Exploring Yucca Valley
Pioneertown - The Integratron - God’s Way Love
By Jen Lucas
After I made the decision to move back east following a twelve year stint in Southern California, I knew I had to make one last trip to the Mojave Desert. I’ve always felt at peace in the desert; regular trips to Arizona were part of my childhood. I dearly wanted to visit several Mojave desert landmarks before returning to to my roots. My friend and I decided to make an overnight trip out of it. It felt more like a week after the non-stop adventure that we found ourselves on.
We left Orange County, California early one morning and made the two 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, which included actors Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. They dreamt of creating an Old West set that would actually be a town worth visiting, with 1880s style false-front facades, a jail, a saloon, and other period types of structures that would feature 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 don't be disappointed – there are no TVs.
Directly in front of Pioneertown is the famed restaurant and music venue, Pappy & Harriet’s. A well-known 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 with dinner, a few cocktails, and Pappy & Harriet’s specialty, live music. The food was amazing – a barbecue lover's 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's 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 rested, with plenty of time before our sound bath appointment at the Integratron. We decided to walk the grounds of Pioneertown, down “Mane Street”, to take some pictures. Amidst the Joshua trees, California cactuses, and dusty desert floor we stumbled across a very 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, and what we planned to do during our visit. Once we mentioned our day included the Integratron, I think he understood our thirst for the not-so-conventional adventures the Mojave has to offer. His name was Rick, also known as Grampz. He's well known in the area since he’s called Pioneertown home for 20 years. Rick told us about many of the gems this desert had to offer, including Giant Rock, the largest free standing boulder in the world. Giant Rock is sacred to the area and supposedly contains a large crystal underneath its outer rock layer. Rick also mentioned his good buddy Garth’s place, Boulder Gardens, a kind of alternative desert sanctuary on God's Love Road in Yucca Valley. 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.
The Integratron was 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. Solid directions are provided on their website, which we duly noted.
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 here and claimed 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 electromagnetic frequencies, rejuvenating those participating in the sound bath, a claim I can indeed vouch for.
When we arrived, there was no doubt of the immediate calming effect of the property. It was peaceful, serene and complete with a “hammock village,” where people can relax while waiting for their sound bath appointments. There's also a well where guests can rehydrate with the natural water running underneath. Several water sources converge under the already powerfully charged earth amplifying its healing powers. Be sure to bring a bottle and fill 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, not even a single nail or screw, to avoid interference with its 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 exactly 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. A guide explains how you will most likely “time travel”, causing most to fall into a deep sleep. Snoring is not unlikely, and you are encouraged to nudge your neighbor if they do 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 then journeyed to another realm, waking several minutes after the music stopped. They continued playing calming music from a CD after the live music, since many did not wake immediately. My friend and I, in the most relaxed state, made our way down the stairs, back out into the desert. We 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.
God’s Way Love - Garth's Boulder Garden
Heading down Gamma Gulch Rd. we were surprised to see a sign for God’s Way Love. We soon understood though that it was less the secret spot we had envisioned and more of a welcoming gathering spot for all mankind, an invitation to enjoy the sacred space that Garth has spent the last 30 years building and maintaining. Once on the narrow dirt road entrance, it became clear to us that this was literally off the beaten path. We ascended up several miles past insane multi-sized, round boulder formations, vacant school buses, and a massive teepee, until we reached what we believed to be the main area. We were total strangers; in a normal situation we might have felt as though we were trespassing. However, this was not one of those times. Everyone is welcome here, encouraged to visit the land and appreciate its beauty.
Garth has his entourage, some permanent, and some who stay for just 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, a grand piano, meditation gardens, and a sauna and hot tub that he’s built in between two large rocks. The teepee I mentioned is Garth’s dwelling, covered in stucco to withstand the cold winter temperatures. There are gardens placed throughout the main grounds, designed with crystals he’s collected from all over the world, and various other treasures you’ll find while you explore, 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, and the hospitality and pure kindness we received from the group, we didn’t blink an eye at contributing to fund this desert oasis and keeping its beautiful people thriving.
God’s Way Love is a place I would love to be able to call home, but mom-duty called 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 our muscles and clean off the desert dust. There are several spas in the town to choose from – we selected one of the first we saw, the Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel, which had a number of pools with a variety of hot to warm temperatures. It was the perfect way to end these two amazing days, jam-packed with adventure, that had left us with an even greater appreciation for the great wild open desert and its quirky gems.
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