The journey to the metaphysical mecca of Joshua Tree, deep in the Mojave desert is a spiritual one. There’s a connectedness and a solitary easeful feeling that arises passing through those gnarled trees that give this area its name.
To get prepared for any adventure I like to get the vibe going at home first. I have my own little bohemian traveler library and there's a full list in my book for every single chapter and destination. I've pulled a few favorites from the "Way Out West" chapter to get you in the desert head space!
Movies to watch: Stones For Ibarra (1988), Lo Sound Desert (2015), Bagdad Cafe (1987), Young Guns (1988), Tiger Eyes (Judy Blume), The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Books to read: Wind, Sand and Stars (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry), Joshua Tree (Rudy Vanderlans), A Field Guide to Getting Lost (Rebecca Solnit), Desert Solitaire (Edward Abbey), Complete Astrology: The Classic Guide to Modern Astrology (Alan Oken)
Bands to set the tone: U2, Queens of the Stone Age, Emmy Lou Harris, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Best Coast, Wavves, Eagles of Death Metal
Painters, writers, poets and musicians have been making the pilgrimage to Joshua Tree for decades. John Lennon famously recorded “Imagine” and Come Together” from The Joshua Tree Tapes here. There’s a love story to enlightenment transcending from these rare landscapes.
There’s a ghost of melancholy romance in the atmosphere.
Gram Parsons of the Byrds and the Rolling Stones, who died suddenly in room Number Eight at the Joshua Tree Inn, spent time there. He had a deep chemistry with Emmy Lou Harris - and while the two never quite solidified their love affair, the cosmic cowboy sound they created is reflective of the electricity between them. Outlaw artists of the early 70’s went for wide open spaces, psychedelic enlightenment, in an outpost surrounded by monumental rock formations, mojave yucca, juniper and sage.
What to pack for a trip to Joshua Tree
The Joshua Tree girl hangs with friends channeling the proper 70s-era rocker. She dresses in glamorous maxi gowns or in leather, fringe and concert tees. In Joshua tree she blooms. She’s a delicate cactus flower, stylish by nature mixing high end designer finds with hand-me-downs vintage beauties from her grandmother’s closet.
Where to stay
There’s so many Airbnb options, from tree houses to homestead cabins each offering a unique experience and a shift in perspective. On my most recent visit we chose the Cozy Dezert Retreat - for less than about $100/night there's 2 bedrooms, an outdoor firepit, jacuzzi tub and scenic views abound.
Another (super instagrammable option) is the Dome in the Desert. An 80’s era geodesic dome, stocked with books on palm reading and fortune telling and all sorts of knick knacks you’ll want to find for your house back home. Light up the palo santo here and allow your inner creativity to be unhinged.
Can't Miss Joshua Tree:
FOR THE SPIRITUALIST: Schedule a visit to the Integratron for a chakra alignment and sound bath. The Integratron is an energy machine built on a geomagnetic vortex in Landers, California, twenty miles north of Joshua Tree. According to the creator, the wooden dome was built utilizing the design of Moses’s Tabernacle, the writings of Nikola Tesla, and telepathic directions from extraterrestrials. Mmmhm, not quite sure who ET contacted but interesting right?!
According to the website, “The structure is designed to be an electrostatic generator for the purpose of rejuvenation and time travel.” You’ll float out the door afterward.
FOR THE FASHIONISTA: Throughout Joshua Tree and the neighboring Yucca Valley are several boutiques and bohemian-chic vintage shops. Ricochet Vintage Wears (packed with groovy printed frocks), the End (curated by a Hollywood costume designer), Hoof & the Horn (full of Americana styles), Funky & Darn Near New (for leather, fringe, and cowboy boots), and Trailer Trash (stocked with handmade art, clothing, and music memorabilia) are all worth an afternoon of deep rack diving.
FOR THE MUSIC LOVER: Ease into Joshua Tree local life at the Joshua Tree Saloon for karaoke under a disco ball. Give the crowd your best Jagger and settle in for a night of cheap beer and deep conversations.
It's not a full trip without a visit to Pappy & Harriet's Pioneer Palace, so make sure to put it on your list. Standing on the site of an Old West Frontier Town movie set built by Hollywood investors including Gene Autry and Roy Rogers this place is a roadside dream. Known for its’ mesquite barbecue and mac and cheese Pappy & Harriet’s offers raucous good times and intimate music shows with bands like Best Coast, Vampire Weekend and the Pixies.
As you leave Joshua Tree, gaze up into the ethereal California sky, feel the heaviness of the air, and take off into the dreamscape, knowing you’ll never forget the out-of-body experience this whole trip has been.
I can't wait to see what you find on your own adventures. Be sure to tag #AWanderfulLife so we can all follow along together.