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Photo Notes: I many, many, many photos of Joshua Tree to include even a significant fraction here (at least a thousand). I have included some at random because Joshua Tree is pretty. If you would like to see more, I included a link at the end of the post.

Here's me in Joshua Tree National Park, enjoying the big rocks. These rocks are favorites of climbers, but I just like wandering around in them because they're weird and huge.

in Joshua Tree

North of Palm Springs, California, just over some mountains, is the high desert of the Coachella Valley. It is a strange and stark landscape with scrub brush, some low cactus, and strange, Seussian trees called Joshua Trees.

People who are used to thinking of “nature” as forest would be struck by the brown, sandy colors, and the lack of life. But if you spend any time out there at all (which I strongly recommend), you’ll see the place is actually full of all sorts of life… desert tortoises, lizards, snakes, rabbits, and mice, just to name a few.

What you won’t see out there are lots of mosquitoes, worms, or most of what I consider “icky” pests.

This fact alone makes it very appealing to me. I do not like icky pests.

Joshua Tree is magic.

Things happen there that cajoshua treen only be described as magic, so it must be magic.

For example, my friend Arlette and I were visiting our friend Judy, a resident of Joshua Tree and writer for the local paper. It was hot. I mean hot. 110 degrees hot. We were at the epically awesome flea market hosted weekly at the old drive-in movie theater (now just the location for the flea market, I think).

As we crunched around on the gravely dust at the drive-in, the solid, still heat felt literally crushing.

Note: I know it wasn’t literally crushing. But it felt that way. It was skin-smushingly hot. It was bone-breakingly hot. It was eyeball-poppingly hot. All those things you typically associate with being crushed felt like they were happening.

joshua tree in pioneertown after the fireI am not historically a pool-loving person, but in that kind of heat, whoa, I will compromise any historical tradition in favor of getting cool.

“Ugh, you know what would be nice right now? A pool,” I said generally.

“Oh hey Judy!” a stranger said out of nowhere, about 15 feet away.

“HI! [Lady’s name], I want you to meet Arlette and Norm! They’re here from out of town!”

“So nice to meet you! Wow, it’s really hot. If you want to use a pool, feel free to use the hotel one.”

“Oh, that’s right! [Lady’s name] owns the Joshua Tree Inn.”

At that moment, I was stunned. Stunned.

Had that woman heard me just say I wish we had a pool?

Judy assured me that kind of thing happens all the time in Joshua Tree. They even have a name for it: Desert Doubles.

So we went for a swim. It was amazing. It was about 10x better than I even imagined it would be.

That’s just one story of dozens.

My first dog, Diva, is buried out there. I did a night hike to find the right place, and did. My friends helped me carry her out to the middle of nowhere the next day, about a mile from the dirt road deep in BLM territory, so that I could dig a hole in the heat of the day.

There is nothing quite like digging a grave in 100 degree heat to soothe a broken heart.

Most recently, my friends and I have gone out to Hicksville, a weird little trailer park with themed trailers around a saltwater pool. We’ve been going for four years and it’s a delightfully intimate place, perfect in its seclusion, surrounded by miles of emptiness.

The location is a guarded secret. Rock stars like Beck and Gram Rabbit regularly go out there to relax and use their professional recording studio.

All that is superflous, though. All the stuff around Joshua Tree doesn’t matter as much as something in the air. Something in the dirt. Something in the sky… I can’t explain it.

But we can make a soap that reminds me of it: Dusty Trails.`

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