Explore desert oddities


Thinking of warmer places to visit during the Southern California winters? Here are some interesting places to put on your to-do list.

Dinosaurs in the Desert

Ricardo Breceda calls himself an “accidental artist,” who is now well known as a sculptor and a designer. He started creating his metal sculptures when his daughter asked for a dinosaur for Christmas. That was only the beginning. If you travel to Borrego Springs, you can see 130 metal sculptures of prehistoric animals that were commissioned by philanthropist Dennis Avery. Avery wanted the sculptures to be based on the fossilized creatures that can be found in the Anza Borrego Desert.

“These fanciful creatures seem to march across the scruffy flats. It’s quite a remarkable menagerie, with everything from desert bighorn rams in battle to a gigantic, 350-foot-long sea serpent that appears to be slithering through the desert sands. The effect can be truly dramatic on clear nights when the full moon or star-filled skies light up the sculptures,” according to Visit California.

The Borrego Springs Sculptures are located at Galleta Meadows, 1700-1844 Borrego Springs Road, Borrego Springs 92004. It is about a 3 ½ hour drive from Santa Clarita. For more information, visit desertusa.com/borrego/bs-art.html.

California’s Grand Canyon

Another interesting visit in the Anza Borrego area is the Borrego Badlands and Fonts Point, which is also known as California’s Grand Canyon.

The 20-miles wide by 15-miles long Badlands was formed by water. According to Visit California, the fossilized seashells are testament to fact that the area was once submerged under the combination of the Gulf of California and the Colorado River. “Scientists surmise this brackish sea teemed with aquatic life—home to fish, sea turtles, and sharks.”

If you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, you can travel to the area that is a “coveted spot for photographers, especially at sunset or on full-moon nights,” says Visit California. Be warned that it is a slow drive on a sandy four-mile ride.

For more information, visit visitcalifornia.com/experience/borrego-badlands-fonts-point.


Located about 160 miles east of Santa Clarita is the historic town of Pioneertown. While you may think it is from the 1800s, it was actually built in 1946 as a film set and tourist attraction. The original investors included Dick Curtis, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Sons of the Pioneers, Russell Hayden, Frank McDonald, Tommy Carr, Terry Frost and Bud Abbott at a cost of $500 each.

“More than 50 films & serials were filmed in Pioneertown during the 1940 and 1950s,” according to their website. “All of the Gene Autry Flying A television productions through the 1950s were shot here.” Other titles included “Cisco Kid,” “Annie Oakley,” “The Adventures of Judge Roy Bean” and “The Range Rider.”

Today, there are several retail stores and the western-town feel allows for great photos. Camp sites are available or you can stay at the Pioneertown Motel., which was built by Roy Rogers as lodging for the movie stars.

Good food and live music can be found at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. They are featured in Condi Nast Traveller as “Wild West-style saloon on an otherwise silent highway, where Paul McCartney played a surprise set to an intimate crowd who were near-dumb in disbelief. It was, perhaps, the moment that showed Southern California’s High Desert had arrived.”

If you’re looking for hiking, the Pioneertown Mountains Preserver is just a few minutes from the town. The 25,500-acre Wetlands Conservancy nature preserve offers hiking, and wildlife and wildflower viewing.

Pioneertown is located at 53626 Mane Street, Pioneertown 92268. For more information, visit visitpioneertown.com.

For more information about the Pioneertown Motel, visit pioneertown-motel.com.

The Pioneers Mountains Preserve is located at 51010 Pipes Canyon Rd, Pioneertown, 92268. For more information, visit wildlandsconservancy.org/preserves/pioneertownmountains.

Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Art

Sculptor Noah Purifoy spent 15 years creating large-scale art on 10 acres of land near Joshua Tree National Park. The sculptures are created from found materials including discarded junk and desert driftwood.

The free museum is open daily to the public from sunrise until sunset.

Probably one of Purifoy’s most well-known exhibition is the “66 Signs of Neon,” which was largely created from artifacts of the 1964 Watts riots. The exhibit globally travelled between 1966 and 1971.

The Outdoor Desert Art Museum is located at 62975 Blair Lane, Joshua Tree 92252. For more information, visit noahpurifoy.com/joshua-tree-outdoor-museum.


The Integratron is a wood dome built on the intersection of geomagnetic forces and is designed to be an “electrostatic generator for the purpose of rejuvenation and time travel,” according to their website.

Its signature attraction is the Sound Bath, which is available by reservation. The 60-minute experience includes an introduction to the integration and its healing powers. There is a 35-minute portion where participants experience the live sounds of 20 quartz crystal singing bowls. The bowls are keyed to the chakras of the body. Private and public sound bath experiences are available.

Located 20 miles north of Joshua Tree National Park, Integration was founded by George Van Tassel. He claimed the structure was based on the “design of Moses’ Tabernacle, the writings of Nikola Tesla and telepathic directions from extraterrestrials.”

The Integratron was also mentioned in Condi Nast Traveller as a place to find fun in Joshua Tree. Currently closed for renovation until Feb. 2, The Integratron is located at 2477 Belfield Blvd, Landers 92285. For more information, visit www.integratron.com.

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