There's Something in the Rocks

Samuelson's Rocks

Jun 11, 2001
Outside Magazine

End your Joshua Tree sojourn by making a stab at finding this most evocative of sites. It won't be easy: since it's not marked on the USGS maps, you may have to beseech a ranger to circle it for you on your topo or provide you detailed directions; the best my guide could come up with was, "When you come to the wash that would take you south toward Johnny Lang Canyon, bear north instead." In effect, then, you'll just have to re-create Samuelson's own journey, setting out blindly into the desert—though you'll be starting from the relative security of the picnic grounds at Quail Springs. Bear in mind that you may never find the spot. (If you've been hiking for more than two hours, you've missed it.) But if and when you do, stay awhile. Shadows will lengthen. A raven may circle overhead. The air will settle on you, baked and dry. And the carvings of that odd prophet Samuelson will animate the stone.
"Study nature," he chiseled. "Obey the laws of it, you can't go wrong."

"Water is soft," he continued, warming to the theme, "but with time, the ocean can griend [sic] the hardest granit [sic] to a powdered sand. So with time will the human race grind out its own destinies."
And at the tail end of the Rock of Faiht and Truht: "Evolution is the mother and father of mankind. Without them we be nothing."
On the afternoon I found Samuelson's Rocks, I left soon after reading this last of his aphorisms. The sun was getting low, washing the rocks in a soft, tarnished glow. The chollas appeared taller and thornier than ever; the Joshua trees, their arms uplifted to heaven, more devout. A languid coyote woke from a nap in the shade of a creosote bush, stretched, and yawned as I passed. I doffed my cap to him, looked at the silent, empty landscape all around, and thought, Without this, we be nothing.

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