Visiting Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree is in California 140 miles (230kms) east of Los Angelesand a favourite retreat for Angelinos, though the fast road there (I-10) is unpleasantly busy with brutal, unforgiving traffic. The park’s north entrance – in other words the LA route – takes you immediately into the attractive Joshua Tree zone in the Mojave Desert, whereas the south Cottonwood entrance is in the lower Colorado Desert and very dull for at least an hour of drive time.
The place has a lovely atmosphere combining tranquility with weird tree and rock scenery, and is well worth a few days hiking, biking or rock climbing (on granite).
Bigelow (jumping) cholla cactus in the south Colorado Desert section of Joshua Tree.
Both sections of the park sport abundant cacti, large, small and very small, so this is a good spot to dump the sandals and wear serious shoes or trainers with long pants (trousers). Backing into small, hairy cacti when looking for the perfect tree shot is a Joshua hazard. Rattlesnakes are also not uncommon and another good reason to protect the legs.
The Cap Rock under which lurks, officially unrecognised, Gram Parsons’ shrine and the site of his dramatic and illegal cremation by his wacked-out mates.
Gram Parsons’ bizarre funeral
Anyone who knows the bizarre story of country-rock legend Gram Parsons’ illegal cremation can find the unofficial (and pointedly ignored by Rangers) shrine under Cap Rock, on the turning to Keys View road. Stop in the first turnoff (layby) just after starting on Keys View and look at the rock outcrop to the left. There is a red cross and varied Gram graffiti under it.
The short story is that Gram’s two buddies got completely wasted, stole his body/coffin from the airport, drove out to this spot, got even more wrecked, poured gas over the box and burned Gram to cinders – as the singer had expressly wished, this being his favourite place of peace, meditation and excessive drug use.
Hidden Valley campground, early morning.
There are a number of gorgeous, low-price campsites – for RVs or tents – with individual picnic tables and barbeque facilities and communal restrooms, though no water or food supplies at all. The Bugcrew’s favourite campsites were Jumbo Rocks and Hidden Valley.