Desert Vibes Journey (October 2004)

VIBING ON THE DESERT – tales and tips from the Health Habitravels “Desert Vibes retreat”

If you think that the desert is desolate, think again. Subtle tones and vibrations tantalized the senses of the Health Habitravels group that joined me in California’s Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree National Park October 15-17th. Extremely diverse wild life and vegetation survive in this fantastic place, where the high and low deserts converge. You’ll find a wealth of information on the region and the national park’s protected 800,000 acres at http://www.nps.gov/jotr. It is an amazing place to visit. If you’re a nature lover and enjoy outdoor activities there are many ways to experience the park. The region is famous for phenomenal rock formations, and rock climbers of all levels, from all over the world, come here to try any one of the 5000 climbs available. If you’re new to climbing you may want to contact www.joshuatreeclimbing.com for a list of their courses. If you’re short on time and motoring through the region, simply driving through the park is a one of a kind pleasure, especially if you’ve never seen a Joshua Tree. These personality plus, alien looking “trees” are in fact a type of yucca found throughout the western states, with most congregated in the Mojave Desert. Legend claims that Mormons who came to the area thought the outstretched limbs of the trees looked like the Prophet Joshua reaching up to the heavens. You can learn the solid facts about these fascinating trees at http://www.nps.gov/jotr/nature/plants/trees/jtrees.html. If you do have time for more than a drive through, by all means, take a hike.

Those of us on the recent October Health Habitravels Desert Vibes Retreat did, and we got a real feast for the eyes when we made it to the summit of Ryan’s mountain. It’s a good 1-1/2 hour uphill hike, which I recommend for those of you in decent shape. What an amazing sight. This vantage point affords a sweeping panoramic view of both the Colorado and Mohave deserts. There are a variety of trails in the park. You can climb mountains that offer spectacular views, or wend your way through giant boulders that are right out of a classic John Ford Western. If you have time you might want to check the National Park site listed above for the schedule of free ranger led tours. If you want to hire a private guide, the Desert Institute at www.joshuatree.org, will find you an expert. The Mojave is a rainshadow desert, which means you might encounter sudden rainstorms during any season, but fall and spring are prime times for desert travel. I could easily turn into an annual fall desert rat, and I can’t wait to be there in spring when the place is in full bloom.

When I do go back you better believe I’ll return to ultra-comfortable Irene’s Adobe at 29 Palms Inn (www.29palmsinn.com) I highly recommend this tucked away, laid back inn, with its community of one of a kind historic adobes and cabins. If you’re adverse to the night concert of hooting owls, whispering winds and yipping coyotes make sure and pack your earplugs. If not, open the windows, let in the wafting sage, drift off looking at the sparkle of the polished clean as a whistle desert sky. And here’s a unique holiday thought – if you’re looking for a hideaway to get together with family in December, this inn could be the spot. Many of the rooms have fireplaces or wood burning stoves, and some have kitchens. There are hot tubs in private sheds – although be warned – they’re heavily chlorinated, which makes it hard to soak for too long. You can however order up an in-room massage, and the onsite Oasis Caf® can’t be beat. The homemade breads and soups served at brunch are the best! If you want to recharge a city frayed body and soul any time of the year just hang around this inn, fill up on the fine organic gourmet meals served at the caf®, sit out by the Oasis of Mara and let the resident ducks entertain you. If you’re there Saturday or Sunday, be sure to take in naturalist Pat’s tour of the grounds and garden. She’s brimming over with knowledge about the surrounding area. She wowed several of my group who are natural history buffs. And if you want serenity plus entertainment there are a variety of festivals happening throughout the year. Check The Sunrunner Magazine, www.sunrunner.com

Our group attended the 5th annual Didgeridoo festival – and for a world music fan like me – it was an ecstatic experience. Keep an eye on the Didge festival website, www.jtdidgefest.com so that you don’t miss the 2005 event. This year’s line up included world famous Didgeridoo players, bag pipers, drummers, Tuva throat singers, musicians from all over the planet putting out healing sounds using primordial instruments, under a starry desert night sky. As a pre-festival primer I invited Barry Martin of L.A. Outback to the inn to share his extensive knowledge of Didgeridoos and guide us through a beginner’s lesson. So what is a Didgeridoo? It is an Australian aboriginal instrument, made from hollowed eucalyptus branches. Blown by experienced players it creates a rhythmic hypnotic healing sound. This is the ultimate “good vibe,” all natural, meditative mechanism both for listener and player. A member of the group discovered he’s a natural born Didge player, and guess what’s on his holiday wish list? And a couple bought a Didge for their son – Visit Barry’s site www.laoutback.com for information on Didges and their cultural origins, upcoming events and classes and to order CDs and Didgeridoos.

The desert is the optimal place to view the night sky, and after the festival Dean Naston, a science expert on staff at The Natural History Museum and The Griffith Park Observatory, dazzled us with his breadth of knowledge of the heavens. As we located the heavenly bodies we know by name but can’t always find such as the North Star – Orion’s Belt – the big and little dippers – the Pleiades – Taurus and other Zodiac configurations – and got a chance to sight clusters of newly forming stars in “star nurseries” through his mega-powerful telescope, he passionately regaled us with Greek and Roman myths related to star names, explained that stars we perceive as shining white light are actually multi-colored, and he got us up to speed on “the speed of light.”

We finished off the weekend with a final Pilates class by the Oasis or Mara. By the way the Oasis is a main reason for inhabitation of the area for thousands of years. Part way into class the Inn’s ducks waddled up on the lawn to their nearby feeding station, fussing and quacking while we huffed our way through The Hundreds. Now that’s got to be a first in Pilates history. Sorry to say we missed such a photo op, but I promise all of you that anytime a Health Habitravels group descends on the 29 Palms Inn, performing Pilates for some ornery ducks will be a tradition.

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