The Stupid 365 Project, Day 58: The Stone Seat

November 27th, 2010

Spent a couple of hours in the Monument today.

There are half a dozen places I go every time I visit.  Today I went to what I call the Stone Seat, just about fifteen minutes into the Park on the main road.  (It takes hours and hours to drive the whole thing.)

To get to the Stone Seat, you pull off onto an inconspicuous shoulder that’s been scraped at the edge of the road and then you hike about ten minutes.  There’s an enormous rock shaped like a bishop’s hat a quarter of a mile away, on the the other side of the road, and I use that as my landmark for getting back.  The terrain here pitches up and down, and you find paths wherever you can, but they end suddenly, as though whatever made them simply evaporated.  You want to turn around from time to time and make sure your return landmark is still in sight.

This is the path to the Stone Seat.  Looks easy, but it disappears just around the stone to the right.  After that, it’s a slow upward slope that leads you about twenty feet above the desert floor.  It narrows as it rises, until it turns into a ledge about nine feet wide with a nice flat rectangular stone, the Stone Seat, on it, a reassuring distance from the edge.

This is a view from the Stone Seat.  At the bottom of the picture is the edge of the ledge.  The rocks down below are about fifteen feet high.  The one angled to the right in that cluster in the distance is the bishop’s hat.

I sat there for about an hour, thinking about the book and letting the sun pour itself over me.  It was perfectly quiet except for a constant breeze, until half a dozen beautiful teenage kids burst into the picture and started climbing everything in sight.  They saw me and waved, and I pointed out the way up.  Five minutes later, they were all up there, and it took about ninety seconds for the chatter to die.  After three or four minutes of silence, one of the boys said, “Shit.”  He said it like a prayer.

Here’s a view to the left.  Balancing stones like the one at the top of this structure are everywhere in the park.

I said goodbye to the kids and climbed down, took the lichen picture below, and went into town to write at the Wonder Garden.

This is a good place to be.

11 Responses to “The Stupid 365 Project, Day 58: The Stone Seat”

  1. Munyin Says:

    Saying “shit” like a prayer. What a wonderful description of the non-stop awe Joshua Tree elicits. Since my phone is broken I thought I’d post a reply. Thanks for sharing your experience & the great pixes!

  2. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Well, hello, Wifey — This is a first. The kids were adorable — maybe 14-16, with a couple of older guys (fathers, probably) acting as shepherds but mostly standing around on the desert floor and shouting, “Are you sure it’s safe up there?” I loved it. I’d had almost an hour of total silence, and they were so cute and so blown away by Joshua Tree. It was a great ending to my pre-writing day. You’ve got to go to the Stone Seat with me some day; you haven’t been.

  3. Suzanna Says:

    Hi, Tim and Munyin : )

    Great pictures. Thanks for taking us along to the Stone Seat.

  4. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Wonderful pictures. I can imagine the sheer immensity of the structures. I love the rocks, so strong and silent. Nature has a way of humbling us, and quieting us down, like those neat kids you saw. Just lovely.

  5. Laren Bright Says:

    Sounds like this great place has put you into a great space. Wonder how Joshua trees got their name. (Maybe I’m just uninformed. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ve provided a topic for a future blog. Or maybe, just maybe, you need a character in an upcoming book named Joshua Tree.)

  6. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Everybody — Glad you like the pitchas.

    Joshua Tree is ridiculously overwhelming, immense and silent in a way that I’ve never experienced elsewhere. You just don’t hear anything. Lil, the kids were wonderful. Their parents must really be something.

    Laren, they were named after the prophet Joshua, his arms upraised in prayer. As far as I know, they’re unique to this region.

  7. Larissa Says:

    I want to take a mountain bike down it. (c: It looks like a beautiful place. So how do I get there again?


  8. Shadoe Says:

    Wow. I haven’t been to the chair in years. Obviously, it doesn’t change and is still as stunningly beautiful as it was all those years ago. Thanks for the trip. And revisiting all those trips somewhere lost in time. I’m happy for you.

  9. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hey, Riss —

    First people bike the Monument all the time. The best entrance is in 29 Palms. Get to the 10 and go west until you’re approaching Palm Springs, and there will be a ramp to US 62, a little freeway/glorified highway that says OTHER DESERT CITIES. That’ll take you up a long, long, long hill through Yucca and Joshua Tree to Twentynine Palms. From there you have a long uphill slog on the bike to get into the Monument, and then it’s all good. (If you seriously decide to go, let me know.)

    Hey Shadoe — Glad you took a look. It hasn’t changed one grain of sand — still the stoniest place and the most silent I’ve ever been. We should go up together again some time.

  10. Larissa Says:

    I definitely will. We’re looking for some place warm to go ride a mountain bike. It looks beautiful and fun and just about perfect. (c:

    We’re also considering Hawaii…

    How long does it stay viable out there to come and play? I’m used to, well, Kansas…and Colorado for winters.

  11. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    You want to be there in the spring or early autumn, Riss — it’s colder than hell right now and 110 in midsummer. But April/May/June it’s astonishing.

    Although cold in Joshua Tree isn’t cold in Colorado or Kansas. Too cold for me, though, especially on a bike.

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