When I told my dad we were headed out to Joshua Tree for my birthday he suggested we visit Giant Rock.
Giant Rock is pretty much exactly how it sounds, an enormous rock out in the middle of the Mojave, and accessible only by dirt roads with small, wooden, hand written markers to point the way. My dad had his reasons for suggesting the place too. While the rock has ties to Native Americans, it is mostly known as the location of UFO conventions in the 50s and 60s, and it’s easy to see why. All but isolated from the closest town of Landers, the area has no light pollution, and offers a big expanse of the sky, perfect for spotting UFOs. Sadly, we didn’t spy any visitors from outer space.
Prior to era of the UFO conventions, a German radio enthusiast dug himself a subterranean home under the rock, and after his death, George Van Tassel took up residence in the humble home, while also beginning work on the desert icon The Integratron. The other reason for the visit is that it is yet another odd location in the list of places that have ties to Gram Parsons.
Parsons had made friends with film maker Tony Foutz, who was working on a film of his own creation called Saturation 70. The film was suppose to be a 60s counter-culture style update to the classic tale of the Wizard of Oz, starring Michelle Phillips (of the Mamas and the Papas), acclaimed rodeo tailor, and the man responsible for the suits that blazed the cover of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ debut album, Nudie Cohn, and the main character was played by Julian Jones, the son of Rolling Stones member Brian Jones. Douglas Turnbull, fresh off 2001: A Space Odyssey, was slated for effects (Turbull would go on to do the effects for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blade Runner). Filming was done guerrilla style and without permits. However part way through filming, the project ground to a halt and was abandoned.
Saturation 70 never takes up more than a page or two in any Parsons biography, if it is mentioned at all. The film has been credited for the reason behind the biohazard suits the Burritos don for images on their second album, Burrito Deluxe. In September of last year, what little footage there is of Saturation 70, as well as stills was show and displayed at London’s Horse Hospital, but has yet to make it to any other museum.
For those interested in visiting Giant Rock, make sure you either have an SUV, or your car is in good shape, as the dirt roads are bumpy to say the least, and you may drive only 20 mph or less along the roads. It takes roughly 30 minutes to drive from Joshua Tree up to the rock, and Google even knows how to get there.
Well that rounds out our Joshua Tree explorations for my birthday! I hope you enjoyed!
Cowboy Hat: Found by my dad
Shirt: Buffalo Exchange, Portland, Oregon
Skirt: Buffalo Exchange, Costa Mesa, California
Boots: Buffalo Exchange, Los Angeles, California (yes, I shop a lot at Buffalo, I know)
Turquoise Squash Blossom Necklace: Birthday present from Patrick (but I know it came from Magpie, Portland, Oregon)
Turquoise Ring: An antique mall in Astoria, Oregon, I think…