When I was a teenager working at the Yucca Valley Kentucky Fried Chicken, the owner, Mr. Shisler, once told me a story. He was driving down the Morongo Grade on Highway 62 between Yucca Valley and Desert Hot Springs when a bighorn sheep ran next to his car for a few seconds, then darted up the mountains. A few years later on a field trip in a class I was taking at College of the Desert, we traveled up Highway 74 between Palm Desert and Idyllwild and saw many agave sprouts that our professor told us had been eaten by bighorn sheep. But I still had never seen one in the wild….
The Mojo on the Mojave
I remember the first time I saw it, back in the 1970’s I was driving north up California Highway 395 between the towns of Lone Pine and Independence. On the west side of the road were the relics of something that seemed important in the past. Driving past these ruins to go to some other destination, we never stopped to explore. Many times when I travel today and I see something interesting I will email myself so I can research the spot when I get home but in the days before the internet you could not do this. As I passed this spot several times I often wondered what this place was and kicked myself for not stopping to explore. I had visions of it being a part of the old west, a mining camp, a ranch or a movie set. My imagination bubble burst and I was horrified years later when I found out that it was a Japanese Internment Camp from WWII. I finally visited this place many years later, after the National Park system had taken it over and I was truly shocked to walk the site, I never knew or had seen so closely this sad part of American History….
02/15/16 – update from the author, “this Preserve will be in the Sand to Snow National Monument created by President Obama on February 11, 2016.”
“The Big Morongo Canyon Preserve”
November 6, 2011 – Only a 20 minute drive from downtown Palm Springs is a place with much cooler temperatures, it’s an oasis that’s located at the southwestern edge of the Mojave Desert. Considered a secret hideaway by many people and animals, this oasis is called the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. After you visit this Preserve you won’t be able to drive by this location on Highway 62 without noticing the tremendous amount of cottonwood trees in the distance.
With the passing of Glenn Frey many people might not know that he has a Mojave Desert connection with Joshua Tree and the nearby Palm Springs area. Here are some pictures from The Eagles’ 1st photo shoot for their 1st album “The Eagles” in Joshua Tree National Park in March of 1972, taken by famed rock-n-roll photographer Henry Diltz. Much of the imagery of the Eagles often portrayed the desert so I put this photo-collage together to tell the story. My searching skills acquired from my previous blog about Gram Parsons might help me find this exact spot in the future:…
Well maybe the park was not responsible for saving the world by discouraging an atomic war, as its creator had hoped, but whether you come see this mirage in the desert as a religious pilgrimage or for your appreciation of art or history you will not be disappointed….
Mr. Phil Kaufman AKA “The Road Mangler” contacted me because he wanted to see the exact site where I had found the rock that was identified to be a few feet from Parson’s cremated remains. Mr. Kaufman is a real gentleman. He had a motorcycle accident a few months ago at the age of 80 years old with a right ankle fracture, multiple rib fractures and a thoracic spine fracture which required a metal rod to be implanted in his spine, and still he actually showed up to take this picture with my wife and myself. It was a moving moment seeing him ponder the days gone past. Thanks Phil for including me in your memory, it was an honor….
Out of the blue a friend of mine told me that he had a old police photograph of the Gram Parsons crime scene in the Joshua Tree National Park from the day of the incident. He soon emailed me a scanned copy of the 1973 photo which seems to be authentic and I have no reason to doubt. We will not be showing you the crime scene photo out of respect for the family.
Gram Theft Burrito or Gram Theft Byrd – You Decide?
Gram Parsons was considered a pioneer of the country rock movement of the late 1960’s into the 1970’s until his death on September 19, 1973 at the age of 26. Though Gram achieved some success in his lifetime, he was never a superstar — but he did influence many bands including The Eagles and The Rolling Stones. He was a member of two country rock bands, The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers; he later became a solo artist, and often performed with Emmylou Harris. In the years after his death he has become a legend. You may ask, why is this a DesertUSA blog and what does Gram Parsons have to do with the Mojave Desert? Keep reading to find out a small part of the interesting life story of a Byrd and a Burrito named Gram Parsons and how it is related to the Mojave Desert.
In the late 1960’s, the Joshua Tree National Monument, later to become a National Park, became the hangout for many celebrities and musicians because this out of the way haven was only a few hours drive from Los Angeles. Gram Parsons was introduced to the Mojave Desert around this time and would frequent the Joshua Tree area on the weekends, often accompanied by his road manager, Phil Kaufman, and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones; in-fact, some of Gram’s country influence can be heard in music of The Rolling Stones at that time, in the early 1970’s. Gram loved the Hi-Desert and did many photo shoots in it. He used to hang out at local bars and would often stay at the Joshua Tree Inn. He would visit the National Monument at night looking at the stars and searching the heavens for UFOs.
Mojave Meets Phil Kaufman
UPDATE: This particular blog about Gram Parsons has been interesting to say the least, intended to only be one story has now turned into three. After I first wrote the first leg of this story about a year later I got the crime-scene-photo from a friend, then I updated this blog with the pixelated picture only to remove it later at the family’s request. We found the exact same rock that was in the 1973 crime-scene photo in 2014, then somehow I ended up in contact with Phil Kaufman and had plans to meet him and give him a copy of the photo which my friend Brad was to give to him. Tonight (9/28/14) I had that meeting and I was thrilled to have met him but also moved by what I saw.
Mr. Kaufman was in touch with my friend Brad, after waiting all day for the call he called, he had arrived and was staying at the Joshua Tree Inn, the same place Gram had died over 40 years ago. We were to have a change of plans, on the phone Phil said to meet him at Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown instead of the Joshua Tree Inn, I was hoping to get pictures at the Inn so I was a bit disappointed but in the end what transpired was much more thought provoking.
20th Anniversary – UPDATE
On October 3rd and 4th Gubler Orchids will be celebrating their 20th Orchid Festival (the nursery has existed much longer). All funds raised go to local charities and this year will be quite the celebration. Besides all of the events listed below in this blog there will also be hot air balloon rides and fireworks. After the Lander’s 1992 earthquake the nursery was demolished and had to be re-built with a government loan and there will be a presentation of the final disaster loan payment is made to the San Bernardino County Economic Development Department at the celebration.
http://www.gublers.com/#!schedule-of-events/cors – Schedule of Events
http://www.gublers.com/#!orchidfestival/cppu – Festival Page
I hope to see everyone there for this great celebration.
Take It Easy – Mojave