Travel Diary: Joshua Tree, California
Joshua Tree is on the map as the perfect getaway to do just that- get away. There’s nothing but desert and hiking trails, so it’s essentially a trendy call of the wild. Of course, I chose Airbnb again, because now I prefer them over hotels, and even in my search of those, many of the homes don’t have electronics, which is absolutely fine by me. If you’re looking for tons of typical vacation attractions, places to eat and things to occupy time, this is not your place.
My Airbnb host suggested I fly into Palm Springs, which is the less busy airport closest to Joshua Tree. It’s about a fifty minute scenic drive through the mountains. It’s such a remote area that Uber, Lyft, and taxi services are not feasible transportation options, so she also suggested I rent a car. Not only are your transportation services limited, but you’ll be advised to have an offline maps app, as GPS is not too reliable in some areas either.
Pappy & Harriets Pioneertown palace
This is the restaurant is a pretty big deal- so much so that when I arrived just before they opened, there was a very long line of people standing and waiting just to get in. Thankfully, I had made a reservation (highly-advised), so I was the one and only person able to jump line when 5pm came around. I got the very first order of the night and it was delicious. I went back and forth between a burger and a hot dog before finally choosing the chili dog. I had red rice on the side, the cheese fries appetizer, and complementary chips and salsa, which were all very good. The dining area has doors that open to the outside where there’s a really nice holding area for folks waiting to be seated; you can enjoy drinks from the bar while out there. There is also a stage where the restaurant hosts live musicians each night as people enjoy their meals. After eating there, I could see why it came so highly recommended.
Beauty Bubble: A Salon & Museum
I had the pleasure of meeting the owner Jeff Hafler, who explained that he loved history, but wanted to become a hair stylist. When he entered cosmetology school, he began collecting any and all retro hair related products and eventually began staging them in the salon as a way to combine both his interests. It’s pretty cool that you can actually get your hair cut and colored in the museum. This is free and open to the public, and as long as he’s there, Jeff loves to have visitors.
This is an area right off the main highway 62 in Joshua Tree that consists of six buildings of art including The World Famous Crochet Museum, an exhibition space, and a vintage trailer among others. It’s a place that the creators wanted to keep pretty low key, so there isn’t a lot of hoopla around the area. I imagine there may be slightly more foot traffic on the weekends, but at the day and time I went, there were very few people out there, so it made for the perfect photo opportunity.
World Famous Crochet Museum
As I mentioned, this free and open to the public museum is a part of Art Queen. It’s a very small converted photo booth that maybe only three or four people at most can fit into at a time. Shari Elf began and maintains this collection of various crocheted items such as dogs, elephants, flowers, smiley faces and more. It’s always open and you can park anywhere in the area, as it’s not a far walking distance from any spot in town.
Pie for the People
This place was recommended online for the food quality; however, as I had read in several reviews, the service quality was low, and I would agree. If you don’t mind waiting 45 minutes for a pizza with no working drink fountain and several pizzas burnt ahead of yours, then you may end up with a delicious pizza.
When I booked this experience, there were only two slots left, and I couldn’t be happier that I did. To participate in a public sound bath, which is their signature experience, it’s only $35. It takes place in a dome-like chamber, where quartz crystal bowls are keyed to the chakras of the body and provide a healing experience for the nervous system. That’s the website description. My description is that it’s a strange, ethereal experience that puts you to sleep, which apparently is typical for most people who participate. It’s meditative, so I had the chance to really reflect on some things, and I even felt like I had an extra pep in my step when I left.
Cholla Cactus Garden
This is a part of the actual Joshua Tree National Park. Although my Airbnb was just 5 minutes from the park entrance, I had to drive about 45 minutes to this exhibit, which gives you an idea of just how big the park is. Typically you’ll pay $30 for 7 day park entrance; however, this ended up being a free excursion for me as well, because no attendant was at the booth- lucky me! The cactus garden is a quarter mile walk, and one of the shortest trails in the entire park. The cholla cacti are also known as teddy bear cacti, and I could see why, because I thought they were very cute. You don’t want to touch them or get too close, as I understand the needles are not pleasant to remove. It’s incredible to me that they choose this spot in nature to gather and reproduce, and it truly makes for a great scene.
I traveled about two hours to get here, because I wanted to see the poppy super bloom that everyone has been raving about. Unfortunately, the sun was not out and the poppies refused to open any more than a little bit. I was a little disappointed; however, I quickly got over it, because I was proud to have hiked up to the point that I did and because the view was still amazing.
Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum
Just like the Art Queen area, this museum is free and open to the public. I was completely blown away at the extensive acreage that holds over 100 installations created by African-American visual artist and sculptor Noah Purifoy. It’s about twenty minutes from the main part of Joshua Tree, but it really is incredible and worth it to see.
This was my last stop. I felt like I had to visit, because everyone seems to think it’s the best burger spot on the west coast. I enjoyed the food, but I don’t think it was the absolute best burger i’ve ever had. It’s not in Joshua Tree; it was about an hour and a half way closer to where I visited Walker Canyon. Now that I’m thinking about it, I maybe should have tried a milkshake, but I had the lemonade, which was pretty tasty.
The Airbnb that I stayed in was very nice. The owners went for a retro 80s feel with a modern twist. Theres an outdoor bathtub, Instagram flower photo wall, record player, hammocks for outdoor relaxation, patio area for dining and grilling, and a sauna. It’s about five minutes from town, so you could certainly walk to just about everything including attractions and restaurants.
I really enjoyed my time in Joshua Tree, because I felt like I really did have the opportunity to rest and reconnect. Being in such a scenic environment quiets your mind and allows you to focus on what’s really important and what you have to be grateful for. Being in open and creative spaces inspires me and gives me a real sense of self. I honestly felt like it was a true vacation.