Things are heating up in the Coachella Valley, so it’s the perfect time for a high desert escape! Home to the fluffy, oddly-shaped trees, strangely-enticing cacti, and massive, alien-shaped clusters of rocks, Joshua Tree National Park is a Mecca for hikers, climbers, photographers and nature-lovers. And, perhaps inspired by the strange sights in the park, a renegade collection of hippies, artists and desert vagabonds have created their own community of peace, love and boulders in Yucca Valley, too. Now that the main tourist season is coming to a close, it’s time to see what the locals do.
The classic combination of art, science and nature is alive and well in Joshua Tree, with Desert Institute field classes running most of the year. Day or weekend classes are taught by experts, often from California universities. In May, instructors offer workshops on night sky photography and light painting, with an option to camp in the park post-workshop. If you prefer a bit of science with your learning, consider classes on nature monitoring and constellation observation. Class sizes are small, and they fill up quickly, so book a spot soon.
New to rock climbing? The smooth, friendly boulders and easily-scalable rock piles are enticing even if you’ve never thought of sport climbing. While many scrambles are easy to do without a rope, taking a lesson or two from the experts at Joshua Tree Rock Climbing School can boost your confidence and start you on your ascent. With over 8,000 climbing routes in the park, your instructor will help you discover just the right place to match your skill level and chart your course to the top of the world.
WORLD FAMOUS CROCHET MUSEUM
Forget yarn-bombing bike racks and fire hydrants: Joshua Tree’s World Famous Crochet Museum holds the title (if self-proclaimed) of every crafter’s dream. Founder Sheri Elf created the site to display her immense collection of crocheted masterworks, which cover the converted photo-processing booth from floor to ceiling. Visit the site in downtown Joshua Tree, just near the park’s entrance, at 61855 Twentynine Palms Highway.
OUTDOOR DESERT ART MUSEUM
Venture further afield from the park for a 10-acre gallery of sculpture pieces made from reclaimed, recycled and decaying items. Artist Noah Purifoy calls his work “Environmental Sculpture,” premised on idea that everything comes from nature, and everything will return to nature as it decays. In the meantime, pay a visit to his funky gallery by driving down a dirt road to 63030 Blair Lane.
LOU HARRISON @ 100
Celebrate the life of late composer Lou Harrison on May 14 at his high desert compound, an experimental cocoon and artist retreat center. The open day at Harrison House will honor his activism with sculptors, native plant specialists and musicians participating in Harrison’s life motto: “Make art and plant trees.” Artists can apply for residences at the house, and visitors can look, learn, listen, play and plant.
JOSHUA TREE MUSIC FESTIVAL
On May 18–21, join a laid-back journey to the “Magical Mojave,” rocking out with high-desert hippies. The family-friendly Joshua Tree Music Festival features reggae, funk, soul and world music in an eclectic, peace-loving lineup. Alternative healers, sunrise yogis, small frys at Kidsville, and permaculture experts add the J-tree flair to the fest. Don’t forget to check out the DJ booth, the Positive Vibrations Station, to dance the night away.
Call Sky Valley Resort to make a reservation at a special Joshua Tree Music Festival Rate!
THE PIONEERTOWN PALACE
No trip to Joshua Tree is complete without a stop for some roadhouse grub and honky-tonk tunes at Pappy + Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, just four miles from Joshua Tree. May’s lineup includes the country-blues house band, Sunday Night Band, playing their lineup of smooth tunes, often with surprising celebrity guests. Don’t miss Sara Petite and the Sugar Daddies on May 19–20 for two great nights of dancing to country-style rock and roll and drinking tequila with the cowboys and girls. Pappy + Harriet’s is closed weekly on Tuesday and Wednesday.