As we drove down the 29 Palms highway we missed the turn for the Joshua Tree Inn. The sign blended into the desert landscape and it was easy to miss but once spotted, it was hard to not notice it; hand painted lettering on wood paneling partially obscured by bushes.
The trip had started on a sour note – a mixup with our flights had us coming home a day earlier than we had planned, the first flight we were seated backwards staring at passengers across fromus who were selfishly bogarting the majority of the leg room, and finally, I had been on the receiving end of a parking ticket – which our hosts pointed out, was an authentic Los Angeles experience. The first day was a trial suffice to say but it only got better.
Being in the city is swell but I have a soft spot for the serene desert. The colour palette is one of my favourites; everything seems to look better out there. The high sun, magic hour, the sunsets, it’s always a perfect hour to photograph anything. The natural sepia tones of the landscape mixed with vibrant hued buildings and clothing is a balance I never quite understood but am visually mesmerized by.
We checked in as the sun began to set and the sky was turning into a gradation of pastels. Cotton candy skies. Some places are more magical than others and I immediately understood what had pulled Gram Parsons to this location. I’ve been to Joshua Tree National Park numerous times but after having read about the inn in Pamela Des Barres’ “I’m with the Band” I knew it was a place I would stay at eventually.
We wandered around the property soaking in the sunset against the full moon rising. The reflections off the pool, the GP guitar statue tribute, this is the essence of strange magic. I knew immediately we had not allotted enough time here – this should have been our whole trip.
The thing about the desert is that nighttime descends in moments leaving you in pitch black nothingness. The moon and the headlights on the highway illuminated our way as we walked along the dirt and sand to have dinner at Crossroad Cafe & Tavern. The decor was an eclectic mix of desert treasures, the staff were friendly, and the meal was perfection. I would walk down that highway anytime for a meal there… and I did again the following morning for breakfast. On our way back we stopped at the Smoke ‘n’ More convenience store; it only seemed fitting to enjoy some whisky and gingerale, Gram would have wanted it that way. We stayed up watching late night murder trials not able to sleep after the real life blood bath stories unfolded.
In the morning we hung out by the pool absorbing every last inch of the Joshua Tree Inn essence. I did so in a vintage kimono accompanied with a hair of the dog (again, I’m certain GP would have approved). Places like this make me nostalgic for a time I never experienced and long for an era I’ll never be able to live in.
Photographs – Michael Borchert // Sandy Joe