Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch
I am a complete sucker for art installations, but not necessarily the type that you would find at a museum, but rather the kind that sits along the road, outside, enduring the elements of nature day after day. Perhaps it is because they oftentimes are as weathered as the characters that labored them into existence. Or perhaps it is because they all seem to have a unique backstory of inspiration. Or quite simply because this type of art is generally a fascinating spectacle to behold. I’ve found unexpected purpose at the Watt’s Towers, beasts in the desert of Borrego Springs in Galleta Meadows, and love abundant at Salvation Mountain. This time, I found a different kind of experience, a type of serenity liken to that of wandering through the forest. Although instead of walking through the endless canopy of trees, this forest is made completely of metal, glass, and upcycled trinkets. But I still wandered in awe, as I passed through the over 200 piecces of art at Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch.
An unusual inheritance and the birth of the Bottle Tree Ranch
Elmer Long had spent his childhood with his dad collecting unusual artifacts, including the many colored bottles that would otherwise be trash. After his father passed away, the collection then became Elmer’s. Instead of allowing his father’s collection to remain just one man’s treasure, he came up with a creative use for the myriad of beautifuly colored bottles and made the first bottle tree in the year 2000. That was the beginning of this unique art display that would show off this magnificent collection to the world. But this bottle tree ranch has so much more than just beautifully colored bottles. Among the trees you will find unusual and randomly placed artifacts that has almost a museum like quality. It is interesting to see the random placement of these artifacts. Not only is the Bottle Tree Ranch an art display, but it is the evidence of a father and son bonding experience that lasted for decades.
A perfect stop along the old 66
Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch is the perfect addition to the legacy of roadside attractions of the famed Route 66, notorious for being a road of hidden treasures, gems, and nostalgia. As the interstates have become the arteries of travel nowadays, when we look for adventure and sites apart from the ordinary, we seek the path less traveled to find our hidden treasure. Route 66 is rich with historic monuments, having the flavor and spice of true Americana, dotted with small town’s, roadside attractions, and reminders of what is the American dream. Elmer’s is far enough away from the bustle of the city that it feels like you are lost in the desert, yet it is less than 2 hours away from Los Angeles, and makes an easy side trip for Angelinos driving the 15 on their way to Vegas.
Tranquility in the forest
It is a known fact that a walk in the woods will give you a pleasurable feeling, as studied in the science referred to as “Forest Medicine”, also called shinrinyoko from the Japanese. Even the German’s have a special term for forest
tranquility, calling it “Waldeinsamkeit”. Now, although I cannot exactly compare the bottle trees to the profound glory of real nature, I can say that there seems to be a sweet tranquility that happens as you are wandering through the many “trees” of Elmer’s ranch. Wander through and you will see that that there is a certain kind of beauty and stillness that happens. See the beauty of the sun shining through the multicolored bottles that creates spectacles of light. Close your eyes, and instead of the swaying of branches, you will hear the gentle whirring and chiming of some of the surrounding trinkets. It is a fascinating walk through, that had me captivated in a way that I didn’t want to leave. I felt a draw, calling me in to stay, relax, and enjoy the surroundings that stimulated the senses. Although I can’t claim that lingering at the ranch will produce the same health benefits of true Forest Therapy, however, I can say that it did have a peaceful enjoyment. Can we coin our own term for it here on the Mojave’s Route 66? Perhaps we can call it “Bottlerelaxerism”. I’m jesting of course.
Visiting Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch
Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch is located along old Route 66, National Trails Hwy, Oro Grande, CA 92368. It is pretty much open every day, all day. During the day, the sun shines from above and creates beautiful light as it passes through the multicolored bottles. Parking is along the front, streetside. It is located on the west side of the highway, making it easy to pull in front if you are traveling southbound. If you are coming from the Victorville side, you would be going northbound, however it is easy to turn around to park in front. Entering a google maps search will take you directly to it if you are using your own GPS system.