The high desert north of Joshua Tree National Park is a trippy place, not just because of the sere, strange, boulder-strewn landscape (though there’s that), but also because of the psychedelic mix of artists, musicians, Marines and their kin drawn to the nearby 29 Palms base, seekers, seers, desert rats, and L.A. burnouts. Abandoned “jackrabbit” homesteads are scattered like Yahtzee dice thrown by a toddler, and unexpected art installations show up in the darndest places.
Right in the middle of this mostly unstirred stew is the Wagon Station Encampment, a novel project created by artist and thinker Andrea Zittel. It’s a collection of 12 tiny “cabins” available each spring and fall via invitation from Zittel. She calls them stations, but they’re not much more than slightly-larger-than-body sized tin boxes, each with a comfy mattress and a place to hang your hat. Retreat from the world in one? No, not really. The Encampment gives you a place to sleep without fear of scorpions crawling into your bag, but little more. The idea is to push you out into the rugged scape and see what happens.
And also to have you mix with your fellow campers in and about the communal kitchen.
“The encampment is an intimate community,” writes Zittel, “so we look for people who are thoughtful, considerate and contributors. Ideally you will be a kitchen cleaner, a cool chest organizer, and you won’t mind sometimes making extra coffee to share with others in the morning.”
In past years, Wagon Station was free, but as it’s grown in popularity the work required to maintain it has grown, too, and now they charge a $55 administration fee. For the week. Oh, and you have to pitch in for an hour in morning chores.
But you can’t just go online and make a reservation. Guests are required to apply.
The Encampment “is open to anyone who feels an affinity with Andrea’s mission in the high desert – including (but not limited to) other artists, writers, thinkers, hikers, campers or those who are engaged in other forms of cultural or personal research….To reserve a spot, we now require those interested to fill out a short application, found here, listing basic personal information, area of study or interest, preferred sessions, and a short letter of intent.”
Applications for spring are open now.
For more information, visit the Encampment website.
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.