Desert Christ Park
Yucca Valley, California
A strangely beautiful desert hillside has been the location of Desert Christ Park for over 50 years. An earthquake in 1992 wreaked havoc with many of the statues, but this is still a striking yet meditative attraction.
Desert Christ Park (called for a time Antone Martin Memorial Park) is the only place in the world where you can be a participant in The Last Supper. The larger-than-life bas-relief features a window perfect for posing next to JC. Any pangs of sacrilege dispel when you notice the back of the tableau is tiered for exactly this photo op.
Starting in the 1950s, sculptor Antone Martin fashioned concrete into over 35 Biblical figures. Despite the apparent theme, he created the park as his personal statement of peace rather than religious devotion.
Statues dot the hillside wrapping above the Evangelical Free Church in a fashion seen today only in surreal pharmaceutical commercials.
There are groupings of disciples listening to the Sermon on the Mount, apostles and other biblical characters in discussion or contemplation. The bright alabaster sculptures of followers tend to face away from the sun, while the Messiah images all face the bustling town of Yucca Valley.
There is a Tomb of Christ, a Garden of Gethsemane, a well and women drawing water from it. Or they would be if the earthquake hadn't done it's dirty work.
That 1992 earthquake -- a shaky 7.3 magnitude just north in Landers, took off the heads and hands of many of the sculptures. On some, rebar juts out like bone stumps. The fragments have been cleared away, and the park appears well maintained.
A dry, rainless climate has protected most of the works from aggressive weathering, but someone will have to tackle restoration eventually.
Desert Christ Park is free, and always open (you can't camp overnight). We spotted a few other souls during our late afternoon visit -- two local teens sitting at a sculpted table, who disappeared when the cameras came out.