The Mojave Desert isn’t a touchy-feely sort of place. Yeah, yeah – most deserts aren’t. The Sonoran, though, has a certain cartoonish, Dr. Seuss-ian goofiness with all those saguaros poking at the horizon. The sinuous white sand dunes of the Chihuahuan Desert are as romantic as they are picturesque. And the Great Basin deserts of Nevada and Utah tease salvation in the form of snowcapped peaks or powerful red rivers, one of which is almost always within eyeshot.
Not so much with the Mojave. It’s foreboding in nearly every direction. And that’s just one of the many qualities that makes it so appealing.
Granite rock formations are another. They are second only to Joshua trees in terms of distinctive features of the Southwest Mojave, and they are mini refuges from the prickly plants and the seven different species of rattlesnakes that live in between. They beg to be climbed and bouldered and to serve as a back rest for watching the night sky.
Nestled low and tight in one such outcropping of Mojave granite is the Rock Reach House, not far from Joshua Tree National Park. A far cry, however, from the VW bus that comes to mind when we think of staying around Joshua Tree. The Rock Reach House is a fully wired, solar abode with all the luxuries of home.
While the open concept design, by O2 Architecture, achieves the contrasting ideals of comfort and modernism, the steel framing is what truly sets the house apart and makes it an effective solution for building in fragile environments. Blue Sky Building Systems has developed a steel frame system that seems to riff off of the traditional post and beam structure of timber frame construction. It provides all the same benefits of huge window expanses, fewer toxic materials, and minimal construction waste. Important for the delicate desert, also, this type of construction has little site disruption and doesn’t require a traditional foundation for either flat or hillside plots. In the Rock Reach House, specifically, the only wood used was in cabinetry and as decorative accent. The rest is steel and glass that will weather the desert climate with nominal maintenance.
The house has two bedrooms, an outdoor shower, a hot tub, and plenty of deck space for stargazing. There are 2.5 acres of untouched granite formations to explore, climb, and appreciate.
Let’s get this part out of the way: the Rock Reach House doesn’t come cheap. Your wallet will definitely feel the sting of the $364 nightly rental price. There are more affordable ways to enjoy the Mojave, but few permanent structures have such a limited footprint on this spectacular and unforgiving desert.
Weekend Cabin isn’t necessarily about the weekend, or cabins. It’s about the longing for a sense of place, for shelter set in a landscape…for something that speaks to refuge and distance from the everyday. Nostalgic and wistful, it’s about how people create structure in ways to consider the earth and sky and their place in them. It’s not concerned with ownership or real estate, but what people build to fulfill their dreams of escape. The very time-shortened notion of “weekend” reminds that it’s a temporary respite.
Photos courtesy Lance Gerber, Nuvue Interactive