5 Things to do While in Joshua Tree

When visiting Joshua Tree National Park, it can be easy to feel as though that is all the place has to offer. It is out in the middle of nowhere, after all. Nestled between Palm Springs and the back road to Las Vegas, the small desert space is packed with weird entertainment. Here are just a few things you can do all year long.

Get a soundbath – As weird as it sounds, it’s definitely something everyone should experience when visiting. A few miles from Joshua Tree lies Landers, a town that is really just a bunch of houses spaced out and a few stores and a pizza place in case they needed just a few things that didn’t warrant a drive out to Yucca Valley. Also in Landers is the Integretron. With an incredibly interesting history, the building is pretty and the water is supposedly healing thanks to the magnetic field under the area. It’s worth the drive to see the place and its history and you might even be surprised at how good you feel after leaving.

Eat at the Inn – Generally regarded as the best food in the area by the locals, the 29 Palms Inn is on the way to the park at the entrance in 29 Palms. Built on the Oasis of Mara, the Inn features beautiful bungalows available for rent, a fabulous Faultline garden full of food they use in the restaurant, and they have locals playing music every weekend and local art adorning the walls. Though the space is small, there is extra seating outside by the pool. The salad dressings at the restaurant are homemade. Much of the food is grown on-site and they take pride in not only their ingredients, but the presentation as well. Their specialty drinks are delicious and filled with fruit and liquor. The seasonal menu will assure you experience the best the desert has to offer.

See a show at Pappy and Harriet’s – Recently voted as one of the best concert venues in the L.A. area by L.A. Weekly, Pappy and Harriet’s is a gem. It began as a soundstage for old Hollywood westerns, many starring John Wayne. It’s now a honky tonk restaurant with an adjoining hotel. They have gotten big name indie bands and acts in past couple of years and keep upping their game. Dave Catching of The Eagles of Death Metal has a stake in the local recording studio you may have heard of, Rancho De La Luna, and he frequents the open mic night at Pappy’s. They’ve had Modest Mouse, The Pistol Annies, Jenny Lewis, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The Melvins just to name a few. Try to coordinate your trip to coincide with a concert and enjoy the intimacy of the venue.

Visit old town Yucca Valley – Yucca Valley is the adjacent town to the west of Joshua Tree. This is where all the corporations are; the Wal-Mart, the grocery stores, the chain clothing stores. There’s also old town, which houses the weird, locally owned shops. There’s a comic book store, hipster clothing stores, an antique shop which was spotlighted by Martha Stewart, and gloriously kitschy art and interior decor stores. There’s even an organic coffee shop and cafe if you get hungry while shopping.

Take a drive to Giant Rock – Another place in the desert with an incredibly rich history, Giant Rock is a great place to explore. It began as a house for a Nazi spy (I’m not kidding) who lived off of rainwater he collected thanks to a canal he found in the rock and eventually evolved into a meeting spot for huge UFO conventions. It’s located just a bit further than the Integretron and is next to an old airstrip that was used during WWII. The rock is spray painted now, thanks to local teens who make it out there to off road and party. It is a contrast of history and present day, color and desert beige.

There are endless adventures to experience in the desert. These are really only a few to check off the list, as told from a local who began as a visitor. The pioneering history is rich and even in the national park, you will find treasures and historical areas that will even interest the most bored of children.

Advertisements

Splash of Pop

In our digital age, it’s difficult to unplug. We forget to turn off the TV, we stay inside during sweltering summer days, opting for a movie marathon over a game of cards. We worship people who are famous for no reason. No real talent, aside from looking good (which is usually someone else’s job, too).

Most intellectual people, or people who try really hard to appear intelligent, will scoff at the idea of reality television. Could you imagine Einstein watching the Kardashians? Nah, I peg him as more of a Flipping Out guy.

I mean, really, just because you’re smart, does that mean you must only like Downtown Abbey? I know reality television is usually trash, but then, am I ridiculous for following rap beefs? What about UFC fighter Twitter battles? Why is pop culture suddenly so looked down upon?

Maybe it’s because my generation is altering the way we view things; after all, it’s difficult to recreate a decade like the nineties. So we turn our noses up at things we hate. Saturday Night Live will always be funny for us and we use our internet leverage and bring back our favorite snacks and drinks (that we probably try again and immediately regret). I mean, we rebooted Boy Meets World and Will Smith is somehow still acting in movies. I guess our love for the Fresh Prince, like the Scrunchies around our wrists, will never disappear.

I don’t consider myself horribly stupid; I know the difference between ‘there,’ ‘their,’ and ‘they’re’ at the very least (also ‘allowed’ and ‘aloud’). I vote, I research, I don’t share those things you see on Facebook about Venus being as big as the moon on a certain date, I know The Onion is satire. I also really like reality television and the UFC.

Shows that incorporate reality television and sports together ultimately end up being my favorite. The Challenge is one of my favorite television shows of all time. It has everything: a great storyline, action, drama, physical stunts, comedy, hook-ups, and break-ups. One of the most endearing parts of the show was the years-long love story between CT and Diem, which ended tragically last year when Diem passed away from cancer immediately following her stint filming her last season. The Ultimate Fighter, the reality show the UFC uses to recruit new talent, is always changing and getting better. They had a season full of women and it was glorious. They had a season in which Ronda Rousey coached against Miesha Tate and their hatred for each other was palpable. That’s great television.

So why do we hate on reality television? I suppose most of it is very vapid and annoying. It’s sometimes difficult for me to watch The Real Housewives shows because of their incessant bickering. Yet, the characters they choose are perfect always rope you in; interesting, neurotic, obsessive, funny, sarcastic. Give me a drunken Sonja Morgan in Tahiti over a cliche-filled cop in sunglasses any day.

Pop culture … the music, television, viral stories and videos … these are the things that help shape our society. Not going on Facebook doesn’t make you anymore of a human. Perhaps you appreciate things more, but as with everything: balance is key. We need nature (read my post from last year), we need to be outside, we need places untouched. But society is just as natural. It’s the interaction between humans, what we’re inventing and why we’re inventing it. A city is just as natural as an ant hill. So embrace society, like what you like. That doesn’t make you any less intelligent. Just find your balance.

“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you fucking like something, like it. That’s what’s wrong with our generation: that residual punk rock guilt, like, “You’re not supposed to like that. That’s not fucking cool.” Don’t fucking think it’s not cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” It is cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic”! Why the fuck not? Fuck you! That’s who I am, goddamn it! That whole guilty pleasure thing is full of fucking shit.” – Dave Grohl

Tangible Music

One of my favorite memories as a young kid was when my dad took me to Target on Tuesdays. You see, my father and I had a similar intense love of music and CDs were released on Tuesdays. I would scurry to the entertainment section and scour the racks for new music or maybe something I had recently discovered. I would peel open the cellophane in the car – obviously this job couldn’t wait until we got home – and immediately comb through the inner sleeve. I would read who the band thanked, who wrote the songs, or if they used excerpts from other songs.

This is why, no matter how much society tries, I will resist purchasing digital music as long as I possibly can. They still make CDs in 2015, so I purchase them instead. This weekend my boyfriend surprised me by buying me a new CD on Amazon. He could have gotten the digital version. It might have been cheaper and I would be able to listen to it instantly. In fact, I could probably do this on YouTube, anyway. But no, he bought me the CD because he knows what music means to me, especially tangible music.

I grew up without instant access to all the answers of questions I had regarding the music. My father, however, always paid for me to have a subscription to Spin magazine, which has always been slightly ahead of the curve. I bought Alternative Press magazine and studied the inside sleeves of my CDs like they were textbooks. Now, they buy digital copies of music tracks and can read through thousands of websites every time they Google a question regarding an artist.

They will never experience the sheer joy of peeling back that cellophane. They don’t know how frustrating the top strip is to remove from a CD case. It’s insane for my generation to be the last to discover music based on what records or CDs our older siblings had and the first to download MP3 tracks from our beloved Napster. CDs are recorded at a different volume, they sound better. Just like records sound better than CDs (everything sounds better than cassettes and 8 tracks). CDs have cover art and photography, they are a product of creativity and art all around.

Now everything is automatic. No waiting for the CDs to ship, no driving to the store to purchase them, and no potential for problems due to scratching. Take your phone into your car and there you go – your entire music library. No huge CD books, no sunvisor sleeves. Just the thing you carry around in your pocket or purse all day long. I guess I’m just getting older and I know how my parents felt when they longed for those coveted “good ol’ days.” They bitched about not being able to understand my screaming jibberish music and I just can’t understand how there are NO popular songs with actual instruments. Yeah, Jenny Lewis and Circa Survive were big names at Coachella but DRAKE headlined. DRAKE.

Well, as long as they continue to pump out CDs, I will continue to purchase them. Perhaps a little less frequently than before, but it’s difficult for me to find artists I like from this decade. But I will always have a love for tangible music. Do they still have CD clubs? I’d definitely be in on that.

Wonderland

When most people imagine Southern California, they envision beaches freckled with blond haired, chestnut skinned twenty-somethings and busy highways flowing into the smog filled horizon. All I can imagine are Joshua trees and the smell of wet creosote. Living in the Mojave High Desert alters your experience of what it means to live in Southern California and your classification of a beautiful landscape. I can appreciate brown hills, the small bursts of green from the tops of the Joshua trees, the tremendous amount of boulders that overtake most of the landscape, and I have even come to appreciate the bristling beauty of the cholla.

The desert is one place where nothing is as it seems. The drab cactus that litters the landscape will surprise springtime visitors with beautiful pink and yellow flowers, resembling Christmas lights strewn about the tan sand. It’s truly a spectacular sight when the desert comes to life after a long winter. Spring is also when we receive our heaviest influx of tourists, when the weather is no longer freezing and it hasn’t yet reached the typical 100 degrees of summer, so staying in a tent is actually a pleasant experience.  Some of them rent time shares or vacation homes if they plan on staying a little longer. Yet, I feel like these people never get to the heart of my beloved Joshua Tree. They will visit the markets and cafes, eat at the few restaurants we have, but living in a town as small as Joshua Tree you get to know everyone on a first name basis.

We have no corporations in our town, save for the two gas stations on the highway. We have hiking/rock climbing stores, restaurants, cafes, art galleries, real estate companies, a health food store, a yoga studio, a general store… all of which are owned by locals. It is wonderful thing to see the community flourish without the intrusion of giant corporate monsters sucking the profit from the town. We are having a hell of a time keeping it this way. The town and its wonderful residents are attempting to prevent the imposition of a Dollar General (of which there are 2 within 15 miles in either direction of Joshua Tree; one in 29 Palms and one in Yucca Valley) by fighting a rough court battle against the county.

Places like Joshua Tree need to exist. Places where nature and art are the driving force are necessary, especially in a place like Southern California whose natural beauty is so often undermined by capitalism and human interruption. Humans need places where nature reigns so we can remember what life is really all about. This is why I am so thankful that after years of jumping around from city to city, I have finally developed roots in Joshua Tree. I am in the midst of finding myself in this small town and I know there isn’t a better place to begin this journey. My son was born here and my daughter will soon be born in the same hospital. I found a deep rooted love and began a family, the first stop on this road to Who I Am, and I was fortunate enough to do so in the midst of the Joshua trees and creosote.