JOSHUA TREE, CA
The sleepy California pitstop has been rediscovered by modern travelers looking to get off-the-grid with a dose of desert style.
Venture a hundred miles east of Los Angeles and you’ll find the high desert hub of Joshua Tree, the grittier antithesis to the manicured, pool-laden lower desert of Palm Springs. Made famous by the National Park, U2, and the death of Gram Parsons, the expansive landscape here, peppered with endless wild-armed Joshua Trees, is home to a unique cross section of artists, rock climbers, outlaws and spiritual healers. Start your visit with breakfast at La Copine. This newcomer, opened by a couple of free-wheeling transplants who bought the building for next to nothing on their first trip to the desert, is easily the best morning spot around, and a gathering place for locals. Hit up Pappy and Harriet's, an iconic old biker gang outpost, for barbecue and live music. Playing the stage here is a rite of passage for touring bands. For shopping, you can’t beat BKB Ceramics, where ceramist Brian Bosworth sells his creations alongside a host of other desert-dweller brands and artist offerings. And if it’s in season, stop by Jay and Allison Carroll’s Wonder Valley Oil Shop, stylish and friendly outpost open “by luck or appointment.” Finally, end the day at Mojave Sands Motel, a modern oasis of a motel with five rooms and breezy courtyards. There’s no TV or wifi, but connection isn’t an issue: on starry nights guests hang around one of the three outdoor fireplaces. Says Susan Burnett, manager of the Mojave Sands, “I love this place. For me, life in Joshua Tree is like we’ve boiled off all the extra, like I’m a reduction in a way—exactly who I am all the time. I’ve never felt more able to be myself.”
Desert Oracle, Seasonal publication and radio show, desertoracle.com
Listen to Grievous Angel, the last album from Gram Parsons