Have you been here?
Tuttle Creek Ashram
The Tuttle Creek Ashram is situated at an altitude of seventy-six-hundred feet on a steep ridge between the north and south forks of Tuttle Creek, a stream that flows briskly through a glacially carved canyon in the granitic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Built in the shape of a balanced cross, the ashram is a two-thousand-square-foot structure of natural stone and concrete, with a cement floor, heavy-beam roof, and a large fireplace; the stonework of the ashram blends so well into the ridge that the building is hard to see even from a distance of one-half of a mile away.
The history of this remarkable building can be traced back to 1928, when Franklin Merrell-Wolff and his wife Sherifa first visited the area west of Lone Pine, California. Here stands Mount Whitney, which at the time was the tallest peak in the United States. The couple had been told by an Indian acquaintance that the spiritual center of a country was close to its highest point of elevation, and for this reason they sought a nearby location to work on several writing projects. Starting at the legendary Olivas Ranch, Wolff and his wife packed their typewriters and camping supplies onto burros and hiked up to Hunter's Camp, a flat area at the base of Mount Whitney. The pair set up camp near a waterfall on Lone Pine Creek, and spent the next two months contemplating and writing. Later that year, the couple founded the Assembly of Man, an educational institution with a generally theosophical orientation. As part of this work, the couple decided to start a summer school near the area they had camped the previous summer. Wolff made inquiries to the U.S. Forest Service about a special use permit for the school, and was informed that in order to receive authorization for such an operation in the High Sierra Primitive Area, the As.sembly would be obliged to erect some sort of permanent structure. Moreover, he was notified that building permits for the Hunt.er's Camp area were not available. Accordingly, Wolff explored the next canyon south for a suitable site, and found a spot high in a beautiful pi–on pine forest surrounded by two branches of a clear, cold creek. The founders of the Assembly of Man decided that the remote and quiet wilderness of Tuttle Creek Canyon would provide the ideal atmosphere for their summer school. Wolff and the
members of the Assembly of Man received permission from the Forest Service to operate a summer school on Tuttle Creek in 1930, but it would be almost ten years before a site was leveled for a structure. Wolff handled all of the dynamite used to blast a flat area, and as rock began piling up, he got the idea to use it in the construc.tion of the building. The structure was laid out roughly along the four cardinal points of the compass, and built in the shape of a balanced cross to symbolize the principle of equilibrium.
Building materials such as lumber and cement were initially brought to the site on the backs of burros from Olivas Ranch, and the site was approached from the north side of the canyon. Later, Wolff cleared an access road on the south side of the canyon, which could accommodate a tractor pulling a flatbed trailer. Wolff and his students would spend the next ten summers working on the ashram, spending their days engaged in hard labor and their evenings with music and study around a campfire. The group also held formal services at the site, with Wolff and Sherifa officiating. A large altar was constructed on the floor of the structure, using randomly patterned granite stones set in mortar; the altar was topped by a smooth covering of mortar. Originally, there was no inscription on the altar, but sometime in the 1960s, an unknown visitor chiseled these words into the top face:
Father, Into thy eternal wisdom, all creative love, and infinite power I direct my thoughts,
give my devotion and manifest my energy That I may know, love, and serve thee.
Just south of the altar, in the concrete floor, is a thirty-two inch square hole. This spot was called 'the cornerstone,' and was where a person addressing the congregation was to stand. Over the years, the stonework walls, a large stone fireplace, two intersecting heavy-beamed gable roofs, and the window and door casings were all completed. But in 1951, before the windows and doors were installed, work ceased on the ashram because Sherifa, whom Wolff credits as being the main impetus behind the project, was no longer able to make the trip up to the building site. The name of the building was originally the 'Ajna Ashrama'; today Wolff's students refer to it simply as 'The Ashrama.' Lone Pine residents often refer to it as 'The Monastery' and one can find it called 'The Stone House' in hiking guides; it is known by the U.S. Forest Service as the 'Tuttle Creek Ashram.'
In 1964, the ashram was threatened with demolition when Congress passed the Wilderness Act, and Tuttle Creek Canyon became part of the John Muir Wilderness. Since the site had not been used as a school for over ten years, the Forest Service invoked a clause that allowed the agency to terminate Wolff's special use permit. Moreover, since buildings are not typically permitted in Wilderness Areas, the Forest Service considered dynamiting the structure into rubble.
In the early 1980s, however, the Forest Service evaluated the ashram for historical significance, and concluded that the structure was indeed significant; the California State Historic Preservation Officer concurred. At the time, several video documentaries were made in an effort to help preserve the ashram: The Philosopher's Stone (1980) and Ashrama Man (1983) are both available for viewing on the Franklin Merrell-Wolff Fellowship's website. In June 1998, the Inyo Register ran an article intimating that the ashram was in danger of demolition, but the Heritage Resources Program Manager at the local Forest Service office reiterated in the article that the ashram had been put on the removal list without any proper evaluation, and that 'The Forest Service would be looking at preserving this… unique architectural property.' Toward this end, it was planned to have the ashram nominated for recognition in the National Register of Historic Places, but these plans were never culminated; the topographical site plan and floor plan below are taken from the nomination form.
A 23-minute film that documents some of the construction of the Ashrama (in 1940) may be viewed on the website at www.merrell-wolff.org/fmw/ashrama
Endnotes  Tuttle Creek descends from Mt. Langley (14,042 feet) to the town of Lone Pine, California.  When Alaska was granted statehood in 1959, Mt. McKinley (Denali) became the highest point in the United States.  Located at an altitude of
eight-thousand feet, this area was also known as 'Hunter Flat'; both names honored William L. Hunter, an early pioneer of Owens Valley and one of the two men who made the first ascent of nearby Mt. Williamson in 1884. (Mt. Williamson is the second highest peak in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.) The name of this area was changed to 'Whitney Portal' after the official opening of an automobile road to the flat in June 1936.  Wolff began writing his first book, which would be published under the title Yoga: Its Problems, Its Purpose, Its Technique; Sherifa drafted a Sanskrit dictionary called 'Devan.gar.,' as well as several other essays.  Faustin Bray & Brian Wallace, The Philosopher's Stone (Mill Valley, Calif.: Sound Photosynthesis, 1980); Ashrama Man (Mammoth, Calif.: Mammoth TV, 1983). Both of these interviews may be accessed on the Interviews page under the Franklin Merrell-Wolff tab.  Julian Lukins, 'Efforts under way to preserve ashram,' Inyo Register, June 13, 1998. Except where otherwise noted, content on the Franklin Merrell-Wolff Fellowship website by the Editors and Authors is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial-Share-A-Like 4.0 International License.
Guest Speakerat the 2018 Rondy
Alexander (Sandy) Rogers
We were fortunate enough to have Mr. Rogers as our featured guest speaker at the 2018 rondy. He is the archaeology curator at the Maturango museum in Ridgecrest and is a consulting archaeologist.
Mr. Rogers was a physicist and engineer with the China Lake Naval Weapons Laboratory until retiring in 2002. He has written numerous papers on hunter-gatherer cultures of the Great Basin and the archaeology of rock art. He holds masters degrees in physics and anthropology.
He gave us an excellent presentation of the petroglyphs of the Coso region which includes the upper Mojave Desert and southwestern. He explained how obsidian can be dated and its origin traced. Obsidian arrowheads and tools are found along early native trade routes and their origin can be identified.
Desert Explorers Meeting Minutes
March 3rd, 2018
Attending: Jean & Sunny Hansen, Jerry & Dolly Dupree, Dave Burdick, Emmett & Ruth Harder, Allan & Ding Wicker, Neal & Marian Johns, Terry Ogden, Daniel Dick & Bobby Sanchez, Bill & Julie Smith, Jay Lawrence, Bob Jacoby.
Meeting Opened 11:35 a.m.
Previous minutes Approved.
Regrets Deb & Steve Marschke, Nelson Miller, Bill Neill
Treasurer As of the meeting we have 95 active memberships. Museum dues will be able to be paid at the same time as DE dues soon. We have seven new memberships since December 16. New subscribers are coming in through our
website and subscribing online. Current treasury $5,291.56, with website renewal and Rondy expenses pending.
Newsletter Going well, attaboys and compliments offered. Suggested running a bunch of DE business cards with just the logo and web address and giving out a bunch to each member to have on hand when talking to new people about DE. Will also check out a new run of bumper stickers. Report back next meeting.
Rondy Two inbound trips, Jacoby in the Cosos with Bill Powell, Bob Jaussaud Boron to Randsburg. Potluck Friday night with Bill Powell presentation teaser for the Hastings Cutoff trip. Two Saturday trips, Jerry Dupree to Trona Pinnacles, Bob Jacoby to the Sierras. Catered dinner with speaker Dr. Sandy Rogers on China Lake petroglyphs. Sunday trips: Nelson to the El Pasos, Jay to Red Rocks. NO ALCOHOL at Rondy site.
Website Deb reports no problem in the last six months, no cyber attacks. Up to date through February, archives have all of 2017 newsletters. There is now a linked photo memorial for Jerry Harada & Coop Cooper. Big Thanks to Crazy Suzy for all her work! Ham operator page is updated. All of Neal Johns hidden past is posted. The domain is renewed and current. Big Thanks to our WebGoddess Deb Miller Marschke!
Subscriber Guide Tabled. Updating the Guide has been on the back burner but we will endeavor to have it whipped into shape soonish.
Museum Work party was a grand success and greatly appreciated by Pat and the Museum crew. Also noted was how good the museum newsletter is looking these days. Good work!
Trips Post Rondy:
Next meeting May 12th at Ding & Allan Wicker’s home.
Holiday Fiesta at Ding and Allan Wicker’s House!
I t’s possible you had an excuse for not making the Desert Explorers holiday gathering at the home of Ding and Allan Wicker, but it couldn’t have been a very good one. You must plan better next year. The folks who did make it were treated to great food, happy people, a festive day and some twisted fun with the “bring a gift, get a gift, steal a gift” game.
We kicked the gathering off with the shortest DE meeting on record, less than 25 minutes! There were wonderful dishes, savory, sweet, local, international, hot, cold and in-between. Nobody went hungry and everybody found things to satisfy their cravings.
Regardless of folks’ backgrounds or traditions, it is always a wonderful way to wrap up the year. Warm greetings, friendly faces, good food and a wacky game to loosen things up made this a wonderful afternoon.
Who was there? Bob Jacoby, Bob and Sue Jaussaud, Nan Healy, Jean and Sunny Hansen, Julie and Bill Smith, Kate Fosselman and Steve Jarvis, Neal and Marian Johns, Ruth and Emmett Harder, Bobby Sanchez and Daniel Dick, Jim Watson and his sweetheart Linda, Ann Yibing Bai, Marie and Nelson Miller, Ellen Miller, Dave McFarland, Axel Heller, Jay Lawrence, Bruce Bartlett, Dolly and Jerry Dupree, Nancy Maclean and Ron Ross, Vicki Hill, Genmarie Wentworth, and our hosts Ding and Allan Wicker.
Thank you Ding and Allan for having us again this year. It was big fun!
Click Read More for photos
The Ongoing Anderson Expedition
After a recent plea for items for the Desert Explorers newsletter, this note came in from one of our subscribers, Joey Anderson:
“Feel free to use any of our posts from our trips on our website for the newsletter!! www.andersonoverland.com You can also follow us on instagram or facebook - @andersonoverland”
The Anderson family is Joey Anderson, Robyn Anderson, Jetta Anderson, and Luna Anderson (the puppy).
Here is their introduction on their website: “Hello. We are here to encourage, motivate, and assist those seeking to be adventurous! We strive to be an inspiration to the 4x4’ing and adventurer community by sharing wonderful experiences we have out on the open road! Our goal is to also provide unbiased opinions about products we use on as regular basis whether it be for dispersed camping or just trail riding.”
( the included items were poached off thier website) Their site is terrific, outstanding photos and text, good looking layout and sets a very high bar. We will be following it in the future and snagging the odd photo and bits of commentary as the world turns. Thank you Joey and family for your kind offer and a great site. Glad to have you with us in the Desert Explorers.
Joso in the Oval Office?
This is the kind of thing that haunts our dreams... Desert Explorer, reprobate and raconteur Bob Jaussaud at the helm of the ship of state. Here is the evidence:
Bob in replica Oval Office, Nixon library, Yorba Linda, CA. Is that Putin calling?
Desert Explorers Meeting Minutes July 8, 2017
Attending: Bob & Sue Jaussaud, Debbie Miller Marschke, Bill & Julie Smith, Ding & Allan Wicker, Dolly & Jerry Dupree, Emmett & Ruth Harder, Mal Roode, Jay Lawrence, Neal & Marian Johns. Regrets: Nelson Miller, Nan Healy, Steve Jarvis, Steve Marschke, Terry Ogden.
Meeting Opened 11:45 a.m.
Previous minutes: Approved.
Treasurer Bill Smith reported bank checking and savings total $4,426.10 as of June 30. Discussed possible calendar year renewal subscriptions to newsletter instead of subscription anniversary date renewals. We all figured it would cause as much work as it cut so it was dropped. Also covered the idea of lifetime subscriptions and decided against it. The newsletter is already inexpensive so just subscribe for a longer time. Easy peasy. We are sending $50 to the Needles Museum to put our logo on one of the pages of their excellent calendar. We are giving several honorary subscriptions to the MVRM, Museum Lead Pat Schoffstall, DE pioneers Neal & Marian Johns and Crazy Suzy our website builder.
Newsletter The newsletter is running smoothly with quite a few regular contributors. We had a brief discussion on what works well for contributions in terms of text and images. Jay will write up a short recap for the newsletter.
Website Deb reported that she received all the materials to post recent newsletter content. May, June and July will be up on the web shortly. Right now it looks good, runs good and all is well.
(click read more for the rest of the story and photos)
An article from Westways September 16, 2016 issue sparked some interest from DE’er Julie Smith. A little digging revealed this: “Old Dinah was Borax Smith’s experiment in transporting ore from the mines at Borate to the railroad at Daggett in 1894. Dinah was a traction engine which burned coal – 3.5 tons a day. Her speed was 3.5 miles an hour on level ground, not including time out for getting stuck in sand. On steep grades she slipped backwards faster than she could go forward.
It took four men to keep Dinah running: an engineer, a fireman, a brakeman and a mechanic who worked all night, every night to put her in shape for the next day’s run.
After a year struggle, Dinah was abandoned and the 20 Mule Teams which had continued to haul alongside of her took over the job again.”
Old Dinah got one more chance when borax operations resumed in Death Valley in 1904. Trying to avoid the expense of a railroad into Death Valley, the Borax Company graded a 98 mile tractor road from the borax mines to the railroad. Dinah broke down on her first trip, and had to be towed home by the very mules she had tried so long to replace. In 1910, Old Dinah was sold to a freighter for use hauling supplies between Beatty and the Keane Wonder Mine. After a couple of years, Dinah broke down in the Daylight Pass and her owner abandoned her in disgust. In 1932, Harry Gower rescued Old Dinah and brought her to her present location in Furnace Creek.
Desert Explorers Meeting Minutes February 11, 2017
Attending: Dave Burdick, Daniel Dick & Bobbie Sanchez, Barbara Midlikoski, Mal Roode, Bill & Julie Smith, Jerry & Dolly Dupree, Bob Jacoby, Steve Jarvis & Kate Fosselman, Neal & Marian Johns, Nelson Miller, Sunny & Jean Hansen, Terry Ogden, Allan & Ding Wicker, Jay Lawrence.
(click read more please)
Desert Explorers Meeting Minutes • July 16, 2016
Attending: Bob Jacoby, Debbie Miller-Marschke, Neal & Marian Johns, Terry Ogden, Ruth & Emmett Harder, Mal Roode, Sue & Bob Jaussaud, Bobbie Sanchez & Daniel Dick, Jerry Dupree, Jean & Sunny Hansen, Vicki Hill, Betty Wallin & Don Sweinhart, Ding & Allan Wicker, Nan Healy, Jay Lawrence.
Regrets: Ted Kalil out sick. Steve Marschke: “He was doing a fence project that he could have paid someone to do but he did it himself because he’s Steve.” (Deb)
Call to order: 11:52 a.m.
Previous minutes: Approved.
Treasurer’s Report: Ted Kalil was sick and asked to be relieved as Treasurer. We need a volunteer, job usually takes about 4-6 hours per month.
• Online pay for new subscriptions and renewals is only partially used. Need to remind folks this option is available.
• Neal has T-Shirt paperwork and needs someone new to take this over next time.
• DE balance roughly: $4,400 after donations to MVRM and Shoshone Museum, approx $1,400 owed to Neal for shirts & hats.
Newsletter: Everything was humming along nicely. We need more contributors. Please send your trip writeups, story ideas and photos to Jay. Remind trip leaders to make sure somebody on their trip will do a writeup. It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare. Send your photos!
Website: Deb is getting caught up and trying to bring all trip reports current. Web hosting storage has been bumped up to accommodate all the archived newsletter files. Expense is now $50/year. Facebook page questions were fielded by Mal, who noted that we have had a Facebook page for the DE for several years and it is active. Encouraged all to visit and use it. It helps direct people to our website and has a live link on it. It is being underused.
Folks wanted to know how Crazy Suzy, our web tech, got her name. Unsolved... but it was moved, seconded and approved that we make her a member and send the Newsletter for free since she has helped us so much with the website.
Museum Deb was distressed to report that the Early Man site was vandalized thoroughly, all displayed materials taken as well as generators and equipment. It is being investigated by the police but the outlook for recovery and reinstatement is grim.
There is an upcoming barbecue at the museum. Museum newsletters will resume in the fall.
• California to Oregon trip just finished, report pending
• San Bernardino National Forest cancelled due to Ted’s illness
• White Mountains & Bristlecone Pines - August 5 - 7 - Leader Ron Lipari is on track and full
• Mojave Road Trip - October 22-23, 2016 - Leader Neal & Marian Johns and Nelson Miller. Terry Ogden and Jerry Dupree are going. More details in the Calendar of Upcoming Trips.
• Nelson possibly doing 2-3 one-day trips in the Mojave in the fall.
• October 24-27 Joso River Get Together
• Santa Barbara backroads trip postponed due to fire closed roads.
• Mojave Road Rendezvous October 7-9 at Goffs, California.
• Bill Powell may do a Hastings Cutoff trip through Nevada and Utah. He is researching the Pony Express route and Hastings Cutoff. Trails West has a good guidebook on this.
Trip Leadership It was discussed and agreed by all that the trip leader should always have the responsibility and authority to decide who and what vehicles can or should go on a trip they are leading. Driver experience level, appropriateness of vehicle for the trail, participant fitness and demands of the trail all figure into this decision. Moved, seconded and passed unanimously that any persons or vehicles participation in a trip is at the discretion of the leader.
2017 Rondy It was suggested and chewed over that Blythe, California be the site of our next Rendezvous. Jerry Dupree reported favorably on the facility, trails available, nearby areas of interest and welcome by the local chamber of commerce. Possible dates are early March 10-12 or late February. Neal and Marian offered to lead a trip to Dripping Springs, Bob Jacoby noted a book available on dirt road trips in the Quartzite area. Castle Dome site and the local museums in Blythe and Quartzite were mentioned. Jerry will dig further and report back.
Leader’s Checklist Neal updated the leader guide which was originally done by John Page. Bob Jacoby is editing. The final version will go on our website and be available to all subscribers.
New Business Bob Jaussaud noted that the Needles Museum was getting rid of extra copies of the Footprints publicaton by the late, great Maggie McPherson. Vicki Hill would like more folks to make things for the Rendezvous Auction and would like to see something in the newsletter promoting it. Somebody (not sure who) suggested posting an article about the newsletter on our Facebook page. Good idea! Now who will do it? Let’s see those hands!
Next Meeting August 27th at Don & Betty’s house in Yucca Valley.
Adjourned 1:02 p.m.
Thank you, Ding and Allan Wicker for hosting us in your home once again.
Photos: Allan Wicker & Jerry Dupree