No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Joshua Tree National Park

April 13, 2013

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Joshua Tree National Park

Prior to heading over to Palm Springs and attending the three day Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Kathy & I wanted to spend a full day exploring the Joshua Tree National Park. The amazing natural desert landscape that is Joshua Tree is unique in America and is really a variety of landscapes collected in to one park. The park features twisted trees, prickly cacti, towering rock formations and includes large portions of two Deserts, the Mojave and Sonoran and includes some of the nation’s most interesting and surreal scenery.

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We only had time to really explore in the Mojave area of the park, which is all above 3,000 feet in elevation. This portion features thousands of the Joshua trees that give the park its name and is also filled with large rock formations, many as tall as twenty story buildings. Plenty of interesting attractions are found in this area of the park and Kathy and I tried to see as many as possible as well as take a decent hike that would take us in to the heart of the landscape.

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Among the attractions that we checked out was the Wonderland of Rocks, which is one of the crown jewels of the park. Featuring jumbled rock formations, some of which tower hundreds of feet attracting numerous rock climbers. The huge area is supposedly home to the large desert bigfoot creature known as the Yucca Man- though sadly Kathy and I saw no sign of any such beast.

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Next we took the hike to the Barker Dam, a trail through rock canyons that leads to Barker Dam which was built in the 1880s to try and trap the small amount of rainfall for cattle. In wet seasons a small pond forms, but in dry seasons such as this year the pond is bone dry. The hike to the dam is still pretty interesting. One of the interesting aspects of the trail is the Native American petroglyphs which can be found in Piano Valley. Sadly the original petroglyphs were deemed not dramatic enough for Hollywood filmmakers in the 1960s so they were painted over by film crews and a tragic loss of the original heritage was lost.

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After hiking, we were back in the car to visit places like Skull Rock, which is famous for its semi-resemblance of a human skull then on to Cap Rock which is named for the broad flat rock that is perched on top of a large rock formation.  It is in this location that friends of the late rock star Gram Parsons brought his stolen dead body after his death from a drug overdose in the nearby Joshua Tree Inn and attempted to cremate the body, as per his supposed final wishes. I had hoped there would be some sort of marker or memorial at Cap Rock, but apparently the Park service removes whatever fans leave behind.

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Finally before departing and heading to Palm Springs, we drove up to Keys View for the panoramic view of the entire Coachella Valley including the Salton Sea, Palm Springs, Indio and Rancho Mirage which are visible from the mountain top. It was a clear and beautiful day and provided fantastic views of the valley where we were headed.

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

“…the Last of the Great Pioneertown Bars…”

April 12, 2013

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“…the Last of the Great Pioneertown Bars…”

I have always wanted to check out Pioneertown, California.  The small unincorporated village sits in the desert near the Joshua Tree National Park. It was mostly built in the 1940s as a working set for Hollywood Westerns.  That is pretty cool in itself, but it is Pioneertown’s musical legacy that attracted me. The famous bar, Pappy & Harriett’s Pioneertown Palace is one of the most famous hidden concert venues in America and a who’s who of rock royalty have played at, visited and or written about the bar, which was once the cantina of the old west set.

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Our opportunity to visit Pioneertown came when we booked a trip to California to attend the Coachella Music and Arts Festival. Kathy & I opted to fly in a day early into Las Vegas, then drive across the Mojave desert to Pioneertown where we would spend the night at the Pioneertown Motel and check out the town.

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Pioneertown was founded in 1946 by a group of Hollywood personalities led by cowboy actors Dick Curtis and Russell Hayden as a permanent 1880′s town for filming Western Movies. On September 1, 1946, Roy Rogers broke ground for the first buildings, assisted by the Sons of the Pioneers from whom the town takes its name. Over 200 Movies and TV serials where filmed here, as were an unknown number of background shots for other productions, TV Westerns, including the Gene Autry Show”, Cisco Kid”,” Annie Oakley”, and “Adventures of Judge Roy Bean” were filmed in Pioneertown. Pioneer Bowl, Hayden Ranch and Mane Street have been designated by the state Department of Parks and Recreation as Historical Resources.

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Today, Mane Street still retains its old west image. The Pioneertown Post Office is said to be the most photographed post office in the entire United States. The motel is located just behind Pappy & Harriet’s and we checked in to the Annie Oakley room then meandered over to the bar to eat some of their famous food and see what music might be on tap.

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We picked the right night to show up as there just happened to be a secret show featuring the Shouting Matches, the first public show by Bon Iver lead singer Justin Vernon’s new side project. Vernon debuted his band, The Shouting Matches, at Pappy & Harriet’s .The blues-rock outfit played before a crowd on 50-60 people at the secret show, which wasn’t announced until the last mintue. The band, which also includes Megafaun’s Phil Cook and Peter Wolf Crier’s Brian Moen, had a sound reminiscent of Vernon and Cook’s old roots/jam outfit DeYarmond Edison.

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The band was also booked to play at Coachella, but wanted to have a little live practice before that performance and we were fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time. it was the sort of show that makes Pappy & Harriet’s such a cool place. All manner of rock musicians make the pilgrimage to play or visit the place.

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After a great night of music, we spent the next day checking out Pioneertown itself and then headed to the nearby Joshua Tree National Park.  On our way to the park, we made another musical pilgrimage as we stopped by the Joshua Tree Inn, the spot where famed musician Gram Parsons passed away of a drug overdose in room 8.  In what is truly a unique rock and roll story, after his death some friends literally stole his body from the morgue and drove it out to Cap Rock in Joshua Tree where they attempted to cremate his body.

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