I’ve mentioned it before and today, when cleaning out some drawers, I came across a photograph of when it was a shoe tree. That’s me in the sunglasses.
You can see a couple of reminders in this image of the tree’s earlier life as the underwear tree. Indeed, I first saw it fully festooned with hundreds of pairs of briefs and boxers, striped, plaid and plain. And a few dozen yards to the south at that time was a mobile home, said to be the business location of the only prostitute for fifty miles.
But alas, I took no pictures when it was in full dress. Only later when passing through the isolated area again and seeing the first stage of the tree’s demise did I take this picture. The business establishment had moved on by then, perhaps closer to 29 Palms and the Marine base which, I presume, was the source of many of her regulars.
And not long after that, the underwear tree that had become the shoe tree was torched yet again leaving only the blackened smudge of a stump.
A new shoe collection has been started a few yards to the east on and around an old wire fence but, alas, it’s just not the same as when a single tree stood tall in the desert covered in underwear.
In case you’re interested in a drive through the Mojave desert or, like me, you are looking for an alternative to the Interstate highway between Phoenix Arizona and Palmdale California, here’s the location. It’s the red triangle in the above picture about midway between I-10 (marked “95”) and I-40 (marked “93”), both running east/west, and slightly west of the Colorado River, source of the green area running mostly north/south and crossing I-10 (“95”).
Here’s the precise location for your GPS: 34.079330, -114.814023. That’ll put your car smack on top of the burnt stump, near the top of this third picture and just off California highway 62, Aqueduct Road.
In this image you will also see the remnants of a WWII air force training base with its two runways at 90 degree angle with each other. The bright rectangle slightly above center is concrete, presumably the pad for buildings that are long gone.
If you’re careful not to drive into any potholes or through the broken glass that litters much of the area, you can drive a rental car from the highway down to the concrete slab and then pick out the turns to the taxiways and runways and make a full circuit of the base.
But a word of caution is warranted.
If you break down, there are no houses, gas stations, snack bars or anything else for a good twenty, perhaps thirty miles.
During the day when the temperatures in the summer approach and occasionally exceed 120 degrees, there’s a fair amount of traffic on highway 62 — it’s the most direct route from 29 Palms to the Colorado River. Most of the cars will be towing power boats and driven by young Marines out for a swim with their spouse and kids. If you become stranded but can get to the highway, you could probably get help.
In the evenings, however, expect nothing except Mojave rattlesnakes coming out in the comparative cool to find a dinner of an inattentive desert mouse.