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By Jen Lucas
As I made the decision to move back east after a 12-year stint in Southern California, I knew I had to make one of my last trips to the Mojave Desert. I’ve always felt at peace in the desert having made several trips throughout my childhood to Arizona but now had the need to visit several Mojave desert landmarks before returning to to my roots. We decided to make an overnight trip out of it, which felt like a week after the non-stop adventure that we embarked upon.
We left Orange County California early one morning and made the 2 hour drive inland to the Yucca Valley area toward our home for the evening, the Pioneertown Motel. In 1946, Pioneertown was founded by a group of Hollywood investors, including actors Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. They dreamed of creating an Old West set that was actually a town worth visiting, with 1880s-style false-front facades, a jail, saloon, etc. but included interiors that allowed visitors to feel as though they were time traveling. More than 50 television shows were filmed here in the 1940s and 50s including the Cisco Kid. Now the motel boasts a small number of rooms, full of character and western charm but do not be disappointed as there are no TVs.
Directly in front of Pioneertown is the famed restaurant and music venue, Pappy & Harriet’s. A famous pit stop for those en route to the Coachella Music Festival, Pappy & Harriet’s has hosted some of the greatest musicians including Robert Plant and Paul McCartney.
We decided to make it a calm night, dinner, a few cocktails and live music of course at Pappy & Harriet’s. The food was amazing and a barbecue lovers paradise, an outdoor grill complete with mesquite wood cooking up ribs, Santa Maria style barbecue, burgers, fish, sandwiches and salads. There’s only one grill on the property so food can take a bit of time if there is a big crowd but it’s worth the wait. Reservations are highly recommended especially if a popular band is playing.
After a peaceful night’s sleep, we awoke and had time until our sound bath appointment at the Integratron so walked the grounds of Pioneertown, down “Mane Street”, to take some pictures. Amidst the Joshua trees, California’s cactus, and dusty desert floor we stumbled across a super friendly dog that greeted us as we walked past the Pioneertown Post Office. His owner, an older gentleman who actually lived in one of the buildings started talking to us, normal small talk asking where we were from, what we planned to do during our visit and once we mentioned our day included the Integratron, I think he understood our thirst for the not-so-conventional adventure the Mojave had to offer. His name was Rick, also known as Grampz, and well known in the area as he’s called Pioneertown home for 20 years. He told us about all of the literal gems the desert had to offer including Giant Rock, which is the largest free standing boulder in the world, sacred to the area and supposedly a large crystal underneath the outer rock layer, as well as his good buddy Garth’s place, Boulder Gardens. Since we had an early appointment at the Integratron and no reason to rush home, we decided to continue our journey based on the insider information from our new friend Rick.
We said goodbye to Pioneertown, out to do our best at finding the Integratron, about 15 miles away in Landers, California. You are cautioned when booking your sound bath that GPS has a difficult time locating the building, taking you on random dirt roads, so they provide solid directions on their website.
The history behind this amazing structure goes back to the late 1950s when a man by the name of George Van Tassel moved his family to the area and claims extra-terrestrials from the planet Venus instructed him on where exactly to place the building and how to construct it. It’s said the structure was built on an intersection of powerful geomagnetic forces that when focused by the unique geometry of the building, concentrate and amplify the earth’s magnetic field. As a result, the body’s cells are regenerated due to the electromagnetic frequency, rejuvenating those participating in the sound bath, a claim I can indeed vouch for.
When we arrived, there was no doubt of an immediate calming effect of the property, peaceful, serene and complete with a “hammock village” where people can relax while waiting for their sound bath appointments. Also located on the property is a well for guests to hydrate from the natural water that runs underneath where several sources converge amongst the already powerfully charged earth so amplifies the healing powers of the water. Be sure to bring a bottle and fill it up numerous times!
After some quality hammock time under the desert sun, it was time for our sound bath. Crystal bowls, usually made of pure quartz crystal, are used and played to activate each of the various chakras in your body. The dome-shaped building does not contain metal, a single nail or screw to avoid interference with the conductive properties. The interior was built as an acoustically perfect sanctuary and amplified the sounds of the bowls perfectly. In fact if you stand at one side of the dome, while another person stands exact opposite and you whisper, they can hear your words as if you’re standing directly beside them. The sound carries that perfectly!
If you choose the group sound bath, which we did, you get to participate with about 20+ other people, laying on mats with blankets to use at your discretion. The guide explains how you will most likely “time travel”, causing most to fall into a deep sleep and snoring is highly likely, to nudge your neighbor if they start to snore. Excessive snoring or failure to quit will result in you being asked to leave.
The bowls are played for about an hour and I can say I consciously listened to several minutes of the bowls playing and journeyed to another realm, waking several minutes after the music stopped although they continue playing calming music from a CD since many do not wake immediately. My friend and I, in the most relaxed state made our way down the stairs, back out into the desert and decided to chill and drink more of the electrically charged water before heading onto our next stop, Rick’s buddy Garth’s Boulder Gardens which he named God’s Way Love.
Heading down Gamma Gulch Rd. we were surprised to see a sign for God’s Way Love but understood quickly how it was less of a secret spot and more of a welcomed gathering spot for all mankind, to enjoy the sacred space that Garth’s spent the last 30 years building and maintaining. Once on the narrow dirt road, it is clear that this is literally off the beaten path as we ascend up for several miles past insane multi-sized, round boulder formations, vacant school buses, and a massive teepee until we reach what we believe to be the main area. Being total strangers, in a normal situation you might feel as though you are trespassing however, this was not one of those times. Everyone is welcome, encouraged to visit the land and appreciate it’s beauty.
Garth has his entourage, some permanent, some who stay for a short time and do their part to help the community; all welcomed us with open arms. There was a small outdoor kitchen area, couches, fire pits, grand piano, meditation gardens, a sauna and hot tub that’s he’s built in between two large rocks and the teepee I mentioned is Garth’s dwelling that he’s covered in stucco to withstand the cold winter temperatures. There were gardens that he’s placed throughout the main grounds designed with crystals he’s collected from all over the world and various other treasures you’ll find while exploring including a chicken coop. Garth keeps his venture funded by offering his land to various groups for yoga retreats, camping trips, etc. and people are encouraged to leave donations when leaving the property. After a live jam session, hospitality and pure kindness we received from the group, we didn’t blink an eye at contributing to fund this desert oasis and keeping it’s beautiful people thriving.
God’s Way Love is a place I would love to be able to call home but mom-duty calls so it was time to head into the sunset, literally, towards the Pacific with a quick stop in Desert Hot Springs to enjoy the natural hot springs pools, relax the muscles and clean off the desert dust. There are several “spas” in the town to choose from so we selected one of the first we saw, the Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel, which had a number of pools with a variation of hot to warm temperatures. It was the perfect way to end these two amazing days, jam-packed with adventure and an even greater appreciation for the great wild open desert.
Jen Lucas, a freelance travel writer, works as a Project Manager in the tech industry by day but a travel junkie at heart. Having worked in the publishing industry throughout her career, Jen has always been passionate about writing and currently branching out into the travel writing scene. Ms. Lucas, a mom of two young travel companions who tag along with her these days on adventures across the country, lives in the Pittsburgh area.