Wonder Valley Jackrabbit Homesteads
Lesha, Raffi & I spend long weekends (during my birthday weekend in March) exploring the abandoned California homesteads of Wonder Valley. This seems to be the perfect time of year with the weather in March being the most ideal: dry, with temps hovering in the low 80ºs mid day. With Raffi’s adventure boots packed, camera gear, water and snacks—we venture out in the 4Runner (4×4). The four-wheel-drive is put to good use navigating unmarked sand and gravel passages, cresting obstacles, shrubs and sometimes deep, loose sand to access more of the decidedly forlorn dwellings.
This parched, and seemingly isolated, abandoned community of the Wonder Valley Jackrabbit Homesteads lies east of Joshua Tree Tree National Park, and south of Cleghorn Lakes Wilderness Area. On our initial jaunt out to Wonder Valley, we were only able to survey online as to where we’d be stopping. There were no specifics (GPS coordinates, streets or landmarks). Our only point of reference was Google Maps—of Highway 62 and Amboy Road. We would stay at Motel 6 in Twentynine Palms which is on Highway 62 and an effortless destination from the homesteads.
Taking shelter inside or camping adjacent to abandoned properties didn’t feel right, and we proved this to ourselves early during our first trek. One picture-perfect property we drove up on beamed; with charred exterior, burned out roof, tinder window frames and littered with barren appliances. As we excitedly unpacked the 4Runner and gathered our gear, a man exited the interiors to make his presence known. He was soaked in soot, shirtless, wielding a shillelagh (which was actually a long cut of a garden hose) in one hand, and a phone in the other. He made it known that this was his homestead…for the time being.