One of the things I really wanted to do this trip was go to Joshua Tree. But not for the reason many would want to visit this gorgeous park. While most come for the beauty of the landscape, or for cycling or to climb the unique rock formations, my visit was a pilgrimage of sorts, as it was the site of a unique moment in music history.
On September 19th, 1973, Gram Parsons, who was briefly with The Byrds, but is better known for The Flying Burrito Brothers, and his solo work, died of a drug overdose at the Joshua Tree Inn, a small hotel nearby the park, in room eight. Parsons and his friends had fallen in love with the beauty of Joshua Tree and had spent many nights at the Joshua Tree Inn. Before his body could be taken back to be interred at a family plot in New Orleans, Parsons’ manager Phil Kaufman managed to get his hands on a hearse, drove to LAX and persuaded airline staff into release Parsons’ body to him, where he then drove out to Joshua Tree’s Cap Rock to cremate Parsons.
Growing up, Parsons’ albums were frequently played in my household, The Flying Burrito Brothers is among one of my dad’s favorite bands, and over time I developed a soft spot for Parsons, but few I have come in contact with know who he was, even though he is often credited with creating “country rock”, though he called it “Cosmic American Music”. As strange or morbid as it may sound, this was quite possibly the highlight of our visit to Palm Springs for me. I love getting this close to history.
For those wishing to visit Joshua Tree and Joshua Tree Inn, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. When visiting Joshua Tree note that it costs $15 per vehicle to enter the park, though the pass is good for the next six days. Graffiti is illegal, but, as shown here, that hasn’t stopped from people from doing it. Finding the exact location is slightly tricky, and you cannot rely on graffiti, rock arrangements and offerings as a location indicator. In terms of directions, enter from the West Entrance Station off of Route 62/Twenty-Nine Palms. Drive along Park Boulevard, and you will come upon a fork, turn right onto Keys View Road, very soon after turning you will see an area to pull over at, and from there you can walk straight to the location. There is also a parking lot located on the other side of Cap Rock if you intend a prolonged stay at the site. You can also look at this map I created. For those wishing to visit the Joshua Tree Inn, but not intending to stay there, plan your visit late in the day, as the office does not open until 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and, yes, there is a gift shop, complete with key fobs for room eight, and, yes, I bought one.
Mexican Tourist Jacket: Found by my dad
Peasant Blouse: Jet Rag, Los Angeles, California
1970s Levis: Retro Rejuvenation, Coburg, Oregon
Belt: Red Light, Portland, Oregon
Mocs: Thuderbird by Minnetonka