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.  

table salt


Bristol Dry Lake Bed. Just outside of Amboy, a small railroad town founded in 1858 by salt miners. This looks like the snow and ice that coat the landscape of my native home in Vermont in the winter, I slip in my LL Bean boots.... This land is crusty with shades of lavender and aquamarine, secret holes with geode crystals seem to spiral deep into this ancient lake. The lake bed is 70 square miles. Sometimes in the rainy season the lake forms again. As I walk and crackle the ground below me, I think of this land as a sea, as an infinite space where I can see all of the edges of the earth. And in this dream too, there is the use value of this landscape, a commodity for capitalism, in a shaker in the domestic tableclothed table, on a cob of corn. Everything we use comes from the land, we really are the earth. I think of designing a salt label with Bristol Dry Lakebed on it. What if we knew where all of our commodities came from? Their routes and processes?


Fractals like tortoise shell hexagons, the sodium chloride, also known as hematite, is seven feet thick and is still harvested, processed and distributed by the National Chloride Company of America and Cargill Salt Company (second largest salt producing company in the US!). The salt is deep below the hard dense layers in what is called a crystal body. 

154 I taste this place: the salt is mixed with clay and gypsum, the wind smells like ash and sheep. I know that the 40 freeway is not too far away, with its inter-continetal trucks. Who knows of this place? Are any of the trucks carrying salt to supermarkets?


i love space

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This is a national park, there is a boundary between inside and outside. I can walk and walk and walk, hearing the always ringing in the ears of a city person. The quiet though fills it, in circles and circles. The desert is subtle colors, a radical sunset. The need to find a rock to perch upon and contemplate the space-ness-ness of it all. To get a scratch on my leg from the sharpest granite, making up boulders round as curled bodies stacked. The reds fade to tans and beiges and softness as the light changes. I would like to make a color pallete of the desert, there is such a specificity to these subtleties.

the naming


The mark is rogue, perfect, a vernacular specificity. Names painted on granite, of highschool loves and wild drugs, slogans that are funny, birthdays. An entrance to a road with each part particular, each inhabitant of the space is referred to on the wayfinding tool. Gamma Gulch; not just a roadway, but an amalgamation of people, a clump. No need for a standardized out here, the map is made as we traverse it, naming arises out of need, a space becomes a place.142






Laura Sibley, co-owner of the Palms Bar and Restaurant in Wonder Valley, is opening a book shop called Wonderland Books; her family purchased an old homesteader cabin on a 5-acre tract of land in a Tax Auction. Its right across the street from the Palms Bar, with an epic desert view on all sides. Laura mentions the ontology of her desire for a bookish space; once you call something a bookstore, it is just that, it doesn't matter what kind of books or how many books are inside of it. It is an idea, a concept, a way to bring people together. Laura spoke of her love of books; she buys and sells science fiction and war books over ebay, and wanted to make a real space for books she loves, a community space that will be open when she wants it to be for readings and . Wonder Valley is full of dreamers, the gold miners who came out to hit the mother-loads, farmers from the mid-west caught up in the boosterism of Manifest Destiny plopping down on 5 acres of heaven and contemplating a freedom. This land is a slate, a palimpsest of past pasts, a place to write a story with materials, to make an invisible visible. This little bookshop is just that, a hope made real, a tiny thought that grew into this. 


She laughs as she sits at the librarians desk in the space, performing the role of the bookshop mistress, sitting properly. Robert Frost's poems are displayed prominently, next to a book of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture. The cash box is embellieshed with layers of colorful plastic gems, along with various sizes and shapes of candles adding a fairy-tale like atmosphere to Wonderland Books, along with the the Alice and Wonderland White Rabbit sign leaning against the side of the building. 


The Palms Bar and Restaurant is about a 40 minute drive from Joshua Tree down a road called Amboy, which passes through a land scattered with more abandoned homestead cabins than I have seen any where. This is an unicorporated part of the desert, not a town, but a region about 10 degrees hotter than Joshua Tree. The Palms serves an amazing breakfast on Sunday, belgian waffles with real maple syrup, home-made desert sourdough bread that has to rise in the cooler because its too hot in the kitchen, eggs with orange-yellow yolks. Laura runs the operation with her brother James, who moved out here with their family in 1997 and have created a real place for people at the Palms. Two of the folks at the bar, Sparky, who looks like Edward Abbey, with turquoise rocks hanging around his neck, and a beer in the morning, a floppy felt hat and desert blue eyes and Diane, who found her cabin (you can throw a rock to it from here!) a year ago, tell me that Wonder Valley has put an end to wandering and adventuring; it embodies the desire for movement, for wildness. 


Laura and James make the breakfasts, their mother Mary works the bar. They live here, and have made the Palms a resting point in the vastness of a valley. There is a stage in the back where the Sibleys (Laura and James' band with their friend Thom) sometimes play. Mary helps write the lyrics sometimes, the resuly is a honkey-tonk, desert wind meets Velvet Undergound......They offer gold mine tours as well at the Palms! 


a slice


Driving around, and the thought that someone decided to paint two rocks white, in the middle of the middle!



Video games that can teach us about our anscestors? Learning to identify and produce mystical plant concoctions while wearing virtual reality goggles rambling through boulders? Joseph Matheny came out to Joshua Tree to change the way people experience the land and each other. He is a science-fiction writer from LA who became interested in building an intentional community out in Joshua Tree after the failure of the OCCUPY movement to actually create a new society in LA. An Occupation needs to be permanent, a way of being, a slow process, he said. And a way to glean this knowledge about living is through technology! We already relate to our iphones and laptops, and they way information is conveyed throug these tools, so why not make the knowledge about making arrowheads out of rocks and collecting mesquite pods? The medium is the message? He is working with Garth Bowles, who lives up north of Pioneertown on 600 acres in a teepee, and hosts long-term visitors who come to build and experiment with living off the grid, in exchange for helping out on the land (more about Garth in an upcoming post!). Garth lives amongst giant boulders (with amazing dogs and chickens!), a perfect wandering ground for a techo-futurist game about the return of plant knowledge and supernatural forces associated with the land and folk-lore. I may be the map-maker of this virtual/natural space! This endeavor was already discussed in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Joseph told me.

Joseph is already 1/4 done with J-Topia, a proposed intentional communtity that will include an art center and community garden in an abandoned assisted living space in downtown Joshua Tree. There are already people living there, in the rooms formerly inhabited by the elderly of the desert. One resident was cooking hambuger in the kitchen when I was there. This is J-Topia, a place where people live and work on their shared space together, where there is food in the garden and lectures by locals about changing the world.

I am intrigued by the visions people have when they come to the desert. The concept of the blank slate, of a land untouched by the alienated modern mans ideologies, a space for projections of possible futures. There are many I have met  who share this spirit, at different levels. I feel like being able to see 360 degrees around me has changed my sense of myself, the context is not one of cultural references, or a structured art-world, but of land and past visions still present and preserved in the sand.



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