For the last year we have been slowly replacing all of the customized Wagon Stations with new “stock” Wagon Stations that are available for people involved in activities at AZ West to stay in. And while expanding the Wagon Station encampment it also became time to address the never ceasing issue with wind. Even though four strong people can barely lift one of these units, our desert windstorms have managed to flip and smash them on an ongoing basis.
About two months ago TK engineered a new footing and a tie down system – along with fasteners on the hatch and back entry door. So far they have weathered at least two fairly fierce windstorms and nothing has flipped yet… fingers crossed!
I got a really nice note from Katherine Ball today – Katherine was last year’s resident on Indy Island, and she came to visit AZ West a few months ago, just in time to help put the finishing touches on the Encampment (more about that soon!) and to help demo Yucca Crater. (A brutal hot sweaty undertaking which she took on cheerfully and uncomplainingly)
Katherine likes to go on epic runs – and while out in the desert pioneered a new route around the rocky mountain next to AZ West. Today she sent a map and detailed description of her journey, which I’m about to try out this evening as I walk the dogs… (my disclaimer is that I’m walking not running, like Katherine was, and one of my dogs is a geriatric 16 year old, so we will see how far we make it on our first pass.)
Katherine’s instructions: HERE IS THE LOOP I RAN:
Counterclockwise: Go down your driveway like you are heading to the highway, into Joshua Tree.
1. Make a Left on the first dirt road that follows the powerlines and runs parallel to the highway.
2. Travel along it, bearing a slight Left when it forks (don’t go left at the cross).
3. Follow it to a car turnaround and head Left through a canyon (one of the first rocks has a bunch of Playboys behind it).
4. The canyon path will peak by a dirt road/wash by a house.
5. Go Right and snake your way through the rocks (10 – 20 minutes?)
6. There will be an opening with a lot of washes.
7. Go Left around the big rock with the science device/tower, follow the wash.
8. You will come to a dead end (less than 5 mi)
9. Climb up the boulders on the Left side.
10. Walk through wash with the rocks carved by boulders.
11. Go Left at the end/road (?) and cross by abandoned look out.
12. From the lookout, find a trail that is near it (forward) and runs parallel to a road. This trail will intersect the road on your Right and then the trail will branch off to the left and bring you to the backside of the canyon that connects to your wash. You will make a Left into your canyon and follow it to the Wagon Stations.
****It will be challenging to complete the loop on your first go. I suggest trying to make it to the lookout or dead end coming from both counterclockwise and clockwise, then connect them.
Clockwise: 1. Head through your canyon.
2. It will veer left as it dissipates.
3. Find the trail that is on your Right and goes perpendicular.
4. The trail will take you to a road (within 1/5 mile).
5. Make a Right on the road and look for the abandoned lookout. There is a trail that goes there, or you can just aim for it.
6. The wash that connects to the dead end is approximately 1/3 mile. You will make a Right into the wash. I think there is a trail or road but I am not sure.
Where the heck did the last two months go? There is so much to catch up on – further progress in the new container compound, the new chicken coop, raised bed gardening, poop (not quite) composting, the amazing new encampment, outdoor kitchen and open air showers, Hannah coming back for a visit from the UK, a one week class as part of the Institute of Investigative Living, a bunch of art getting shipped out, a trip to the Salton Sea and Slab City, new art starting up, some seriously nice new bowls for the kitchen, a new dog, Travis Boyer’s Margarita performance, A.L. Steiner’s awesome screenings, Lucas our new summer intern… And the news of today is: New baby CHICKS!!
More soon… Promise.
Here are a bunch of photos from Amy and Wendy Yao’s HDTS Art Swap meet at the Sky Village Swap Meet last weekend! For those unfamiliar with Sky Village – this it is one of the secret gems of the high desert. Formerly a drive in movie theater, the swap meet is owned by Bob Carr, who has turned the entire location into an extension of his own amazing art practice (for more of this check out the “Crystal Cave” in the heart of the swap meet – right next to the cafeteria)
The latest addition too the Crystal Cave (just in time for the big weekend) is a running river that flows through the center of the cave (Bob says that eventually there will be three rivers – so that means two more tributaries still to be built in the future)
Amy and Wendy’s events always draw a really great and hugely diverse array of artists – this year there were participants from New York, Portland, Switzerland, Amsterdam, Canada, Norway, Brussels, Glasgow, Berlin, Paris, Sweden and more…
Tortoise hibernation is a controversial subject and there are lots of differing opinions about the best way to do (or to not) do it – especially with winter temperatures on the rise. While Rosemary Desert Willow, our tortoise from the local rescue, sleeps in her deep burrow in our back yard, just like she did in the wild, her babies spent last winter in a huge terrarium that took up most of my desk in the office. Finally this year I finally decided to take the leap, and after weiging the pros and cons it seemed like the refrigerator method was the way to go – If the babies stayed outside all winter in their shallow burrow they could freeze to death. Same thing goes if I put them in a shipping container (plus there are rats in the containers who seem to find their way into almost everything) and there aren’t really any other out structures that at AZ West that could maintain consistent temps.
After two months at 41-42 degrees Fahrenheit in their refrigerator bedroom the babies were finally ready to wake up. Ravenous, but in good spirits, they are now back to living on my desk until it gets warm enough outside to put them back in their outdoor run.
Now that we have moved the studio out of the shipping container compound it is time to breath new life into the containers.
Lars Fisk and his girlfriend Betil are visiting from NY to help mastermind a buildout of two little guest cabins in the the central container – the units will be minimal, like the inside of a van, and just right for an overnight stay when it is too hot or too cold to sleep in the Wagon Stations.
By the end of Friday Lars has the container all insulated and framed out – ready for plywood sheeting which will happen next week.
These are the shipping containers that Lars built out as his own home, installed in a secret location in NY – they are incredibly well thought out… After using my own three containers as a studio for seven years, I’ve come to have a love/hate relationship with these structures. But after checking out the living compound that Lars made, I started to believe feel that there might be a way find love for them after all.
His five 20′ containers are configured in a way that feels both spatially complex and surprising roomy. Part of this success is because he didn’t attempt to use the ultra long 40′ containers so his rooms are small, but the proportions feel really good. (which is why we are splitting up my long unit into two separate apartments) And they are tucked full of “special features” like the rooftop greenhouse and circular skylight, hand crafted for the upstairs unit.
After my second visit back to check out his progress (it seems like things were always completely new and different each time I stopped by) we started talking about my container compound in the desert and Lars suggested that he could come out for a visit and do a consultation. That was last year. Now this year he is back for phase one which feels like the begining of a whole new life for this small compound. I’ve given the project a two year window (all projects at AZ West have prescribed timeframes so that nothing is left dangling too long) so there is a lot yet to come!
On Saturday morning I set off into the desert in search of a particular strip of rock graffiti. The graffiti consists of words and texts that are written out on the side of a railroad berm using different colored pieces of rock and gravel. It is an amazing sight, and seems to run for an infinitely long distance. I was frustrated that I couldn’t quite remember it’s exact location and figured that I could find it fairly easily with a long day of driving. Plus It had been a mind numbingly busy week and it would be good to have some alone time in the car. So I headed out through Wonder Valley, past Philip and Margot’s pink post office with their chakra healing pyramids, turning up the grade on Amboy Road, noticing that something interesting seems to be happening to the cabin that Bettina Hubby bought from Chris Viet a few years ago.
Reaching Amboy I turned right on National Trails Hwy – with the idea that this is where I would most likely find the grafiti. Unfortunately no luck, so I drove onto Essex and then took the poorly paved road north to the 40 – in the distance some amazingly huge and alien-like fiberglass tanks that had been abandoned and left to disintegrate into the desert.
I had been driving for two and a half hours thinking that for sure that by now I would have found the site. There was a train nearby which added some element of hope – and since backtracking would be a long drive anyway, I decided to continue on to Needles and then head south to Vidal, making a giant loop. Needles is near Near the Colorado River, when you drive through you can sense the water but you can’t see it. The town used to be route 66 and has some great old houses and structures, but seemed eerily empty for a saturday afternoon.
Finally right after town, a little rock graffiti materialized on the right side of the road, but not the kind I was looking for. However the strip south on the 95 was insanely beautiful – dense cactus thickets and crazy jagged mountains. There is no rational reason for this theory, but I’m convinced that the most beautiful roads are always north south rather then east west. Finally at Vidal Junction I turned and headed back on he long stretch of hwy 62 toward Joshua Tree.
Finally, about 70 miles out from 29 Palms, I sighted rock grafiti – and this time it was the kind I was looking for – though not the astounding and complex motherlode that I had remembered seeing (which I’m still convinced is out there). Five and half hours of driving on narrow desert roads is a long day and certainly not a “correct” way to use fuel – but this failure may still yet be an excuse for yet another weekend winter excursion. (though if anyone reads this and knows what I’m talking about, please feel free to drop a hint or two about where this thing is at)