A Landing a Day

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Twentynine Palms, California

Posted by graywacke on January 11, 2013

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-time-I-get-around-to-it blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

Dan –  Rebounding from a run of 5 straight OSers, I landed in a solid USer. . . CA; 91/106; 5/10; 12; 155.4.  Here’s my landing map, showing that I landed  about 25 mi NE of the city of Twentynine Palms (aka 29 Palms).


Without further ado, here’s a picture of a sculpture by artist Chuck Caplinger that greets motorists driving into 29 Palms from the west (picture from Strong Cities – Strong State website):

 strong cities - strong state website

Having a birthday on the 29th of the month, I already feel an affinity for this place.

 Anyway, 25 miles northeast of 29 Palms (where I landed) is wide open desert country.  Here’s my Google Earth shot:


You can see that I landed about a mile east of a road (a dirt road).  About another mile west is a major paved road, with Street View coverage – so here’s the obligatory shot looking out towards my landing:


Just to the south of my landing is a relatively modest mountain range, the Sheephole Mountains (aka the Sheep Hole Mountains).  Here’s an oblique Google Earth shot of the Sheep Holes (I like the two-word version better):


From Wilderness.net, here’s a photo of the lovely Sheep Holes:

 from wilderness.net

I could find nothing on the etymology of the name Sheep Hole.  I could probably come up with something (likely scatological), but I think I’ll leave it alone.

 Before I forget – I landed in an internal watershed.  The land slopes north, away from the Sheep Holes, and bottoms out in a bleached-out playa.  Here’s a Street View shot of the playa:


Getting back to 29 Palms.  Speaking of etymology, there has to be a story behind the name, right?  Well, of course, there is.  From the “History” section of the City’s website:

The first recorded exploration of Twentynine Palms was made in 1855 by Colonel Henry Washington [a surveyor]. He found Native Americans near the spring they called “Mar-rah,” meaning “land of little water.” The spring, which is now called the Oasis of Mara, is located on the grounds of the historic 29 Palms Inn adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park Headquarters and Oasis Visitor Center.

The Oasis of Mara was a favorite camping spot for early prospectors. There, they would rest and replenish their water supplies before venturing farther into the unknown desert. The general area was then known as Palms Springs [the modern city of Palms Springs is about 35 mi SW of 29 Palms].

Legend says that the name of 29 Palms was first used by these gold miners because of the 29 palm trees surrounding the Oasis, and in fact the area was designated as such in the description of a mining claim which stated that the claim was a certain distance from 29 Palms Springs. However, it is also known that a member of an 1858 survey party reported that there were 26, not 29, fine, large palm trees at the oasis.

There you have it.  So, at one time, 29 (or 26) palm tree surrounded the Mara Oasis.  The modern-day oasis is the dark east-west strip of vegetation shown here on this GE shot:

 GE - Mara Oasis

It stretches for about ¾ of a mile (and is obviously controlled by some linear geologic feature such as a fracture or fault that directs groundwater towards the surface).  The darkest area to the west is the heart of the oasis, on the grounds of the 29 Palms Inn.  Here’s a picture of the pond at the Inn (Panaramio by Brian Dean):

 oasis in the desert panaramio brian dean

The eastern end of the oasis is just behind the visitor’s center to the Joshua Tree National Park.  There’s no standing water, just happy vegetation sucking up shallow groundwater in the middle of the desert.  Here’s a National Park Service shot showing the “Oasis of Mara trail” behind the visitor’s center:


My last stop will be the Joshua Tree National Park.  But first, why are Joshua Trees called Joshua Trees?  It appears we have the Mormons to thank.  From Wiki:

 The name Joshua tree was given by a group of Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree’s unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer.

 By the way, the “Utah Trail” passes through 29 Palms (and in fact is the name of a north-south street in the city).  This was a trail used by Mormons emigrating from Utah to the Mojave.  Let me tell you, those 19th-century Mormons left their mark throughout the west . . .

Anyway, I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures from the Joshua Tree National Park.  First, this of water behind “Barker Dam,” located in the park:


I’ll close with a sunset behind a Joshua tree (from nationalparks.org):

 national parks.org

That’ll do it.



© 2013 A Landing A Day


One Response to “Twentynine Palms, California”

  1. spagets said

    Now I know why I can never remember your birthday because my brother’s is January 29th too!!! Something else to connect us huh?

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