Pioneertown’s Western stores. Photo by Bruce Watts

This past week I took another trip out to Joshua Tree. On the Hill, I saw the first lilac flowers of the season and took a trip to Garner Valley. It was a great week with warm days and not too cool mornings, which all seemed to come to an end Sunday afternoon when thick clouds slowly crept into Strawberry Valley.

During the week, a notable local event occurred when a large black oak tree on Highway 243 next to the liquor store was removed. The tree had been infested by the Gold spotted oak borer. Now we are left with a huge hole in our downtown tree line. One can only hope for the best for the remaining oak trees.

A second oak, near the entrance of the Chevron station was removed on the same day.

On a happier note, the day trip to Joshua Tree was planned in order to shoot the trees in full bloom again and also see what cactus flowers were blooming. Although we got to the town of Joshua Tree, it was far too windy for any photographing in the park.

For example, the rigid limbs of the Joshua trees were swaying in the strong desert breeze. Consequently, I did not want sand blowing into my camera.

So instead of going into the park, Les and I took a detour to Pioneertown. This was my first trip there. To see the two-block main street section of a made-for-TV Western town was exciting.

The western part of the town was built in the 1940s and served as housing for the actors and a set for Western shows such as the “Cisco Kid.” The old wooden store fronts and antique wagons gave me a good excuse to create sepia-tone photos to give everything a look right out of the 1880s.

One of my other projects, which I call “The Lilac Report,” is to document the progress of the lilac flowers in my neighborhood. Sunday saw the opening of the first flowers of the season.

A rider and horse trot through Garner Valley’s goldfields. Photos by Bruce Watts

On Sunday afternoon, I easily talked my friend and sometime Idyllwild resident Paula Panich into taking a drive to Garner Valley, where we sought goldfields. Sure enough, we saw gold in small patches here and there. A nice solid patch was beginning to form on the eastern side of the valley.

This year, however, I was surprised to see that a type of mustard plant was taking up a lot of the area, which goldfields covered last year. In addition, the goldfields were hugging the ground with flowers barely above soil level. Last year the peak was about April 24, so I will continue to monitor this year’s bloom.

Heavy clouds moving east eventually covered the mountains above Idyllwild, but the late afternoon sun was shining on most of the valley as Paula and I began to take pictures. She was suitably impressed by the beauty of Garner Valley. Being both a writer and a gardener, it was easy to see that she was as enthusiastic as yours truly.

As we walked back to the car, we saw a woman on a chestnut horse riding through the goldfields. I turned my camera back on and got three shots before she rode off into the distance, a satisfying end to a wonderful day.

On the way home, I mentioned my Pioneertown trip to Paula and asked if she had ever been there. She told me her husband’s father was one of the original builders of the town. Small world.