Not far from Joshua Tree National Park lies Garth’s Boulder Gardens, an out-of-the-way sanctuary created by Garth Bowles more than 30 years ago. I had seen some photos and short descriptions on the web, but details were scarce. I figured I would ask about it when I visited Joshua Tree, but it turns out that many Joshua Tree locals had never heard of it. Finally, I stopped at Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown, and a young hostess was kind enough to give me directions.
Truth be told, I had no idea what to expect, and this was very much a just-go-and-see-what-happens visit. After driving for about 20 minutes on dirt roads north of Pioneertown, and wondering several times if I was in the right place, I saw an entrance and a “Welcome” sign. Past the entrance, the road continued to wind, and I passed a couple trailers and an amphitheater. Finally, we came to a bit of a clearing where some people were gathered on outdoor couches.
I asked if this was Garth’s, and of course they had to pull my leg at first. But they reassured me that I was in the right place. I wasn’t even sure if visitors were welcome, so I asked if I could walk around, and one of the gentlemen on the couches pointed me toward a man-made bridge and pool, saying “Most people like to start there.” You can’t see it in this photo, but the man-made pool is just behind this sculpture. On the right, the door opens into a sauna room.
There were several dogs running around, and one simply lay there. For a moment, I wondered if he was ill since he barely moved. He did seem pretty well groomed, and when I came around to take a photo he looked at me with what seemed like alert eyes… but he still didn’t move.
A few steps further was some additional seating. This particular spot reminded me of parts of the Salton Sea area, just for a moment.
I didn’t realize at the time, but this is Garth’s teepee. On the tables outside, there’s lots of crystals.
Close by, a screen with an interesting sun design covered the space between boulders.
At first, I thought someone might live there, but it turns out, they keep peacocks there.
There was also a small greenhouse (not pictured) and of course, an outhouse.
There’s more, of course. Garth’s land is apparently 640 acres and I only walked around the center of the site.
What exactly is Garth’s? An indiegogo site for Garth’s place describes Boulder Gardens as “a thriving example of living harmoniously with the natural environment. It is also a sanctuary and retreat for all forms of spiritual seekers, healers and travellers.” Apparently, all are welcome at Garth’s, and his vision is a self-sustaining community of people living together on his property. According to various articles on the web, many have come and gone from Garth’s, but there are between a dozen and a handful of permanent residents. Garth’s place is also a site for events, retreats, and even weddings. All in all, I have admire Garth’s generosity, vision and dedication to the sanctuary that he has cultivated for over 30 years.
To get to Garth’s, I took Pioneertown Road from Route 62 in Yucca Valley. Going north, past Pioneertown, I turned right onto Pipes Canyon Road. The GPS had me turn left onto Eastline, right onto Geronimo, left onto Cottontail Road, and a left onto Gamma Gulch Road, which took me straight to the entrance to Garth’s (you will see signs for Garth’s, follow those). Still, it would have been just as easy to continue on Pipes Canyon (instead of turning left onto Eastline) and then turn left onto Gamma Gulch a bit later. FYI, the roads off Pipes Canyon are dirt roads, and my passenger car didn’t have any problems. I’d just be careful if the road is wet. One other note of caution – I’m not certain that the location for Garth’s on Google is correct, it’s actually hard to tell if we ended up in the location Google would have taken us (at Garth’s, we had no cell reception). Follow Gamma Gulch and the signs for Garth’s, and you’ll get there.