Twentynine Palms Historical Society
29 Palms, California
"To those who listen, the
desert speaks of things with an emphasis quite different from that of the shore, the mountains,
the valleys or the plains. Whereas they invite action and suggest limitless opportunity,
exhaustless resources, the implications and mood of the desert are something different. For one
thing the desert is conservative, not radical. It is more likely to provoke awe than to invite
conquest. It does not, like the plains, say, "Only turn the sod and unacountable riches will
spring up." The heroism which it encourages is the heroism of endurance, not that of conquest."
~Joseph Wood Krutch, The Voice of the Desert (1954)
"It is a gaunt land of splintered peaks, torn valleys, and hot skies. And at every
step there is the suggestion of the fierce, the defiant, the defensive. Everything within its borders
seems fighting to maintain itself against destroying forces. There is a war of elements and a struggle
for existence going on here that for ferocity is unparalleled elsewhere in nature."
~John C. Van Dyke, The Desert (1901)
deserts are wholly the creation of nature. Some of them are among the most appealing of our
scenic wonderlands. Their broad basins and long intermountain valleys, their bizarre land forms
such as volcanic buttes, mesas, bajadas, and often barren but majestic mountains, raising like
colorful spires from the low sweep of creosote bush and sagebrush, are places which, left
undisturbed, minister greatly to the pleasure and ennoblement of man's mind."
~Edmund C. Jaeger, The California Deserts (1965)
"In this glare of brilliant emptiness, in this arid intensity of pure heat,
in the heart of a weird solitude, great silence and grand desolation, all things recede to
distances out of reach, reflecting light but impossible to touch, annihilating all thought and
all that men have made to a spasm of whirling dust far out on the golden desert."
"As the sun went down a blood-red light suddenly
came over all the view. I never saw anything more startling and instantaneous in its coming, or
more theatric in its intensity of hue. For the few seconds that it lasted I held my breathe. The
mountains burned as if they were incandescent: Bullion? no, the lava of rubies. Then in a moment
it had paled and like an expiration was gone.
~J. Smeaton Chase. California Desert Trails (1919)
sense of mystery in the desert air breeds fables, chiefly of lost treasure. Somewhere within its
stark borders, if one believes report, is a hill strewn with nuggets; one seamed with virgin
silver; an old clayey water-bed where Indians scooped up earth to make cooking pots and shaped
them reeking with grains of pure gold. Old miners drifting about the desert edges, weathered into
the semblance of tawny hills, will tell you tales like these convincingly. After a little sojourn
in that land you will believe them on their own account. It is a question whether it is not
better to be bitten by the little horned snake of the desert that goes sidewise and strikes
without coiling, than by the tradition of a lost mine."
~Mary Austin Land of Little Rain (1903)
"Early and late
in the day shadows mold the dunes, giving them shape and substance, boldly outlining the crests
and casting the hollows into shade... Climb to the highest ridge in a dune field and muse on the
hills and hollows below. Watch the raising and falling waves of sand and remember that for
everything there is a season, and for life on sand dunes it is the season of the wind."
~Janis Emily Bowers Seasons of the Wind 1986
in the grateful heat and a brave little tamias that carries his tail forward over his back, and
here and there a hare. Immense areas, however, are smooth and hard and plantless,
reflecting light like water. How eloquently they tell of the period, just gone by, when
this region was as remarkable for its lavish abundance of lake water as now for its aridity. The
same grand geological story is inscribed on the mountain flanks, old beach lines that seem to
have been drawn with a ruler, registering the successive levels at which the grand lake stood,
corresponding most significantly with the fluctuations of the glaciers as marked by the terraced
lateral moraines and successively higher terminal moraines."
~John Muir, 1878 (in a letter to his doctor)
the people of America is a spiritual necessity, an antidote to the high pressure of modern life,
a means of regaining serenity and equilibrium."
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