Zoning Out in Joshua Tree California

Published on: February 27, 2014

Filled Under: California, North America, United States

Views: 1487

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The Cat in the Hat points the way
Photo by: Michael Henry
Love on the rocks
Photo by: Michael Henry
Joshua Tree Vogue: strike a pose
Photo by: Michael Henry
A 21 bun salute
Photo by: Michael Henry
The Mojave Sands oxymoron: a stylish roadside motel
Photo by: Michael Henry
Your Love Shack at Kate's Lazy Desert
Photo by: Michael Henry
A wholesome oasis
Photo by: Michael Henry
Crossroads Cafe, a desert diner
Photo by: Michael Henry
There is something for everyone at the Joshua Tree Saloon
Photo by: Michael Henry
Pappy and Harriet's: boot-stomping fun
Photo by: David Butterfield
Integratron: enter with an open mind
Photo by: Michael Henry
Purifoy's porcelain perplexity
Photo by: Michael Henry, courtesy of Noah Purifoy Foundation
Think about it and get back to me
Photo by: S. Henry, courtesy of Noah Purifoy Foundation
'Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!'
Photo by: Michael Henry

The Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California is 794,000 acres of quirky, free-form desert landscape.  The Park’s namesake Joshua Tree is an arboreal expression straight out of Dr. Seuss, and the bizarre rock formations look like the remnants of a giant’s playpen.

The harsh desert environment is home to some pretty wacky creature inhabitants, too, like the pinacate, or ‘circus’ beetle.  The circus beetle is the John Belushi of the insect world.  When startled, the bug does a headstand and emits a foul-smelling secretion from its backside.

Not unlike the flora and fauna of the desert, the residents of the small communities adjoining the Joshua Tree National Park are firmly committed to non-conformity.  The restaurants are independently-owned joints where everyone who doesn’t know your name is quick to make your acquaintance.  The entertainment venues are honky-tonks and saloons, where the music is lively and the pours are generous.  The lodging options are reverently updated roadside motels and Airstream trailer parks.

In and around the town of Joshua Tree, the local attractions are, well, out there.  For example, consider the Integratron, a dome-like structure devised by an aeronautical engineer named George Van Tassel.  When you visit the Integratron, you are told with a serene, but absolutely straight, face, that Van Tassel began building the structure following an interaction with aliens in 1953.  Venusians (that’s folks from Venus) advised Van Tassel that the deficient state of humankind was giving the universe a headache, and imparted instructions for the construction of the Integratron, for the purpose of rejuvenating human cells and facilitating time travel.  The extraterrestrials apparently hoped to extend the human lifespan – and experience – sufficiently for earthlings to gain some much-needed knowledge.

It is an irony of interplanetary proportions that George Van Tassel died in 1978, before fully completing the Integratron.  But the building he created upon a ‘juicy’ intersection of geomagnetic fields has near-perfect acoustics.  The current owners of the Integratron encourage visitors to partake in ‘sonic healing sessions’, dubbed Sound Baths.  During a Sound Bath, crystal bowls are used to create weird noises which resonate through the body, an experience that basically feels like being a human tuning fork for about an hour.  A Sound Bath could be relaxing, were it not for fear that the extraordinary acoustics will broadcast the sound of your most basic body functions, like a growling stomach, or Cosmos-forbid, flatulence, to the entire circle of your fellow time-space continuum travelers.

Another unorthodox Joshua Tree destination is the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture.  The Museum is ten acres of desert landscape turned showcase for Purifoy’s creative expression in the medium of the flotsam and jetsam of human existence.  In other words, it is a bunch of funky stuff made of junk.  Using beer cans, broken glass, plumbing fixtures, and mannequin parts, Purifoy’s art endeavors to inspire people to “do today what they couldn’t do yesterday…”  At the very least, the Purifoy Museum has probably inspired more than a few visitors to go home and finally clean out the garage.

There is clearly something about the desert environment of Joshua Tree that fosters anomalies.  No doubt, it takes a pretty unique character to settle in a place that most others are delighted to see in the rear view mirror.  Maybe all that desert space is accommodating to individuals with expanded minds, or to those with a few rough edges.  Whatever the reason, Joshua Tree is a mighty refreshing detour from the commonplace.

When You Go to Joshua Tree:


Mojave Sands, a cool and convenient pad spawned from a retro roadside motel;  Kate’s Lazy Desert, a remote pod of vintage Airstream trailers re-imagined by Kate Pierson of B52’s fame


Natural Sisters’ Café, free Wi-Fi and the best healthy grub in town;   Pie for the People and Crossroads Café, the favored fuel stops for ravenous rock climbers


Joshua Tree Saloon, a classic local watering-hole;  Pappy and Harriet’s, in Pioneertown, BBQ and live music in a Wild West setting


Integratron, in Landers;  Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture, in Joshua Tree (visits by appointment only);   Joshua Tree National Park, access from Interstate 10 and State Highway 62

6 Comments on Zoning Out in Joshua Tree California

  1. Patsy Flora says:

    Too funnie, this one. Sounds like Marfa, Texas transported to California. And, did you mnage the integration dome without embarasment ?

  2. Jackie DeKoning says:

    I wish you had ventured over to Palm Springs as we are neighbors.
    Many years ago we took a trip to the Joshua Tree Monument in mid July and no water in the car.
    Everything was closed as we continued to look for “The Monument”, and “WATER”. We finally ended up at the Salton Sea, realizing that we had just passed through the Joshua Tree Monument,
    the goofy looking forest of funny trees.
    As always enjoyed your global gallop review.

  3. Christine says:

    Hi! I came across your photo of the Joshua Tree Saloon. I’d like to use it as the basis for a painting I’m doing. Do you charge a Royalty Fee? Please let me know. Thanks!

    BTW, my son and one of his friends have worked on a boulder house on Garth’s property. Haven’t been out there for a bit, but it’s a cool place.

    Thanks for sharing your photos. They are excellent!

    • Susan says:

      Thank you for your comments about our picture of the Joshua Tree Saloon. You are welcome to use the image for your painting, gratis. We are grateful that you asked. Best wishes!

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