Twenty-Nine Palms Sunday

We worshiped as a family, at a natural altar of stones, on a snow-specked mountain side.

Saturday was spent at the conference, talking to old friends till late in the evening. Sunday began just outside Los Angeles, two hours from home, but that was okay. We has already known that we wouldn’t be back for 9 a.m. church, and the substitute organist was warned ahead of time.

We ate our breakfast, swam with the kids, and packed. We stopped at a park and played for a while. And then we drove east. We would be seeing wonders with the children on Monday — the San Andres Fault; the Salton Sea; Joshua Tree National Park. Today, we were driving to the new hotel in Twenty-Nine Palms. It was Palm Sunday. I had talked to M. earlier, and our plan was to find a good spot in the desert where we could worship as a family.

The mountains were snowy, unusual for this time of year, and the kids were excited. They don’t see of snow down in San Diego. Look at the snow!, they said animatedly as we drove east along the 10. It was early afternoon, and we didn’t have much farther to go — Palm Springs was just a few dozen miles away.

A word back and forth, and then we turned south on the 243. It’s a gorgeous (and extremely winding) mountain road that leads up into Idyllwild, and the San Jacinto mountains. The mountain top is beautiful, but we weren’t going all the way there today.

Six or eight miles in, we found a great patch of snow, and the kids got out and played, tossing snowballs and laughing, and then piling into the car shivering, as we turned on the heater. We asked if they wanted to have church on the mountain, and they unanimously agreed. We drove on, up the mountain.

We found our spot by a little side road, where a ridge led to a striking natural square of granite, the ground half-covered in snow. We took a Bible and walked out to the altar. Our sweatshirts were really not much protection against the cold wind.

We had thought about a longer service, but the wind was cold and the kids were quickly getting goosebumps. We began with a prayer and then sang songs, each child picking a favorite hymn or primary song. We read from Matthew, about Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem. A few more songs, and then a few verses from John — A new commandment I give unto you. The closing song was, Did Jesus Really Live Again?

We gathered a few sticks from the mountain side, to remember our Palm Sunday. And then we got back into the car, and journeyed on.

11 comments for “Twenty-Nine Palms Sunday

  1. Kaimi, enough with you and your catchy titles. Here I was thinking this was going to be a post about a combined arms ground assault with air support.

  2. Sigh, Kaimi I had the same reaction that Eric Russell did, perhaps because the last time I was in the vicinity (late winter of 1963-64) the Defense Department had nearly 100,000 troops from the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force training for — gasp — jungle warfare in southeast Asia on the edge of the Mojave Desert. (The troops found this little apparent geographical anamoly to be stunning — wholly consistent with the spirit of Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22,” which was then circulating among the literatti in the barracks and BOQs.) My squadron was running fighter strikes over the sands around Twenty-Nine Palms from a base on the edge of that old Mormon rancho, San Bernardino. To Eric’s point, I believe that Twenty-Nine Palms is till a USMC base, now used in connection with things Iraqi, which makes more sense than its earlier Vietnam orientation.

  3. Yep, it’s still a Marine base.

    We had a nice chat with one Marine at the hotel — he was at Twenty-Nine Palms for the next few months, and then back to his home base. And there were a few military vehicles in sight. But that was the extent of our contact with military personnel while we were there. We stopped there purely for the location — because it’s right next to Joshua Tree, and we were going to be seeing the fault line and the Salton Sea, the next day. And it’s much quicker than driving up from Indio.

  4. Kaimi, at one time not too long ago there was in the vicinity of Twenty-Nine Palms (on the main highway passing through Morengo Valley, California) a low-slung, somewhat seedy looking establishment at the side of the road that was the bookstore and printing operation owned by Dan Cronkite (no relation, although his son’s name was Walter). Dan was a consummate craftsman, and styled himself as the Sage Brush Press, Notwithstanding its unpresupposing appearance, his shop was one of the most elegant letterpress printing operations in the American West. When Bob Clark set out to produce a bibliography and history of The Arthur H. Clark Company’s first hundred years of publishing, he chose Dan as the printer and drove all the way to Morengo Valley and back from Spokane in a stationwagon to retrieve the printed pages. Dan even had a few good Mormon books on his sun-baked store shelves.

  5. That’s great! Family worship makes a lot of sense in a church where the family is the fundamental.

  6. Actually the Marines refer to it as “29 Stumps”, since there are no palms to be seen on the other side of the mountain, where all the pain happens…

  7. #8: 29 ?! Any Marine who doesn’t use two-niner should be thrown up against the ‘bulkhead’, until his ‘cover’ falls off!

  8. This is truly weird. I’m in Twenty-Nine Palms right now. We got here late Friday night to welcome home my daughter’s friend from Iraq. We spent the day with him yesterday, and will spend this afternoon with him probably as well. We’re leaving tonight, and should be home Tuesday sometime.

    Aside from that, nice post.

  9. And the reason I didn’t respond to this sooner was that I was on the road down here — left Wednesday. It’s a long drive.

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