30 May Journal: Yucca Valley
There’s something alluring about the desert. Moody and full of mystery, there’s a certain magnetism that draws you into the endless mauve mountain ranges and lonely fields that provide a home to plants and animals who only need the bare necessities to survive. It’s minimalism by force, and it’s beautiful.
This was my first time in Joshua Tree. My travel companion and I were lucky to arrive post desert Super Bloom to catch bursts of dandelion and brittle bush scattered throughout the Yucca Valley. Cacti proudly displayed their fuchsia blooms, a welcome pop of colour amongst the muted landscape. As we navigated to our home for the night, we stopped along the way to gawk at the cozy cabins and Airstream trailers dotted along the side of the road.
While browsing for a place to stay, I noticed a similarity throughout most of the Airbnb listings. Their main selling point was solitude, a place escape without having hike to a remote campsite. Total comfort and relaxation with the convenience of your host being a text or phone call away. As my trip was somewhat spontaneous and availability was scarce, we settled on the Lazy Sky Retreat. I didn’t realize at the time, but I wasn’t “settling” at all.
To sum it up – we couldn’t have been roughing it any less.
Fully equipped with a shared kitchenette, outdoor shower and BBQ area, this desert retreat offered all the amenities of a typical Airbnb but with an air of solitude. The accommodations were separated enough so that the only interaction with other guests was by choice (or happenstance if you both wanted to cook at the same time). The teepee itself had a queen sized bed, a Yeti cooler, electricity and plenty of blankets. Outside was a fire pit and small seating area, perfect for a sunset glass of rosé.
Pro tip: a 5:30 am wake-up call is always worth it here. Desert sunrises are a whole other kind of epic, see below.
It seems odd to associate a place so conventionally lonely with thriving creative scene, but that’s another part of what makes Joshua Tree so unique. You can give credit to Coachella, the little indie festival that could -and did, as it’s now world renowned for more than music – for bringing arts and culture this area, but it’s so much more than that. It’s as if the hippest of Silverlake and Williamsburg had been transplanted directly to the desert and into their respective trades. Artisans of every kind – whether it be music, food or design, have banded together to create an effortlessly cool community where anything goes. But why the desert? “It’s cheap, laid back, and everyone here just supports one another”, was the simple response I received when chatting with a waiter over brunch at La Copine. And I get it.
Every person I met who resides in Joshua Tree and the surrounding small towns is on the same wavelength. Somewhere between zen and spirited, all attracted to the haunting beauty of their desolate surroundings with a drive to pursue their passions.
Along with diners, bars and cafes, new wave and mom and pop retail outlets exist harmoniously here. From the carefully curated boutiques to the everything-including-the-kitchen sink antique stores, you can find anything from vintage bar ware to artisanal body products at the many shops in the area. As per local recommendations, we visited Hoof and The Horn and Moon Wind Trading Co. (small shops with a mix of vintage, new and handmade goods) along with Pioneer Crossing Antiques (a literal labyrinth, the mother load for those who have the patience to sift for the good stuff).
Of course, a trip to this neck of the woods isn’t complete without a visit to the infamous Pappy and Harriet’s. And the hype is totally worth it – there’s even a short film about the place. A combination of restaurant and music venue, they serve up what I can only describe as proper BBQ. Without the frills, each dish cooked slowly and to smokey perfection. But I can’t give all the credit to the food. Along with a selection of craft beers, their list of cocktails consists of the classic and the creative, without being overdone.
To be fair, any place that serves a Paloma and has a menu completely dedicated to Mezcal rates highly in my books.
Eat & Drink: La Copine, Pappy and Harriet’s, Cafe Ma Rouge (order a peach iced tea if they have it!)
Shop: Hoof and the Horn, Pioneer Crossing Antiques, Moon Wind Trading Co., Hoodoo
Stay: Lazy Sky Retreat