Monday, November 25, 2013

Desert Oddity - Joshua Tree

How do the following four photos relate to each other?

Room #8 

 at the Joshua Tree Inn in the Village of Joshua Tree (outside the park)

Gram Parsons (photo Wikipedia)

Cap Rock

Well, let me tell you...

On September 19, 1973
In room #8
At the Joshua Tree Inn
In Joshua Tree Village
Gram Parsons overdosed
On morphine and alcohol
He was 26 years old
His friend, Phil Kaufman
Ditched his drug stash in the desert 
And later with a friend
Stole his body from 
The airport
They took it back to Joshua Tree
To Cap Rock
That's where they cremated him
Tried to cremate him anyway
A match thrown 
On five gallons of gasoline
Dumped in a coffin 
Didn't do much cremating
It did however
Create a fireball big enough
To Light up the desert night
At Cap Rock

--- pat tillett
Gram Parsons
Rolling Stone magazine rated Gram Parsons #87 on their "100 Greatest Artists of All Time." That probably makes him the most famous musician you've never heard of. He is one of the people most responsible for blending rock and country music. This music is known today as "Country Rock." Although he played in several bands, the two you may know best are the Byrds (replacing David Crosby) and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones was one of Parsons closest friends. I'm sure there was some influences (good and bad) flying back and forth in that friendship. Parsons was the creative force behind the Rolling Stones huge hit "Wild Horses." 

He was clearly the driving force behind the Byrd's 1968 meg-hit album "Sweethearts of the Rodeo." This was the first mainstream country rock album and is still considered one of the most influential and best albums of all time.

Parsons wanted to visit his favorite spot in the world, Joshua Tree Monument (not a national park yet) before going on tour. He checked into the Joshua Tree Inn, but never checked out. 

Phil Kaufman
Other than stealing Gram Parson's corpse, this guy is most known for producing Charles Manson's "LIE" record album from prison. He also lived with the Manson family and was later quoted as saying that he "had sex with more serial killers than anyone else in show business." I'm not sure if that is true or not, but either way it's just plain old creepy. Kaufman also said they stole Gram Parson's body because he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes spread at Cap Rock, in Joshua Tree. Despite this request, Parson's brother was going to have the body buried back east. 

Cap Rock
Joshua Tree is said to be one of the earth's power spots. Indians thought so in antiquity and still do today. If you ever go there, get to a silent spot, clear your mind and open your senses. You just might feel it. I certainly do. Many artists and musicians (many famous) live, have lived, or frequent the area on a regular basis because of the creative "force" they feel there. 

Although the Cap Rock trail might be the shortest and easiest in the area, it is very beautiful and anyone passing through the area, should stop there and walk it.  Every year, on Gram Parson's birthday, people flock to Cap Rock and create a memorial there. Every year the park rangers have to clean it all up afterwards.

Here are some more photos from Cap Rock.

Cap Rock is also popular for climbing (or in this case bouldering)

 Part of the VERY easy, but awesome walking trail (notice I said walk and not hike)

A different view of the "cap."  Hey isn't that a giant rock bicycle seat next to it?

4247 feet above sea level and it is PURE desert


Monday, November 18, 2013

Hidden Valley Area - Joshua Tree National Park

Within the Hidden Valley area of Joshua Tree is a place called the "Real" Hidden Valley. Somewhere around 1880, a man named Charlie Button had just been released from prison after serving 15-years relating to a double murder conviction. While in the Joshua Tree area, Charlie and his brother Willie discovered a small passage into a large rock formation.  Much to their surprise, the passage led to a "hidden" valley that was totally surrounded by the formation.

Shortly after the discovery, the Button brothers joined up with a local outlaw named Bill McHaney to rustle cattle in Arizona and use the "hidden valley" to hide and re-brand them. The cattle were then sold to ranchers on the coast.  Several years later, both of them were killed in a barroom brawl. (truth or fiction? I have no idea).

The next six photos were taken in the Hidden Valley area.

Fast forward about 60 years to 1936.
Joshua Tree resident and most known character, Bill Keys re-discovered the "real" Hidden Valley and dynamited a larger opening through the rocks in 1936. This happened just a few months before the area was named a national monument. Bill Keys will be mentioned several times in upcoming posts.
The opening into the real Hidden Valley (looking back out). You can see the damage done to these two boulders by the explosives. This spot marks the start of a one mile loop nature trail. How long it takes you to walk it all depends on how much you look around. It's not much exercise, but it sure gives you a huge dose of beautiful rocks. If you have limited time in the park, it's a must see. 

This photo and the rest were taken within the "real" Hidden Valley.

The valley may have been hidden to late comers, but this rock shelter and mortero (mortar) indicate that local Indian tribes used it. You won't find many things like this in the tourist guides, but if you keep your eyes open and explore a bit, they are there.

You can see it better in this one. The shallow mortero (or mortar) is used to grind acorns, seeds, plants, etc. There might have been some faint petroglyphs there also, but not obvious enough to post a closeup.

Here is another one. This one is much deeper and indicates that it was used for a much longer period of time. The Indians in this part of the country were primarily "hunter gatherers" and moved with the seasons and food sources. They would usually only be in desert areas like this during the cooler months.

Next time, I will climb up to that cave! From afar, it looks like it isn't totally natural.

Which is stronger, the rock or the tree?

I have to post at least one black and white.
Doesn't the round boulder to the right look like it has a mouth and eyes?

The rocks in the middle looks kind of like a ring setting with a "rock" in it.  The rock to the far left looks like a giant bird head, or maybe a primate head of some sort. Or maybe it's the peyote...

Look at the little reddish spot around the middle of this rock formation.

A little closer.

Joshua Tree is a world famous rock climbing destination. It has thousands of recorded rock climbing routes.On the weekends there are scads of rock climbers around. Very interesting and kind of scary to watch. More on that in a later post.
They call this thing "Trojan Rock" because it supposedly looks like the USC Trojan mascot. 

I'm not so sure! 


Monday, November 4, 2013

Ryan Ranch - Joshua Tree National Park

As some of you may already know, Joshua Tree is pure desert. Water of any type is very valuable. In the late 1800's Jepp and Tom Ryan homesteaded this site to obtain the rights to a natural spring that used to be located there. The water was used to support the Lost Horse Mine (subject of a future post), which was owned by Jepp, Tom, their brother Matt and a local prospector named Johnny Lang. Water was pumped from the spring to the mine, that was over 3 miles away. In addition to supporting mining activities, the Ryan family also raised cattle. At one time there was over 50 people living on the ranch. 

The main ranch house was very much intact until 1978. That year an arsonist set fire to it. The adobe walls and foundation are all that remains.

The ranch house commanded a fantastic view. 

See the rock formation to the left of the tree? The large rectangular stone jutting into the sky above the rest is called "Headstone." It's a very well known rock climbing site. Joshua Tree has hundreds, if not thousands of them...

The walls of the ranch house were made from bricks and adobe. Both of which were made from local materials, including tailings from the mine. Years later they discovered that the mine tailings still contained gold. From that point forward they referred to the place as the "gold brick house."

 Heading up the hill to the spring and pump house.

 The remains of the old windmill.

Looking past the spring and pump towards the ranch house. I was standing near the base of what is now called "Ryan Mountain."

The amazing rock formation behind the ranch house. There is a lot of evidence around there relating to a long period of Indian presence in the area. 

 The remains of the original ranch bunk house.

We just returned from two weeks in the Joshua Tree area. The first five days it was closed because of the federal government shutdown. I can probably do about 10 posts on this amazing place. I'll probably cut it down a bit, but I love it and there is so much to see and do. In addition, I have a lot of personal history in the area. I might even tell a true story about something amazing that happened to me and a friend there when we were about 12 years old.