After hiking in Joshua Tree National Park, I camped in Indian Cove beneath batholiths. I had come to see the Wonderland of Rocks, which thanks to Minerva Hoyt is publicly preserved and accessible.
Surrounded by the long-leaning shadows of the mammoth rocks at sunset, with an expansive view of the Mojave and picturesque vista of snow-capped San Gorgonio, I was a happy woman. And as the sun dipped below the horizon, the drumming began.
Somewhere amidst the prehistoric rocks and thorny bushes, a group of drummers pounded the skins by campfire. Very primal – it couldn’t have been more perfect. I’d seen some interesting things and heard some great music throughout my travels, all seemingly fitting for time and place, and this was no different. The moon rose and galaxies appeared. I climbed the boulder behind my tent and put out my arms to the heavens, smiling, elated for such small blessings.
After an excellent night’s sleep, I broke camp. I had noticed murals in Twentynine Palms and wanted to go back there to explore, having just driven through town on my way to the Park. Barstow had murals, too, and I was curious, noting an obvious trend.
Turns out, both towns along the old Route 66 have walking maps guiding tourists to the murals along their “main” streets. Most are historic in nature, although not all. The paintings in Don Gray’s Dr. Luckie mural and John Whitalk’s Dirty Sock Camp mural are so realistic, they look like a series of vintage photographs.
Aside from the murals, Twentynine Palms was an interesting find, and I’m really glad I bothered to backtrack. Situated strategically between the Mojave and Joshua Tree, the small town serves as the gateway into some of the country’s most desolate, windswept sand fields.
Good thing the area also affords unsurpassed beauty, clear skies and thermal hot springs. It was named after twenty-nine palm trees that surrounded Mara Oasis when the gold diggers first rolled into the vicinity. After centuries of providing shelter for local inhabitants, the trees were promptly logged by the mindless meandering miners. Although the world's largest Marine base is also located there, I saw no evidence of it anywhere. (Then again, I wasn’t really looking for it.)
Out of sheer curiosity, I made my way over to the 29 Palms Inn, where U2 wrote The Joshua Tree – because really, how could I not.
With an eclectic spread of historic buildings comprising its "rooms," many which were relocated to the property, the Inn has long since been a hotspot for Hollywood starlets. A vintage houseboat floats in the palm-shaded Faultline Pond, so named because it sits right smack on top of – you guessed it – the San Andreas Fault.
The restaurant serves fresh produce grown out back in an expansive garden fenced with piney palm frond stems. I had the black bean tostada, which was really good.