Coyote Hole Springs

One of my favorite hikes in Joshua Tree happens to be in a wash outside of Joshua Tree National Park. Discovered and named by George Washington’s nephew Henry, Coyote Hole Springs is a beautiful, small, and secluded hike with rich history and pristine desert scenery.

The beginning of the hike may seem a little off-putting. The trailhead is behind 2 gates and across someone’s long driveway. As long as you park on the road, there’s no issues and the gates are easily gone around, under, or over. You can ignore the no trespassing signs. However, do not ignore the “Who Passed This Way?” signs. Read them and ahere—don’t move or remove anything.

It’s a wash, so it’s soft sand with areas of packed dirt. I went today and the sand was packed, hard mud. Today, it was very much washed through. It obviously received some intense rains, the mud is flowed and canyoned from the running water. There are large rocks placed halfway through to keep trucks out. The gates used to be open and the trucks could easily go down, allowing for teenage parties which always included bonfires and littering.

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Beginning of the hike. This shows the wash and the flow of the dirt.

Just passed these rocks you can see the Serrano petroglyphs. On the right there are some as well as on the left. They are pretty high up and some of them are very clearly drawings of people. This is my favorite part and is breathtaking to me.

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Petroglyphs on the right side after the “Who Passed This Way?” sign.

At the end of the hike, there is a large canyon. The canyon leads you to the left and there is a rock formation which becomes a natural waterfall with enough rain. Beside that, to the left, is the hole the coyotes dig in order to catch the rainwater. Hence the name Coyote Hole Springs. The locals know it simply as Coyote Hole. It’s a beautiful place that can transform into a river in the desert, surrounded by ancient petroglyphs. The canyon is very much a doorway into the American past.

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End of the hike. Straight ahead on the right is the waterfall, to the left is the coyote hole. It still had a bit of water in it today.

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3 Best (and free!) Hiking Trails Around Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is quickly becoming one of America’s favorite national parks, with record annual visitors topping one million in recent years. With over 1200 sq ft of protected park, it would take a while to explore every inch of the park. Yet, the area surrounding the park is open and vast, with the town of Joshua Tree being unincorporated, the locals know there are places without an entrance fee worth discovering. I have three hikes around town that I absolutely adore and they are all outside of the national park, they all look different, and they are all beautiful places to see after a good rain.

Coyote Hole – One of my favorite places of all time, Coyote Hole is an unexpected hike. It begins on Easterly Dr in Joshua Tree. There’s a house just up the hill on the right and gates blocking the dirt path off from cars. The area is mostly soft sand and surrounded by high hills and cliffs. This is often called a wash and is an irrigation route during extreme rains. About 30 feet above the ground on some rocks are Serrano pictographs, visible with the naked eye. Zoom in with a camera and get an even better view. There are signs posted asking “Who walked this way?” and explains the natural history and preservation of the area. At the end of the hike, about a half mile from the start, is where the water falls down. It’s beautiful, minus the assholes who feel the need to spray paint. Thankfully, the graffiti is painted over quickly. Climb up the rocks and see the water if it has rained recently and enjoy the natural habitat and flowers on the hike back. In fact, if you managed to get there directly after a good rain, you’ll be able to see a natural waterfall in the desert.

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Serrano pictographs located at Coyote Hole

Big Morongo Preserve – Definitely one of the most beautiful places in the Morongo Basin, the Big Morongo Preserve is an ecological anomaly. Upon entering, there are places to sign in, a map of where the visitors have been from, and informational flyers on the animals and plants you might see along the way. It is green. There are trees, plants, streams, ponds, and another flat wash area with built in hiking paths and seating areas, perfect for photos. The light at sunset is breathtaking. There’s a large bird population and is a must-see for avid bird watchers. It’s also an amazing place for photography.

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Tarantula Hawk (wasp) photographed just off the trail at the Morongo Preserve.

Rattlesnake Canyon – Regardless of the foreboding name, this is one of the absolute best hikes in Joshua Tree and you can do it for free. It requires some minimal rock scrambling, but it is the quickest way to get the best view of the Wonderland of Rocks. There are waterfalls, sometimes if there is enough rainwater, the beginning of the trail turns into a small creek. The hike features small running waterfalls and pools throughout and the top ends in a gorgeous maze of rocks and puddles, some of the rocks perfect for sunbathing. The top also sports a gorgeous view overlooking the desert.

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Looking down the rocks at Rattlesnake Canyon a few days after a rain.

The desert isn’t as brown and boring as most assume and people are beginning to come around. As a local, it’s fun to find great places and share them with people who will seek them out and truly appreciate them. This desert is a magical place and these three spots just happen to hold a special place in my heart because I have seen them all that their best—full of water after a great rain. They only add to the mythical feeling and lure of the desert, a place I never pictured myself seeing and now a place I will never forget.

Don’t Be Afraid to Vacation in The Desert

When thinking of a family vacation, the word ‘desert’ probably doesn’t come in on the list of Top Five Places. It’s time to rethink that outdated list and discover the beauty of the southern California high desert. From big, clean skies to awesome murals and landscapes, the desert has something for absolutely everyone.

The Seasons Rock – The best thing about the high desert is the temperature in every season that is not the summer. Spring is obviously the most vibrant. After a nice, wet winter, the desert floor is often coated in a yellow blanket of wildflowers. The fall air in the high desert is crisp and cool, a distinctive feeling that comes around right before the temperatures begin to drop. High desert winters, unlike the lower Colorado desert, get cold enough for snowfall, which usually happens once or twice over the season. It’s a marvelous sight, the Joshua trees all covered in white snow. Such a beautiful contrast. The summers are usually hot, but not unbelievable like Palm Springs. Tent camping is totally possible and comfortable virtually year-round.

Joshua Trees – One of my favorite things about the high desert are the Joshua trees. They are fickle and need a particular amount of dryness, rain, and elevation to prosper. They are only found in the Mojave Desert, making them a bucket list must see. They look weird, almost human like, which is how they got their name. They resembled Joshua from Biblical times reaching up toward Heaven. However, once you realize they only grow in a certain area, you will begin to realize Hollywood uses that desert for everything. In Kill Bill, the church they go to is supposedly in Texas, but there are Joshua trees surrounding it. Sorry, guys.

Music and Art – Unless you lived under a rock in 2014, you probably heard about the show Dave Grohl made which features recording studios from across the country. It was called Sonic Highways and they recorded a majority of the Los Angeles episode in Joshua Tree at a small house/studio called Rancho De La Luna. Joshua Tree has an incredibly developed, rich artistic community. There are numerous art shops in unincorporated Joshua Tree, as well as neighboring Yucca Valley. The local honky tonk is exploding in the LA music scene, as well as the local music scene, which now sports an online radio station. There are murals galore in every city in the Morongo Basin. There are local art tours, world renowned mural artists, writers, and soon there will even be an International Film Festival. There is always something going on, so when you’re in town, don’t forget to take a look on a “what’s happening” cork board, of which there are quite of in Joshua Tree alone.

Smog-Free Skies – An extreme rarity in Southern California, the Morongo Basin sky lacks smog, revealing itself in all its glory. The Milky Way drapes across, behind Joshua trees and cactus, the moon peeking through Yucca leaves.  During the day, your family can enjoy hiking in clean air at an elevation that is not unkind to young lungs. While other attractions across Southern California are in the middle of traffic-heavy cities, Joshua Tree National Park and the surrounding areas maintain cerulean blue skies filled with fresh, minimally polluted air.

Unplugging is Good for Your Soul – Unplugging from the digital world and plugging into the real world via a trip to Joshua Tree is the perfect way to bring everyone closer together. From pictographs left behind by the Serrano Indians to rock climbers highlining between rock formations, the sights around you will keep your face from being buried in your phone. Like many places that have been relatively untouched, the desert possesses a certain magic and it’s palpable from the minute you arrive. The sights and sounds, even the glorious smell of creosote after a good rain all mix together and give the air an almost electric feel.

There really is nothing like the desert, especially a place like Joshua Tree National Park. Don’t be afraid to venture out and see why this is one of America’s most beloved national parks and why people from all over the world come to stay. Show your soul a place more inhabited by wildlife and plants than by people.

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.

The Melvins at Winston’s

It was a muggy August night. The weather report called for rain, but all that came was wet air so thick, you could slice it with a butter knife. I was nervous. It was the first night I’d spent away from my husband and new baby since before she was born (she would turn 7 months old the next day). It was a good nervous. I had spent much of my youth doing this exact thing and it honestly felt a little like a home.

I stepped out of my car and greeted my jubilant friend with a hug and a shout.

“Are you ready or what?” she asked me.

I was beyond ready. ”Let’s get a drink!”

It was a punk show and typically, she was in black Doc Marten’s and I was wearing old school hi-top Vans. We kicked up dust as we made our way to the entrance of the venue—a honky tonk called Winston’s. Winston’s was famous for a few things; it’s famous for being an old Hollywood western sound stage, it’s been featured on a cooking show for its delicious slow cooked barbeque, and it was quickly becoming one of the top intimate venues in southern California.

After getting our wristbands from will call, we found ourselves ordering drinks and laughing about something from the internet. I knew we’d now be back out the door so my friend could enjoy a cigarette.

I enjoyed eyeing the people and sipping my drink. It was a Seven and Seven, my favorite. It was cool and refreshing, saving me from a dreadful desert night. My pants were damp against my legs and the back of my neck was wet. Still, I watched the wide array of concertgoers in awe. There were the typical twentysomething punks, old bearded hippies, hipster scene girls with shorts cut so high they were almost a romper, and the aging punks who grew up going to the Melvins’ shows. They were the ones growing up in punk’s heyday. Now they’re electricians and garage door repairmen who frequent Winston’s, clamoring for a feeling of those glory days.

Winston’s was a coveted place and has recently exploded with huge acts, especially during the week between the two weekends Coachella runs. Some of the artists make the drive and stay in Joshua Tree to avoid the heat of the lower desert and inevitably visit Winston’s and some play unannounced shows. A few years ago, they were doing yearly concerts by The Donnas and now, they have everyone from Sean Lennon to Jenny Lewis, The Pistol Annies, and it was even a stop on Neutral Milk Hotel’s farewell tour.

We heard the familiar sting of a guitar string reverberating through the amplifier and hussled inside. Roger Osbourne is an eccentric individual and his style is the same. It’s the middle of a sweltering August in the Mojave Desert inside a tiny honky tonk stuffed with people producing body heat and he’s wearing a goddamn black hoodie with bright colored paisley designs on it. He possessed an unbelievably large white afro. Some artists have hair that take on a life of their own (The Cure’s Robert Smith is a good example) and Roger’s hair was a fuzzy accessory to shake and flap around while he played his guitar.

They had two drum sets set up. Dale Crover (the original drummer for Nirvana) plays with The Melvins occasionally, and I was hoping I could end this show being able to say I’ve seen both drummers for Nirvana in concert. No such luck. Two young, handsome, sweaty guys were holding drumsticks, both chugging beers from the mason jar mugs that were famously Winston’s. It was a fun sight.

The music was too loud for the space. It was an indoor show and the inside of Winston’s was cluttered. It was a restaurant by day and there were plenty of chairs and tables throughout. It was wood everywhere, with kitschy decor littering the walls: dollar bills signed by famous visitors and musicians, previous show flyers, head shots of old west actors. There was a room in the front left of the building with pool tables and a jukebox, which was rarely ever used. The back of the building held the tiny stage, barely large enough for a full band. A small area devoid of chairs or tables which stood as the “audience space” or dance floor for shows. There was a smoker and barbeque pit outside in the beer garden, along with more seating.

The music was so loud, in fact, it was literally in every cell of my body. I could feel it my bones, in my chest. The drummers battled and dueted, exchanging solos with Osbourne. The whole crowd swayed, a few were headbanging a bit harder. Sweat and whisky dripped off my body and out of my glass, staining my shoes. Every time Osbourne screamed into the mic, his words vibrated through my bones.

This was home; sweaty, excited, exhausted fun. I was ready for the next one. I had just witnessed a small bit of music history, just a fraction of what happens in a year here at Winston’s. It’s amazing the way a sound, a smell, a restaurant can feel like home. Music does that to us, especially live music in an intimate venue like Winston’s. I had broken away from my new self: the mother, the wife, the caregiver and visited the old me. I got to see the girl that risked it all for a concert, drove out to LA with barely any money in her pockets to be in a music video, the girl that waited outside of concert halls religiously early for a good sport.

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.