting a little anxious, that he will lose his friend Mr. Roadrunner on the trail, especially as hikers interrupt his pace, to take their pictures. He desperately tries to keep up with his charming friend who is thoroughly enjoying his popularity with the travelers on the trail this still summer morning.
I almost hear a conversation between these two critters as I walk right behind them. Mr. Roadrunner, breathing very heavily, almost coughs out his words, “The meeting is at 11am…I hope that everyone will be on time…”
“I am sure they will” replied Mr. Tortoise sounding tired. “Besides, it’s a good thing that it is at the beautiful 49 Palms Oasis, right here in our home town, and less than a mile away from our stunning Harmony Motel. I love the oasis, especially the canyons, so rocky and full of crevices; my little ones enjoy this spot and it is their favorite play place.”
“Yes, me too,” cried, Mr. Roadrunner with laughter, “I love the fan palms with the shade they provide and the height they have. I enjoy picnics with my family there, where we can play in the green, cool shade, flying up to the heights and perching on tall palm leaves where we have breathtaking views. The oasis at the 49 Palms is my kind of home, full of water or at least moisture, depending on the time of the year. Pity I cannot stay there all year round. And sometimes during our visits we get a chance to see the bighorn sheep as they play and graze!”
“I also enjoy the 49!” exclaimed Mr. Tortoise “Because its a quiet spot, not many travelers are aware of this part of the Park. It provides me with so much privacy and tranquility,” he whispered to his friend.
“Yes, you are quite right, Tort, answered Mr. Roadrunner. “Many people are not aware that the gateway to the Joshua Tree National Park is the City of Twentynine Palms. In the wilderness of the high desert, Mother Nature has provided us with a beautiful, comfortable home here.”
Mr. Roadrunner went on to say, “ Twentynine Palms is a desert oasis for our travel friends from all over the world; it provides the adventurous traveler with clear blue skies in the daytime and with dark skies at night for star gazing, unpolluted by city lights. And then there are the scenic landscapes and clean, crisp, fresh air all year round.”
“And, our friendly human friends here are grateful and proud of our presence, as we enhance the natural desert life, as the oldest inhabitants of the Mohave preserve,” he added with distinct pride in his voice.
article written by Ash(nalini) Maharaj
By Andie Bottrell, Twentynine Palms, CA – February 15, 2011 — As I drove into the town of Twentynine Palms, the sun had just taken its lonely place upon the horizon and there was nary a bustle or sound a stir, besides the morning birds and gusty breeze of the Santa Ana winds. One of the first things I noticed as I drove into this desert oasis on California State Route 62 was the sign for theHarmony Motel, which seemed fitting, as it was not only my destination but, as I would soon discover, a sign which has come to encompass the meaning of the city as a whole. To live in Harmony is to live in peace and this is something that Twentynine Palms has down to a science, from being home to the largest Marine Base to bringing the rights of their cohabitant wildlife into their city planning meetings. This is a town that works hard to preserve their vast and cherished natural desert habitat and one that, while succeeding at that, has, like so many other small American cities in our current economic climate, struggled to grow and find its audience as a desert getaway.
The first person I meet is Ash Maharaj, current owner of the Harmony Motel. The Harmony Motel has 6 stylish rooms and a cabin known as The Jack Kerouac Cabin. Its pool was a featured location in the 2001 Kirsten Dunst movie Crazy Beautiful, but that’s hardly the main celebrity story the folks of Twentynine Palms recount when speaking of the Harmony Motel’s famous faces, Ash tells me. Ash is a South African immigrant who became, rather serendipitously, the owner of the Harmony Motel 7 years ago. Since that time she has poured her heart, soul and livelihood into fixing it up and finding new ways to bring people in.
This dusty city gets some of the draw of the Joshua Tree National Park, of which it hosts the main entrance, but for the most part it seems to be a town that people drive right through without so much as a second glance toward its many city murals, sculptures, art galleries, and people who are so rich with tales of the town’s history, you feel like you’ve been transported back to a time when people actually sat around and talked to each other over food and drinks, unlike today when most conversation has become virtual and many people simply have no time for old stories. I can relate, which is why it was so refreshing to walk the grounds, to eat, to drink and hear the tales – of which you’ll have to find yourself in Twentynine Palms to hear as I am not allowed to print them.
The next person I meet is the Mayor himself, Jim Harris. We are sitting in the kitchen area of the Harmony Motel amongst a fine spread of muffins and cookies. I can tell immediately that this is the kind of man you want in charge of things. He launches into this touching tale of how he’d just returned from scattering his late wife’s ashes in the sea, as I unsuccessfully struggle to choke back tears. He apologizes for the departure from topic, but it is unnecessary and we, along with Ash, launch into the questions I’ve prepared for the day, which he answers with an honesty and genuine charm that I am unaccustomed to.
The reason I was brought to the city was to write an article about how the Harmony Motel is restoring its original Harmony Motel sign. This is a pretty big deal because this sign has been an attraction for the motel and the city since the 1980’s when a then still relatively unknown band — compared to their status today — by the name of U2 saw the sign and decided to stay at the Harmony Motel. It was there, at that time, that they were working on the Joshua Tree album, and they proceeded to take hundreds of photographs in and around the Harmony Motel and the Joshua Tree National Park, including the now famous photograph of the band in front of that original Harmony Motel sign. This sign was taken down not long after they left due to damage which was more costly to repair than to simply replace.
When Ash took over the Harmony Motel and began looking for ways to bring more people in, she immediately thought of restoring the original sign. After all, people still stop by several times a week to take pictures in front of the new sign (which bears no resemblance to the old, original sign), just think how many more would come if it was the original sign. U2 is still using that photo they took in front of the sign on their world-wide tours. Ash tells me just last week a young couple from Australia booked their stay at the Harmony Motel just minutes after seeing the photo flash on the big screen at a sold out U2 concert.
Restoring the sign was no cheap feat, however, and Ash has laid it all on the line in hopes that it will pay off. It helps that she has the support of her city neighbors and the Mayor, though that seems to be standard for these desert folks. Perhaps it’s the rough terrain or the fact that they are so far from other cities, but it seems like these are the kind of people the world needs more of. These are the kind of people you can call in any emergency and you know they’ve got you covered. If I sound a little enamored and biased, I apologize, but I can’t help myself.
Truth be told, I drove off into the desert, leaving my big city Los Angeles home in the rearview mirror and I headed straight into the eye of a dry, sandy monster I was certain to hate. I thought the desert was dead and depressing. I thought the people must be crazy to enjoy living there. I didn’t understand it and I didn’t expect to when I left, but something changed me. It turns out even the desert isn’t all desert. They’ve got some desert greenery, trees and water, too! They’ve got laid back people who live their lives day-to-day enjoying the sun, enjoying their company, their critters, their drinks, their food (a lot of which they even grow themselves… in the desert.) They help each other, support each other and are determined to grow their city with integrity. To not sell out to the highest bidder, but to show the rest of the country how to live in peace with their surroundings. To show the world how to have an open mind and find ways to compromise with its cohabitants of human, animal or environmental origin.
I also spoke with Ash’s Harmony Motel neighbor, Ken Tinquist who arrives just as the Mayor is leaving and they enthusiastically catch up after not seeing each other for a few days since they were both out of town. Both Ken and Mayor Jim wonder why its taken so long for the sign’s restoring to happen. Ash’s own $3,000 and ruthless, catching determination is what’s making this happen. It’s a daring investment in her business as well as in the city she’s grown to call home.
After speaking with Ken, Ash and I head off to a local restaurant not too far away. It’s there, sitting next to another pool while eating wonderful food, the sounds of laughter echoing in the background- a nice accompaniment to the relaxing music playing out of the radio, that a familiar, but long-lost feeling washes over me and my body automatically lets go of all its big city tension. I let the sun soak into my skin and feel the breeze take away the heat when it gets too hot. I can’t stop repeating how relaxed I am and how it feels like I’m on vacation in some tropical island. Simple words, but so powerful for someone who rarely gets away and never expected to like a thing about any desert.
Ash regales me with the amazing tale of how she came to Twentynine Palms and what it means to her as I begin to realize I’ve heard this same theme before — from the Mayor and from the neighbor. It’s a small city that’s managed to do what we as a country have struggled at for centuries. They are living in perfect harmony with each other, with their rare and beautiful surroundings and wild creatures. They may have brought me in to write about how the new sign will be a great new draw for past and future U2 fans and how it will help the city to grow, and I’ve no doubt that it will, but the thing I keep coming back to is the people. I understand many folks go on vacation to get away from people, but Twentynine Palms is the kind of place where you can relax by a pool, soak up the sun, see amazing art, see amazing wildlife in their natural habitat, have climbing and hiking adventures to rival any place on earth, and do it all with amazing local company that will leave a footprint on your heart forever.
The original sign goes up, surrounded by a celebration of the city’s finest, on Thursday, February 17th. Check out the Harmony Motel online at www.harmonymotel.com where you can see pictures, including the famous photos of U2 in front of the soon to be restored-to-its-rightly-place sign and read the touching stories of desert life on Ash’s blog. Most importantly, make your reservation today and take the whole family. It’s not often that you stumble on a town that can give you the relaxing feel of a tropical vacation while instilling the values American families used to be made of. To quote Sallust, “Harmony makes small things grow, lack of it makes great things decay.” For this reason I have no fear and no doubt in the future of Twentynine Palms; that it will grow with integrity seems, to me, as close a promise.
This post written by Ash ( Nalini) Maharaj
It’s 6.am, on this beautiful cool November morning, at the Harmony Motel, my favorite part of my day. It is my time with the desert, and I savor every moment of desert’s luxurious mornings she graciously gives me each day. I am sitting at my favorite patio of the Harmony Motel with a hot cup of coffee, eagerly awaiting the Sun to make her majestic rise. She rises slowly and steadily this morning at dawn, spreading her beautiful rays of red and deep orange throughout the east side above the horizon, illuminating the sky with her brilliant colors, the sun mesmerizing me as she turns into a deep golden yellow, allowing daylight to lazily peep onto the world.
The Sun creates an enlightening, warm, bright picture of her full magnificence on the desert landscape. Her beauty is truly authentic, and she is not shy to flaunt this in front of me. I breathe in her rays of vitality, and she energizes my entire being, making me ready to experience a day full of joyous energy. I salute her presence and significance to my life each morning.
I smell the fresh earth of the desert and I notice that the fig tree in the Harmony garden is shedding her dry leaves, the leaves slowly falling to the ground in bright colors of deep yellow, gold and browns, reminding me that the vibrant fall is fully here. The leaves, colored in these earthy tones spread across the gardens, creating a gift wrap image, that echoes a crinkling sound as you walk on them, this natural decoration in the garden brings in the festive mood of the season, making thanks-giving a full reality in this quite harmonious world Fall is my joyous season in the desert.
The desert introduces her seasons with great clarity; she had just showered us with her hot sultry summer temperatures in October, and now we are experiencing her fall’s cool and moderate temperatures. The desert in her cooler climate provides the opportunity to experience great adventures of hiking and star gazing in Joshua Tree National Park, in the wilderness of the high desert.
This post was written by Ash( Nalini) Maharaj
Suddenly my thoughts are distracted by a sound of crinkling leaves in the Gardens. My eyes dart to the Gardens, where I notice Mr. Roadrunner looking grimly at Mr. Bunny. On his right is the Harmony Lizard looking miserably cold on this November morning, while many other critters circle around Mr. Bunny straining their ears to hear his message. I almost hear Mr. Roadrunner complaining of having to attend a meeting so early in the morning. The Harmony Lizard tells Mr. Bunny, “The cold is not good for us reptiles, so hurry up with your agenda.” To which Mr. Bunny replies “Stop being a drama queen Lizzie, it’s just one morning and it’s only the first week of fall. Sorry, dear friends, but this meeting is very urgent!” “Well”, deliberates…. Mr. Bunny, enjoying each moment of attention from his friends. “He loves these meetings, because he gets to be the centre of attention,” Lizzie thinks to herself.
Mr. Bunny clears his throat, and continues with his message, “Now as you are all aware, Mr. Tortoise has been very depressed these past few weeks, because he lost his daughter in an accident. It was an off- highway biker, a thoughtless human that was only looking for his pleasure at the expense of our lives. Friends, we have discussed this many times that we need to help the tortoises as they are endangered group of critters in the high desert. We need to come up with a plan on how to save the tortoise critter; we cannot afford to lose them as they are the wisest critter and one of the oldest to our world. Their input to our survival in the desert is invaluable.”
“So I need a plan from you guys, at our next meeting at the 49 Palms Oasis. Lastly, we would not be spending Thanksgiving at the Harmony Gardens this year, as the traffic of travelers is going to be very high.”
“Oh,” said Ms. Red Racer, her huge eyes dazzling with vanity (she loved the limelight), “they love to take my pictures, and my popularity is highest during this time.”
Mr. Roadrunner then turns around slowly as feels the presence of his favorite friend,
“Oh Hi,” Mr. Tortoise,” he stutters.
The tortoise very shyly greets his friends. He truly has an innocent demeanor and I am surprised to find him in the garden, however I notice that his familiar appearance is admired by all of his friends in the garden. My thought takes me to my recent readings on this unique looking creature.
This post was written by Ash (Nalini) Maharaj
The desert tortoise is one of the most ancient critters of the high desert. These terrestrial animals adapt themselves very well to dry climate on land. Their homes in the high desert are burrows that are shaped in the form of a half moon. They keep cool/warm in these burrows to avoid the extreme cold or heat of the desert. You would be very lucky to encounter one.
They are beautiful reptiles that are totally passive in personalities. These humble souls have a beautiful hard decorative shell that almost seems to be artistically molded on their bodies by Mother Nature. Their long neck with their old wrinkled heads pops out of the shell, as they move slowly with their heavy rear legs (described as almost elephant- like in many critter books), reminding us of how ancient they are. To me they seem to be as old as the rock formations in the National Park. They certainly enhance the beauty of the desert environment. They are a joy to watch.For the desert tortoise, one of their primary modes of survival is storing water in their huge bladders; this storage allows them to keep a “year’s supply of water”. The tortoise can live a full life of up to 80 years, if this species is well protected.
Their movements are very slow; hence their speed in movement is no match for bikes, cars, trucks, and off-highway vehicles. These vehicles can easily crush a tortoise shell. Always check underneath your cars before you drive off, as they often look for shady spots to rest in the desert.
If you spot a tortoise during your adventures in the desert leave them alone. Because if you make them anxious, they can out of fear, release their supply of water, which can be fatal to their survival, especially if they cannot replenish it quickly. Moreover don’t use the desert as a dump site for your garbage or litter, as these creatures can get easily entangled in trash that can lead to their death. Trash attracts Ravens which are predators to the tortoise, its eggs and hatchlings.
Suddenly my thoughts are interrupted by the movements of critters in the garden, as they close their meeting by giving thanks for the tortoise life in the desert.
For more information on the tortoise and how you can help to save them you can visit the following websites www.defenders.org and www.mojavedesertlandtrust.org Information provided on the Tortoise was taken from pamphlets and newsletters provided by the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center.
And from the following texts:
1. The Desert Tortoise (answers to frequently asked questions) by James W.Cornett
2. A Field Guide to Desert Holes (revised edition) by Pinau Merlin
3. Indians and Desert Animals by James W. Cornett