The Forest of Glass and Metal
Do you like out of the ordinary secret stops while traveling? Off the beaten path unusual destinations is one of the reason I started this blog, and Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch is a perfect beginning. This wayside stop features a cool piece of roadside Americana and encompasses an artist’s vision for creating something unique for others to enjoy.
Located in the heart of the California desert, Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch is literally a forest of trees where no forest will grow. With over 200 hand made bottle trees the colored glass that creates the branches and unique items that adore the tops are Elmer’s and his fathers found treasures from camping adventures throughout his life. This quirky art park feels as if Mad Max crashed into Dr. Seuss’s Who-ville.
Walking through the forest gave me a sense of wonder and curiosity. Each tree, crafted by Elmer himself, is a large metal pole designed to hold colored glass bottles from days when Root Beer was a nickel and glass insulators could be spotted atop of every power poll. These old pieces of glass now act as branches for Elmer’s trees. Elmer tops each tree with a piece of his own memorabilia.
There are no ordinary objects that escape you’ll find old Rakes, Sewing Machines, Guitars and even a Wagon Wheel, all looking as if they are doing a balancing act in the sky. My personal favorite was a tribute to 9/11. I would imagine that since ;Elmer is a veteran himself, it also has great meaning to him as well.
When walking though the entrance it’s a bit overwhelming as to where to let my eye rest first. I found myself more than once just standing in amazement taking it all in. Each tree seemed to have it’s own history, the sun glows and dances through the glass bottles like jewels as Elmer’s handmade wind chimes fill the air with music. It truly is a fun place for those who have a love for odd art and human passion.
Is Elmer from Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch Still Living?
Elmer Long, the 72-year old folk art artist, died on June 22, 2019 after a battle with lung cancer, said Oro Grande native Joe Manners. He was laid to rest on July 3 at Victor Valley Mortuary in Victorville, CA.
On the Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch Facebook page, Long’s son, Ellsworth Hayes, shared that Long “He was a bad-ass Marine, husband, father of 3 boys, and of course, the ‘bottle tree man’ … He was my best friend. And it brings tears to my eyes knowing there are people out there like yourself dedicated to the love of his bottle trees.”
How to Get There
You can find Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch located along Route 66. If you’re traveling I-15 for a Southern California vacation it is the perfect detour and added less than an hour and half to my commute. That was time well worth it. If you pack snacks, there’s even a place for lunch. The park is open from sunrise to sunset (which would be quite stunning). Visit the website for more information.
Joan Haven says
We stopped at Elmer’s a couple of weeks ago. We almost drove right past it as we were looking at the other side of the road. I happened to look around just in time to glimpse it as we drove by. We turned around and went back. While my husband was fascinated by the unique items topping each tree, I found myself drawn to the hummingbirds darting from the shade of the live trees. Elmer has hummingbird feeders located throughout the property. Speaking of Elmer, we just missed him. Another visitor told us she had spoken to him only minutes before we arrived. I’d love to have heard him tell his story personally. We enjoyed our stop. It was a nice detour from the usual tedium of the interstate.
I love hummingbirds too. When we were there it was in November. The feeders were hanging, but we didn’t see any birds. Maybe it was too cold. I would love to meet Elmer, I’m hoping he will be there when we go back in the fall.