Ready to leave the hustle and bustle of city life behind? Follow the footsteps of Escondido-born artist Andrea Zittel, who moved to Joshua Tree National Park 15 years ago to build "Wagon Station Encampment," a small community in the middle of a vast desert.
Offering 12 A-Z Wagon Stations (or sleeping pods), a communal outdoor kitchen, open air showers, and composting toilets, the intimate communal encampment is open to guests for just for two seasons each year: spring (April) and fall (October).
For two months out of the year, Zittel's A-Z West, consisting of 35-acres in the high desert, comes alive with artists and hikers, innovative sculptures and design projects, and anyone who feels the need to disconnect from the modern world. Anyone is welcome at this small, isolated community, as long as guests are thoughtful, considerate and supportive.
The lifestyle in the desert is community-based: guests share the outdoor kitchen, the open air shower and toilets, and split day-to-day chores such as cooking, washing dishes, or helping with the organization of the camp. At night, campers snuggle into an elevated pod—the design was based on NASA Mars base tests in the Mojave desert and the pioneer settlers of Arizona— that allow for comfort, protection from the elements, and fresh air. Each sleeping pod can be locked at night and contains a small door for ventilation, hooks for clothes, and a comfortable mattress and bedding. Guests can even personalize the pods with their own designs, rugs, bedding or paintings.
Zittel began her desert adventure as an exploration of day-to-day living in an environment far from the comforts of a city. She considers the encampment a social experiment to see how a semi-hostile environment and lack of resources can affect the way in which guests relate to each other and to the outdoors.
To support the wagon encampment, Zittel designs sculptures and installation for galleries around the world. All of the money earned from selling her artworks goes to fund the encampment experiment and to support her 10-year-old son who lives with her in Joshua Tree.
Ready to give it a go? Wagons can be reserved for a week by submitting an application with a short bio and a non-refundable fee of $20. // zittel.org/work/a-z-west