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A colorful forest in the Mojave Desert -- Elmer Long and his Bottle Tree Ranch

by Kevin Ferguson with Robert Garrova | Off-Ramp

There's more than bottles at Bottle Tree Ranch. Alex Weimer/Flickr Creative Commons

Off Route 66, just north of Victorville, there's a forest in the desert. The forest has hundreds of trees -- but they're all made from bottles. 

For decades, Elmer Long has collected glass bottles and made trees out of them, displaying them in the desert at what he calls Bottle Tree Ranch.  Long isn't sure what compels him to make trees out of bottles. "I don't know," he says, laughing. "People like it, it will put a smile on anybody's face. For me, it's my whole life."

Raised in Manhattan beach, Long joined the military in 1964 and served in both Hawaii and Vietnam. Now he's in the Mojave Desert, attracting both road-trippers and tourists from around the world with his translucent trees. "I got stuck out here," Long says. 

Long's Bottle Tree Ranch is a massive work of art, with railroad signs, sun-bleached animal bones, and countless colorful bottles that catch the desert sunlight. But ... "I've never considered myself an artist," he says. "I do see things that other people don't see."

For Long, it's not just about the things he collects, it's about the stories that go with them too. "There's more out here than the eye can see. A lot of times you don't even know what you're looking at."

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