29 Palms (California, USA)

A town with a mysterious name in southwestern California, USA. While wandering around the houses scattered in the wilderness, imagine the thoughts of people fleeing the city and arriving at this place. 

A town in southwestern California, USA. It is also where the US Marine Corps base is located. First, the name is cool. It is deviated from the essence, but it is important whether the name of the town resonates. If “Twentynine” of this “Twentynine Palms” is “Thirty four”, I feel uncool. “Twentynine” is the correct answer.

About 50 miles / 80 km southwest of the town, there is “Palm Springs”, a well-known as resort city, but this town does not have the elegant image of “Palm Springs”. When I first passed through this town, my impression was that it was an ordinary town in the wilderness of the western United States. It was a photo book that changed my view of this town. The title is “Isolated Houses”. This photobook is a collection of photographs of houses scattered in the wilderness, and these houses were the “Twentynine Palms” and its surroundings.

I bought this photobook around 2000. I didn’t understand where these houses were, but in 2018, when I looked up the location information (latitude, longitude) on each page of this photobook, it turns out that it is in and around Twentynine Palms. Although only latitude / longitude information is described in the photo book, it was important that the evolution of technology has made it possible to find the exact location just put latitude / longitude information on a map on the web.

This photobook was published in 2000, so it is about 20 years ago. From the places listed in this photobook, I visited some of my favorite places and found that there are fascinating places in and around this “Twentynine Palms”. One is “Wonder Valley”. The other is “Desert Heights”.

“Twentynine Palms” is a small town, but shops and restaurants are lined in downtown area. At the intersection of “Adobe Road” and “Indian Trail” located at the north of downtown, there are three barber shops which is unusual sight.

“Wonder Valley” is an area adjacent to the east of Twentynine Palms, where Amboy Road, which continues from the town of Amboy in the north, extends just before arriving at “Twentynine Palms”. It seems that it is suitable to call it a community rather than a town. All that exists is the wilderness and the houses scattered around. The only restaurant along the street of Amboy Road was “The Palms”. The “The Palms” restaurant is only open from Thursday to Sunday and I visited twice, but once closed for “Private Usage” and another once for “Maintenance”. It was strange that I couldn’t see people both times, but the poster with handwriting said “Do not worry, we are not changing anyway”. It must be a beloved place locally. By the way, according to a person at the visitor center in downtown Twentynine Palms, the name “Wonder Valley” comes from the fact that there used to be a ranch with this name.

One more attractive place, “Desert Heights” refers to some areas of “Twentynine Palms”. In the northwestern part of the town, dirt roads run vertically and horizontally, and houses are scattered beside them. Whereas “Wonder Valley” is a flat place, this “Desert Heights” is rugged and has many homes.

This area is also a place where people who lived in big cities moved in search of a quiet place from the 1950s to the 1960s due to the opening of land by the country, and many artists and hippie people lived here. However, this is the story more than 50 years ago, and therefore, many of the scattered houses are abandoned. When I drive, I must be aware that the times have passed, but on the other hand, new houses are being built, so I think that there are people who are attracted to this place.

Some of the houses in the photobook are still in the same condition as they used to be when the photographs were taken, but some have already decayed. Especially in “Wonder Valley”, the appearance of decayed houses along Amboy Road was conspicuous, and the number of houses that seemed to be inhabited was limited. From this point of view, the restaurant “The Palms”, which suddenly appeared in the wilderness of “Wonder Valley”, was a surprising place. Inside this restaurant, you can see a space like a small stage, and in the backyard, there was a small stage. It seems that there are live performances from time to time, but it is a very intriguing place to see what the live performances are like in this wilderness.

In “Desert Heights”, some roads are paved, near the center of Twentynine Palms, with houses lined up every few tens of meters, but a little off, the houses are lined up apart. It feels like a few hundred meters, or every few minutes by car. This “Desert Heights” is undulating, and when driving on a dirt road running from east to west, road suddenly goes up to a hill and there is a place were seeing the wilderness spreading 180 degrees ahead under the eyes. From that hill, the scenery of the wilderness and the houses scattered around is rarely seen even in the wilderness of the western United States.

When describing the wilderness of the western United States, the word “nothing” fits nicely, but this place is one of the few places where I can feel that people are living in this world of “nothing”. The excitement that I have never felt is raised when driving a car. It is worth to visit to feel this mysterious place.

If you stay this place, please choose a house scattered in the wilderness instead of a motel in downtown area. There are many places where you can rent a house. I stayed below. In front of my house, I could see the wilderness and the US Marine Corps base in the distance, and the sunrise was beautiful. I would like you to occupy the empty space and enjoy the extraordinary place.

Flying Point Homestead

Visited in 1998, 2008, 2009.

​Basic Information

​■ Name of Place : 29 Palms
■ Homepage: Twentynine Palms visitor information