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Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Roughley Manor
Roughley Manor (in Jan., 2012)

One place I MUST include on this trip to Twentynine Palms, California and Joshua Tree National Park is Roughley Manor, a Bed & Breakfast in which we did not stay but which is so beautiful, it fills me with longing to stay there—Roughley Manor.

We learned of Roughley Manor at the Twentynine Palms Visitor Center where a young Marine wife spoke of it enthusiastically.  As Roughley Manor is close to Joshua Tree’s Oasis Visitor Center, we decided to visit there first.  Down a macadam road we drove, nothing but scrub brush and sand alongside.  We are at the edge of the Mojave Desert. We turned right onto a packed sand road, and followed that for a bit until a left hand turn led us down to an unbelievable sight.  In front of us, so out of place at this cusp of desert, behind a stone and wrought iron fence and a stand of enormous and stately Washingtonia Palms stood a stately stone mansion in a setting stolen from a romance movie.  Here was oasis personified, and it was too inviting for us not to go in to take a closer look at this desert wonder.
Roughley Manor

I rather shyly (as we were not guests) took some photos from the outside of the building and marveled at the setting, but Beth, as is her manner, strode right in and struck up a friendship with former Marine and innkeeper Gary Peters who not only gave us (by then Rob had joined us inside) the history of this place but also took us on a tour.

Roughley Manor’s history reads like a fairy tale.

World War I veteran Bill Campbell came home with lungs significantly damaged by mustard gas.  While still in the East, he married Elizabeth, a rich young woman whose family disowned her because of their marriage, and together they came out to the desert and camped at Mara Oasis for three months in the hope that Bill’s lungs would heal.  Making progress but not completely cured, Bill and Elizabeth began to build a more permanent dwelling as homesteaders.  They carried enough the rocks to make a one room cabin that is now the reception room of the manor. 

Reception at Roughley Manor
Original home, original fireplace--now the reception room of the Inn

Bill was treated, by the way, by Dr. Luckie, whose mural I shared with you in the previous post.  (this is a fascinating link, an article about Dr. Luckie that will illustrates what a great man he was and contains an interesting anecdote about his relationship with Bill Campbell)

The Campbells stayed in Twentynine Palms as ranchers, extending their homestead to 160 acres and building the beautiful stone home we visited.  It took them five years to build the mansion.  They had to carry the stones from the desert.  This was truly a labor of love. 

Come one—that’s one romantic story.  It creates atmosphere! Elizabeth Campbell eventually chronicled their life in her book entitled Desert Was Home, a copy of which we saw in that same reception room that at one time was her entire home.

Eventually, Gary and Jan Peters bought the home and 25 acres, and transformed it into the beautiful Roughley Manor (Jan’s maiden name) for us to enjoy.  They’ve taken a romantic history and offered it to us.  Visit their lovely website which includes receipes from Jan's kitchen.  When you view the rooms, you just want to stay.

Each room or suite has its own character, uniquely and beautifully decorated. We couldn’t help noticing the meticulous attention to detail in the cut glass crystal in the bedrooms beside the bottled waters as well as in other personal touches.  The dining room and other public rooms are charming and warm, and there are fireplaces and plush, comfortable sofas beckoning. 
Roughley Manor
The grounds are beautiful as well, and if you check the website, not only will you “tour” the rooms but also you will see some “in season” shots including some interesting members of nature that make this their home too.

driveway at Roughley ManorThe Roughley Manor is a hidden treasure—in more ways than one.  Think of spending the day in Joshua Tree National Park doing whatever makes you feel good and then coming back to this sanctuary for beauty and relaxation.   Tempting, isn’t it?

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Thursday, February 16, 2012


A hidden treasure just outside Joshua Tree National Park and an easy drive from the Palm Spring desert area is Twentynine Palms, California.  Its climate and terrain make it the home of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, the nation’s largest training base, a training site for some of our desert involvement.  Just go past the last traffic light and you are right in the Mojave Desert. 

Don't be deceived by this innocuous looking main throroughfare and think its charm lies only in the desert setting.  By the way, notice the incredible blues in the skies of these unretouched photos.  Wow!

Main St. 29 Palms, CA
Despite its size and location, more than 1.4 million visitors come to 29 Palms each year because of its location at the heart of some very unique places for hikers, bikers, photographers, campers, desert lovers, lovers of historic inns, cyclists, history buffs, and climbers.  Wander through the 29 Palms web site, and you will be amazed at what is going on here.

Rob and I first passed through 29 Palms in 2003 on our first visit to Joshua Tree National Park.  Then we learned that 29 Palms is also known as “An Oasis of Murals.”  The sides of buildings have become huge canvasses for artists to memorialize, in their unique styles, the rich history and heritage of 29 Palms.  That first time we did not have time to drive around and view more than a few murals, but this time we and our friend, Beth, stopped in the Visitor Center, picked up a map, and drove around to learn a little local history.  The town is a big, outdoor art gallery, and it is quite impressive. There are 24 murals in all and two pieces of sculpture.

I wish I could have photographed all the murals, but these larger-than-life-sized paintings are often in a place where I could not get a camera’s eye view of the entire mural.  Each mural has a story, and some make you gasp at the courage or generosity of the subject.  I will share a few with you.  Call this post A Taste of Twentynine Palms.  You’ll get the idea.  And if you are out this way, you will appreciate this town.

Sky Climbers-Sculpture in 29 PalmsThe Visitor Center abuts Bucklin Park, an addition since our first visit, but we enjoyed the mural “Neighbors in Nature” as well as the picnic tables, desert plants, shade, and a 15 foot tall sculpture, "Sky Climbers."  Even in January, the desert has bloom, and this park, dedicated to Bucky Bucklin, a retired Marine and community volunteer shared some of nature's beauty with us.  The park includes picnic tables, seating, and shaded areas.  The beautiful mural was obscured by other park features, but it offered a restful site for us to plan our "tour" of Twentynine Palms.

Mural #3 29 Palms CA
Dr. James B. Luckie "The Father of Twentynine Palms"

We almost missed this mural on the back of a building, but we stopped in an optician's office to get some help with a loose eyeglass lens.  We got to talking with the optician who was friendly enough to charge nothing for his service, and he filled us in on Dr. James B. Luckie who is known as the "Father of Twentynine Palms." Dr. Luckie sent  soldiers returning from WWI to homestead here. He hoped the dry desert climate would help them recover from the asthma, TB, and mustard gas poisoning they had as a reminder of their service.  In the 17x50 foot mural, he is seen with the soldiers for which he cared.

Mural #6 29 Palms CA
The Flying Constable, Jack Cones
This 16x60 foot mural memorializes "The Flying Constable" Jack Cones.  He was the law from his election in 1932 until his death in 1960.  He patrolled his 2,800 square mile jurisdiction in a Piper J-3 Cub.  Can you imagine?!  Not quite the picture of the retired gunslinger in cowboy boots leaning back against the front of his office on his wooden chair or rounding up a posse, is it?

With my son in the military, I am always cognizant of signs of respect toward them.  As 29 Palms is also a Marine base, it is no surprise that there are murals reflecting the community's involvement with the Marines, and there are murals dedicated to Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as this one entitled Desert Storm Homecoming and Victory Parade.  The Marines first came to 29 Palms in 1952, many serving in Operations Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.  When the troops came home from the Persian Gulf in 1991, more than 40,000 people came to the city for their Victory Parade.  This mural is huge.  It is 18x101 feet and dedicated in 1995.
Mural #5 29 Palms
Desert Storm Homecoming and Victory Parade

Other murals celebrate the gold mining period here and the settlers who built this place.  Some celebrate the wildlife and the beautiful desert sunrises.  One reminds us of the flash floods that raced through the area in the 1940s prior to flood control channels.  There's a mural for the 29 Palm Boys Basketball Tournament which for more than 40 years has drawn boys from California, Nevada and Arizona.  Football, climbing, and skateboarding are also commemorated.  Truly, a ride through this town is a ride through the past, present, as well as a positive look at the future.  Don't miss Twentynine Palms, and take the time to really see it up close and personal.

Thursday, February 09, 2012


Key's View
Keys View overlooking the Coachella Valley

Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave and Colorado deserts of California, not far from Palm Springs, is truly a desert paradise of over 550,000 acres, offering something for anyone of any age and from any climate.  You know we’re fans of the National Park Service and the way it protects our places of environmental, historical, and cultural interest and how it finds a way to make them accessible to a wide range of people.  Joshua Tree National Park is one more example where we pass hikers, cyclists, campers, day trippers, guided tour groups, climbers, and yes, on this day, hula hoopers.

We enter Joshua Tree National Park at Mara Oasis, a short distance from 29 Palms, California, home of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, and a very unusual little community which I’ll write about in another post. 

As always, the Visitor Center at the Park is our first stop, a place to speak to knowledgeable Park Rangers who help us pick the route we will follow.  On a previous visit, we entered at this point but took a different route from the one we will follow today.  We pick up maps, our route marked by the Ranger, as well as buy a few “necessary” postcards and some wonderful stuffed animals for a few terrific kids we know.

Joshua Tree derives its name from the plethora of Joshua trees that dot the landscape.  Legend has it that the tree earned its name from Mormon pioneers who saw them representing Joshua reaching his arms to the heavens.  Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, and believe me, there is an analogy here. 

Joshua Tree
Frankly, if I were a pioneer heading through this obviously inhospitable country, I would have been scared witless and would have prayed for a way out.  I can’t be the only one feeling like this as one of the first “exhibit” markers on our route asks the visitor to evaluate the landscape: is it “barren,” “an evolved ecosystem,” “useless” or “useful”?  It takes a few moments to jolt oneself from the “barren” to “evolved ecosystem” designation.  (only kidding; it's a loaded question)  But we are visitors in a car, not pioneers with wagons looking for some way to sustain life.  Almost all of the pioneers passed on through this “evolved ecosystem” to greener destinations.

Skull Rock
See the skull?  Hoola Hoopers were twirling away
in front of this incredible formation.
 We are free, as visitors, to learn about the geological changes, the volcanic upheavals and the tumbling that produced the incredibly massive and beautiful rock formations which refuse to let our imaginations rest.  Instead we see dinosaurs, snakes, skulls and other easily identifiable shapes as we drive, stopping to climb or briefly follow some of the many hiking trails or to photograph memories we want to keep but which will disappear if we are not careful.

Joshua Trees

If you leave your imagination behind when you travel, you will miss so much of what the world has to offer.  In Joshua Tree this day, our journey is a 45 mile partial loop beginning in 29 Palms and ending in the city of Joshua Tree.

Mojave Yucca

picnic in Joshua TreeAs we move through the park we pass bicyclists, hikers and campers.  We have our picnic lunch in one of the many available sites, and we stop time and again to simply stand in wonder.

As we drive, the jumbo rocks are replaced by lesser formations almost as if a giant came by with a sledgehammer and destroyed the figures Nature created.  Here is the home of bighorn sheep and other species.  The bighorn easily make their way up and down these broken rock mountains. 

Joshua Tree National Park

Rock formation in Joshua Tree

Actually the change is a result of granite cooling and crystallizing underground and developing horizontal and vertical cracks.  Eventually, when the surface soil eroded, heaps were scattered across the landscape. 

We stop at Keys View, an overlook at an elevation of 5,185 feet in the Little San Bernadino Mountains revealing the beautiful Coachella Valley and the San Andreas Fault area.  The clouds in my photos are not morning mist; the valley is covered by layers of thick, white pillows of smoky fog drifting through a pass and settling to rest over the valley.  The smog emanates from the Los Angeles area.  It may look beautiful, but it is pollution.  In another direction and 35 miles away, we are able to see, at 227 feet below sea level, one of the lowest spots on earth, the Salton Sea, and it becomes a future destination for us.  Did you know of this spot?

Key's View

Key's View

From this high point we begin our descent, and the big rock mountains of the bighorn sheep seem to crumble; in a way we are following Nature's path.  She crumbled this landscape over time.  The descent is steep and twisted, and again our minds go back to the area's pioneers and the wagons that had to traverse this rocky, mountainous, bleak terrain.

It is a bit sad returning to “civilization.”  It's not nearly as intriguing.

Make sure, if you are visiting the Palm Springs or any of the other Desert Cities, that Joshua Tree is on your must see list.  Get one of the National Park passes, and you will never be sorry for viewing another one of America’s most interesting treasures.