Google Translate
  • Sunset at Mojave Desert in Twentynine Palms, CA

Guest post written by Nalini “Ash” Maharaj, owner/operator of Harmony Motel, a proud Visit 29 Palms Partner.

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  showcases, the awesome wonders of  the creative spirit of Mother Nature. Spring’s creativity provides immense joy for all nature lovers.

In the desert, spring can be unpredictable with the 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 glows in colors—bright greens, purples, warm pinks, oranges, and yellows as she paints the desert landscape with sweet smelling wildflower blooms. She rejuvenates the desert wilderness with blankets of green grass, fragrant smelling flowers with picture perfect butterflies, sweet sounds of chirping humming birds, merry quail families, and over protective fussing doves that are nesting high up in the trees.

This gorgeous spring morning I am relaxed and comfortable on my favorite chair on the harmony patio, as I view the energetic critter activity in the harmony desert garden.  The  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 some what harsh winter that they had just experienced.

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.

“Oh come on Lizzie, don’t you know them,” replied Mrs. Red Racer in her husky voice.

“The famous ‘Hang Town Hikers’ are 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 fifteen years; they are a merry crowd that is 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 National Park, always going on their long hikes, and they enjoy eating at their favorite restaurants in town. Every year they hike my favorite trail, the Boy Scout Trail,” explained chirpy Mr. Roadrunner.

“I wonder why they call themselves the Hang Town Hikers?”  Whispered Tortoise to himself, to which Bunny chuckled.

“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—why it once was notoriously called Hang Town .

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, 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 was then 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 “Hang Town” 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 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 hangin’ 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 “Hang Town” 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 “Hang Town Hikers.”

“I get it, they like the history of their town’s name,” whispered tortoise.

“Or maybe their name indicates that they will not tolerate bad behaviors from their hiking team, like the pioneers of their town,” suggested Roadrunner.

“Gosh I had better be on my best behavior the next time they are here,” stuttered anxious Mrs. Roadrunner .

“Yes, listen to Ash. You need to hide yourself  when her guests are around because they are afraid of you,” Lizzie uttered naughtily.

Recently during my tour of the Mojave Desert in southern California, I was captivated by the natural landscape of this mysterious desert, with its open vistas of rugged wilderness that gives you the privilege to experience total freedom of space when camping or hiking. The authenticity of the Mojave’s landscape enhances the natural beauty of the southern California terrain. I am an adventurous traveler, one that loves exploring the mystery of a place, and discovering the hidden treasures of a destination. During my travel to the Mojave Desert, I stumbled upon a rural desert city, called Twentynine Palms.  

Twentynine Palms is a natural wonderland of desert wilderness and rich cultural history which is vividly captured with historical murals that are displayed throughout the city.  The city of Twentynine Palms I learned is not only the home of the popular and historical headquarters of Joshua Tree National Park, it is also an official gateway community to Mojave Trails National Monument and Route 66, which to my delight is a short drive of about (49 minutes), north of Hwy 62 via Amboy Road.  A key feature that I noted of the Mojave Trails National Monument is that it connects the Mojave National Preserve with Joshua Tree National Park, which “ensures the biological connectivity of this landscape, while preserving traditional uses, such as hunting and off-highway vehicle recreation.” (BLM website)

Welcome to Mojave Trails National Monument

The Mojave Trails National Monument was designated in 2016, and is home to several significant natural treasures, such as the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of the original and historic Route 66, which takes you to the old world, as you discover vintage road signs, iconic neon signs, historical highway motels, restaurants, and motor courts.

Moreover, you will find in the city of Barstow, California many street murals depicting and celebrating the iconic Route 66. This iconic route further takes you into the historical mining and ghost towns of southern California, such as Amboy and Calico.  

Route 66 has been popularly referred to as the “mother road” because it was originally used by many Americans as travel path, for vacations to California. It was at one time the link for the United States across the rocky mountain divide to the Pacific Ocean.  It was also a travel path that was used by many to  migrate to different parts of the US, hence it  “celebrates the legacy and resilience of the American people, more significantly connects you to the essence of the American spirit.

Significantly, the romance and nostalgia of Route 66 is immortalized in popular culture, in movies, songs, such as Bobby Troup’s (1946) hit, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66”, and the (1960s), Route 66 television show. The fascinating discovery for me on this tour was the Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark. An adventurer’s treat, a volcanic cinder cone in the middle of the Mojave Desert that resembles a lonely isolated mountain.

Visit 29 Palms and discover the iconic Route 66 to Amboy Crater Natural National Landmark in the Mojave Trails National Monument

Located 1.5 miles south of Route 66, and 55 minutes from the city of Twentynine Palms, Amboy Crater stands at 250 feet tall, 1,500 feet in diameter, and was formed by ash and cinders. Situated on one of the youngest volcanic field in the United States with its last documented eruption taking place 10,000 years ago, Amboy Crater is truly a geological wonder.

You can hike the trail on the west of the cinder cone, with the trail taking you to an opening where it seems that a one time a violent volcanic eruption ruptured the crater wall. CalWild provides a great description of the crater, explaining “inside, of the 250-foot-high crater contains two lava dams, which have formed small lava lakes. These are now flat in general appearance, covered with light colored clay, creating the impression of miniature “dry lakes.” Beyond the crater lies 24 square miles of lava flow, that has features of lava lakes, collapsed lava tubes and sinks, spatter cones, and massive flows of basalt.”

By hiking up to the 1,508-foot-tall center rim you will be rewarded with an awesome view that reveals an epic desert landscape. I recommend hiking the Amboy Crater trail in spring or early fall, when temperatures are cooler.

Visit 29 Palms and discover pristine sand dunes in the Mojave Desert, California

My partner, being the romantic he is, planned the last part of the tour towards the end of the day, so that I would experience the bold, brilliant, colors of the sun setting in the Mojave Desert.

As the evening progressed into the night, to my delight, I was taken to the exotic Kelso Dunes, located in the Mojave National Preserve. The night was lit up by the bright, sultry full moon. The light of the moon guided us in our hike to the top of the dunes. Once at the top you will experience panoramic views of the surrounding dunes and peaks, a picture perfect sea of sand that awakens all your senses. As we lay on the sand, we could feel the stillness of the night, the cool grains of the sand on our feet, the refreshing cool breeze of early fall silently fanning us. The Kelso Dunes have an energy of peace and tranquility that awakened my soul to experience the harmony of natures wonderland. 

According to popular belief, the dunes are noted for their singing.
 Jennifer Morrell describes “Kelso is one of a few acoustic dunes that produce a squeaking or booming sound as sand grains compress and slip over one another. A silica coating on the grains that helps them stick together also resonates when they are moved.”

Please note: that the wind and the sand continuously changes the outline of the dunes, this makes navigating the trail difficult, hence there is no permeant hike trail to the very top of the dunes.  Furthermore, driving through the Mojave Preserve to the Kelso Sand Dunes can be difficult, and requires planning and navigation research.

For more information on these destinations, visit:
Mojave Trails National Monument
Amboy Crater Natural National Landmark, Mojave Trails National Monument
Route 66, Mojave Trails National Monument
Mojave National Preserve
Kelso Sand Dunes

Ash Maharaj is an Advisory Board member for the 29 Palms Tourism Business Improvement District, and owner of the iconic Harmony Motel. Visit Ash’s blog to read more on her adventures in the Mojave Desert.