Scout - Katie Bachler


We’re very excited to welcome Katie Bachler to Joshua Tree as our first HDTS Scout!  

The HDTS Scout Residency is dedicated to learning more about the people and places that make up our diverse and ever evolving community.  

Drop into the HDTS HQ, the Scout's home base, and meet Katie, our steadfast and effervescent inaugural Scout, who can be found in her base camp at the HQ making maps, hosting conversations, and baking bread – in between her off-site adventures around town and out in the field.

Katie has a lot in store during her time here, including:

  • a series of talks featuring local experts
  • joining together to create a web of knowledge
  • a research library and archive documenting the many spaces, places, plants, and people that make up this special region
casual conversations with drop in visitors over tea

  • site visits and field trips around town

Learn more about the Scout Residency.

Katie was in residence from 2012-2013.  

Crystals and mentalphysics

182 Perfect form found in nature, the spiritual triangle of BREATH, LIGHT, SOUND that leads the human mind to a divine state of consciousness, according to one Ding Le Mei, founder of the Institute of Mentalyphysics in Joshua Tree. The triangle is deeply reflected in the architecture of the place, all geometric celings, roofs with jagged edges, secret triangle windows looking in on crystals. The Science Mentalyphysics is about breathing, about using the breath to awaken the spirit within; at the Tuesday evening breathing classes, students learn the 8 sacred breathing techniques, one being the Vibr-o Magnetic Breath. With proper breath work, anxieties can be quelled, we can feel awake without caffeine, and experience reality as our own, realizing that what we see and smell everyday is subjective; we choose the components of the reality we exist in, build it inside of our minds, give it meaning.  This structure was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, a manifestation of the balance reached within, vortex energy, Lay lines of electomagnetism below the surface of the earth. I feel one of these everytime I go, by the Oleander passage way behind a bush. My whole body starts tingling, I feel my lungs, all is deeply calm. 

183 The energy of George, who I meet at Sky Village, a crystal hunter who has spent his life travelling to every country, every corner of the earth, digging in many fine-nesses of sand in search of crystals; tourmaline, citrine, quartz, labradorite, gypsum, opal.... Life is for learning about the earth, all of the places, all of the people, if you dont have money, its still worth it to figure out how to get there, be in deserts, lake beds, glowing volcanoes, deepest forests, rugged coasts. This is life, this is being present. He has an eye for crystals, a knowing touch of the land, a prospector of all kinds of magical ancient minerals. He understands the conditions for growth, and knows where to look! He told me I can join him whenever I want, he knows some special spots in the Mojave for Halite and yellow crystal. Raw Opal in my hand, shimmering like oil slick phospherescence, this energy too makes me remember my breath, the sublime-ness of a small and beautiful thing.

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Sat. Mo. copper mountain mesa breakfast


The sign is out; it's the first Saturday of September and the light is beginning to change, there is a fall crispness that reminds me of going back to school on the east coast as a girl.  Kip told us to come early to the Copper Mountain Mesa Community Breakfast because that is when the old timers come, the folks who have lived in this part of North Joshua Tree for 40 or 50 years, in homestead cabins, some built by their own hands, some by the hands of their parents. Community Centers exist all over the hight desert, in the various homestead communities, all with "thrift rooms" in the back, that are run by members of each community. These centers were started with the help of congressman Jerry Lewis, and tend to exist in parts of the desert far away from a traditional town center, but with a dense population.This morning everyone is talking about the new community garden that is going to go in next door, behind the old fire station. Violet, sitting across from me with a floral print 60s shirt, big glasses, and a husband Chris, who runs the "thrift room", was lamenting that "nothing had happened yet, its not going to happen. I ain't seen it." Then the man who started the whole community garden thing walks in, long black beard, an earring, kind eyes; there is talk of fruit trees and movable raised beds, getting the kids involved, thinking about goats. Everyone has an opinion on the situation, everyone has a stake in this place. 176 We all pile eggs, scrambled, over easy, sunny side up, into our mouths and talk about the love of this space (always the hottest topic of conversation.) Then Bruce sits down and shares his knowledge of Renaissance Fair culture; he used to work the ren fairs back in the midwest, working with handmade weaponry and armor, wearing handmade "wrap pants". I meant to ask him about falconry and special falcon armour... He is scheming to create a desert Ren Fair. He tells us about his Viking and Native American anscestors, and takes his ponytail out to reveal his shiny, mid chest length, red curls. Bruce whittles wood, he can make the natural oils come out of any stick. He showed us his special walking stick, and explained how he coaxed the natural oils out of it, through a rubbing and steaming process.

179 Bruce says that this hand crafted naturally oiled walking stick epitomizes his way in the world. He believes in a balanced life, in a people full of kindness.

177 The community hall is packed on the first Saturday of the month. Breakfast is 4.50 for eggs hashbrowns, pancakes, orange juice, coffee, and biscuits and gravy. Copper Mountain Mesa Community Center is completely run through these breakfasts, and sales from the Thrift room. Kip bought a new dryer from the thrift room!

178 This book, Manual of Pacific Coast Drug Plants, is impossible to find these days, the information included within is too powerful, provides too much deep knowledge about our landscape here in California and the uses of its magical flora. Bruce found a copy of this book, from the 1929, with a map of which geomorphological regions yield which spiritual herbs. We talked about everything at breakfast, I really feel like we did.

180 Kip, Sarah, breakfasts, and a real old jukebox


Boy scout pioneering patch from the past

174 Just beginning to scheme ideas patches about place, perhaps a Scout patch series about the desert, and found this boy scout patch for pioneering on an internet website for memorabilia from a long time ago. It looks like building a bridge in the desert! The boy scouts and girl scouts were all about nature, survival skills, and embracing a sense of robust individualism in the face of rapid urbanization. Families were leaving the land and heading for factories in cities, and knowledge was being lost as the landscape changed, as was a sense of being American. The initial purpose of the Boy Scouts was to teach [boys] patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred values, from 1910.

High and Tight


Today feels real and raw, today it rained only on the mountains where I live, while i walked along Adobe Rd. in Twentynine Palms attempting to research the aesthetics and history of the military haircut. Combat Barber, Stud Cuts, Barber Judi, Combat Barber II. These barber shops along Adobe rd., which leads directly onto the Marine Corp Air Ground Combat Center, all specialize in military cuts, a couple of them also offer "civilian" cuts. Marines are required to have their haircut every Sunday, if they do not comply with this, they are written up with a warning.


The Marine cut is the shortest and cleanest of all of the armed forces, because Marines are on the front lines of battle when America goes to war. Also because it is easier to treat wounds if the hair is quite short. There are low, medium and high military cuts. The back of the head is totally shaved, some might call it "bic'd", and the top is left at an inch or two long, to support the weight of a combat helmet. The longest the top can be is 3 inches. I stopped at all of the shops and talked to the owners, all except Stud Cuts were owned by Vietnamese immigrants, many from the same familiy. Next to the posters of "Haircuts of Today" were red and gold buddhist shrines with insence burning.


Mai, who works at Combat Barber II and I talked about our love of the green grass, how that makes a good life, she smiling big and rolling her head side to side laughing about how boring it is here. Her family was smuggled out of Vietnam in the early 80s on a boat, first to Indonesia, then the Phillipines, then Stockton, California, where her mother still lives, in a house with a lawn. She says the haircuts are boring to give, because there are only three options, low, medium and high cuts. And on Sunday it is packed from 8 am until 10 pm.


At Stud Cuts I got to see a Marine named Greg get his hair cut, with a straight razor. Stud Cuts is the only Marine Barber Shop that uses the straight razor, a nostalgic touch. Terry, the lead barber, is lightning quick with the razor, and soon there is a shiny head. I talk to Greg about his life, he wants to be a doctor after the Marine Corp, and they will subsidize his education. He just came back from Afganistan, for the third time; talking about what happened there is too much, for both of us. He shows me how to pull the pin out of a grenade, and I ask him if he ever makes art.


The void?



Come by the HQ next Tuesday at 5:30pm for a casual conversation about space in the desert, and how it affects our brains and senses. We will also touch on Manifest Destiny and Homesteading: building on empty space.....

“The ground at our feet and the distant mountains are all that we see. Nowhere is there a familiar tree or building against which we can measure ourselves. The cognitive dissonance is severe. We don’t know where we are. Traditional wisdom about being lost in the wilderness—follow water downstream until you reach civilization—does not often work here. Follow convention and you are likely to end up stranded in the middle of an alkali flat.." - From The Void, The Grid, The Sign, by William L. Fox

Cold soup will be provided, please bring something from a space you know.


166 I am buliding a solar oven based on this mans plans, where I will bake desert bread in the courtyard here. Solar ovens are a radical, simple technology, reflecting the suns energy, light, and heat in a geometric way to cook food, at temperatures up to 300 degrees farenheit! These ovens are used all over the world, as a primary way of preparing food. The largest solar oven is in India, and produces 38,000 meals a day! A solar oven relies on the cycles of the sun, on sunny days.  You don't need to convert anything into energy, energy is there, all around us, all the time. We are not unlike plants, really, in our use of the directness of the sun. Solar panels too are an amazing photovoltaic phenonmenon---storing the energy of the sun! No need to destroy something to make something else, nothing is added to the universe, like when coal is burned. The sun renews itself, it is forever, a ball of fire energy in the sky, with a strong gravitational pull. Of course we are drawn to its light, of course it sustains us. We are magnetically connected.

start with the rocks

165 To know the desert, the textures and colors, the way the light changes space here, the incredible vastness, the curve of the earth always looming. It is too much, too much space to know, too much land untouched. So i start with knowing the rocks, start with looking at the way cracks form from other cracks, the way edges are textured, the way the colors contine over geometric edges, the way the fractals in the rocks mimic the fractals of water in the washes after the rain, the tendrils reaching for the lowest point. This week I have been talking about rocks with Laura, who is visiting from NY and doing a residency here for 6 weeks. She is a painter, and thought she wanted to paint the desert, but it proved to be too much to translate. She too has been knowing the rocks, collecting the rocks (as a land scape), 3 at a time, on a blue painted board. The desert gets into all that we do here, without having to try to express what the desert is directly. The desert. By knowing the micro we can understand the macro, slowing down to look at all the parts of a whole, spending 3 days with the same rock that I can hold in the palm of my hand- the smooth face, the quartz pink underside, the dark hidden crack threatening to break the rock in two. I painted these rocks over a period of 3 days, each time I look at them i notice more, not details, but fragments of a geologic process, an action that happened millions of years ago still imprinted on the earth, perhaps quite unchaged. Visible time.

Cashews in the bowl of life

158 Tony and Bobette live completely off the grid (wind and solar) in Rimrock, a small community amonsgst the boulders just north of Pioneertown. I drive up and find Tony in his mini-Kwanzet Hut-like outdoor ceramic studio behind the house. His shirt is splattered with turquoise and rust glaze, his smile earnest and clearest blue eyes. Tony tells me he is working on a series of Raku fired purposely pointless parrot pitchers in metallic colors. Inside, his wife Bobette solders brightly colored geometric stained glass in their living room. You can see her work here. Their home is surrounded by 8 inches of foam, which keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Their swamp cooler was not on, despite the 103 degree temps and humidity all week!  Bobette pulled a bowl of frozen grapes out of the freezer and we sat on stools and talked about art as the process of realizing why we make art, the moment of "I made it blue there because I had a feeling about it." People in the desert are like the cashews in the bowl of nuts at the party, said Tony, we are similar to eachother, but don't always find each other the vast, constantly shifting landscape of urban existence. We meet eachother out here and there is already a shared understanding, a love for open space and rawness, of real DIY. Tony used to teach high school ceramics in South Central LA, and he would set up raku firings in trash cans in the art rooms, do it discreetly, and no one ever found out.  He and Bobette moved out here 4 years ago for newness, for a horizon, to be artists.

159 Tony next to his bathtub raku firing pit. He buries his leather-hard ceramic pieces in the newspaper and lights it on fire, closes it off and waits for all of the newpaper to burn. Then he removes the pieces when they are still hot and cools them quickly with water.The Raku firings are performances, dances, the whole body participates, in tough leather gloves, in boots, moving these 1000 degree vessels from the bathtub to the world. I will attend one of these next week, and fire some of my own desert pieces. Move my body in the heat, in the heat.

160 A Purposely pointless parrot pitcher, leather-hard, pre- firing

164 Raku vessels, post firing

162 Bobette's stained glass163 The foam home coat


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wilderness in the mail

Please send me a bit of the wild from where you are. A special object from nature and words about where it is from, why it is special. I believe in objects as places, travelling places. I will send you something back, from this desert place.

Mail to

Katie Bachler

General Delivery

Joshua Tree, CA 92252