my love letter to Joshua Tree - the magic of the desert
words + photos by: natalie shehata
photos of The End by: Carly Valentine
Joshua Tree is one of those places you can’t help but be completely captivated by. I visited for the first time in 2017 and was utterly mesmerised by its unique terrain. I had dreamed of visiting for about 6 years, after having got as far as Palm Springs in 2011, and discovering not long after there was a magical place called, ‘The End’ in the middle of the Mojave Desert. A rainbow wonderland [shop] of rare, vintage pieces curated by artist, stylist, vintage buyer and costume designer - Kime Buzzeli.
It was my mission to visit this shop - honestly - it was on my bucket list of things to see and experience; and let me just tell you, it did not disappoint. You can learn more about Kime and her colourful adventures here. If you’re a vintage lover or collector, I know you will appreciate this shop and understand my seemingly hard core commitment to travelling to the other side of the world to visit it.
But, it’s not only ‘The End’ that spurred me on this desire to discover the desert - California is a place I’ve always felt ‘at home’ having visited three times now. The desert, in particular is a place where I feel I belong. There really is something about the dry, desert heat that makes me feel grounded - all the city smoke and worries diffuse when your feet hit the earthy ground and you wake up to piercing orange sunrises.
One other place that was on my mental list of things to experience was the sound bath at The Integratron. I found the story behind the structure utterly fascinating and knew it was a place I needed to go at least once in my life time - so I spent my 28th Birthday weekend in Joshua Tree, immersed in an hour long sound bath. The experience was hypnotising - I fell into a deep meditative rest with no thoughts or inhibitions. A complete re-lax and celebration of presence. It really was something else.
So, if you don’t know much about the history of The Integratron this is how they explain it on their website, “Its creator, George Van Tassel (1910-1978), claimed that the structure is based on the design of Moses’ Tabernacle, the writings of Nikola Tesla and telepathic directions from extraterrestrials. This one-of-a-kind 38-foot high, 55-foot diameter, all wood dome was designed to be an electrostatic generator for the purpose of rejuvenation and time travel” .
The structure itself is out of this world and is actually the only of its kind on planet earth. Made from wood - the magic of The Integratron is that it was built on a powerful geomagnetic vortex in the middle of the Mojave desert.
If you’re planning a trip to the desert, make sure you get to The Integratron to experience this - this was also the first time I was introduced to the scent of Palo Santo, and still to do this day, when I burn my own at home, it takes me back to walls of The Integratron and the resonate sounds through my chakras.
A functioning hair salon that also seconds as a collectors museum for retro hair related products - it’s a step back in time and a real visual treat with pieces collected by hair-storian, Jeff Hafler over the last 27 years. There are lots of different nooks and crannies of the salon, but of course - as you can see in my pics - I’ve gravitated towards the pastel pink! Vintage posters, pastel hairdryers, vintage packaging and advertisements, hairbrushes, combs - you name it.
Within walking distance is the world famous crotchet museum in a converted drive through photo stand. This eclectic creation houses many cute and cuddling, crocheted animals and creatures. You can also enjoy some time in the outdoor theatre area on one of the many vintage chairs.
Make sure to visit the Joshua Tree National Park, I ran out of time to explore it by foot, so we did a drive through the park to take in the landscape. I think it took about 1 hr from start to finish with a few stops in between to take photos. You could spend so much time here exploring the different terrain and discovering different plant and animal species. April was a beautiful time of year to visit as the heat was just right - locals say that April and October are some of the best times to be in the desert.
When it comes to accommodation look no further than our trusty friends at Airbnb - this is not sponsored by the way, I used my own dollars and cents on this trip. I’m just such a huge fan of Airbnb - as you can tell from some of the other travel guides I’ve written. I love that you’re supporting an individual rather than a large commercial conglomerate and that you can actually choose to shop you values, so to speak, even when it comes to accommodation. A lot of property listings tell you how they’re reducing their plastic consumption, they’re water use and for me - I always choose homes that are as mindful and conscious as possible.
I stayed in the Sagurao Hideway guesthouse - perfectly positioned close enough to the National Park to enjoy the desert and boulder views. The sunrise over Monument Valley literally lights up the whole room through the beautiful picture windows so you feel like you’re constantly in an artwork - it really is quite spectacular. Make sure to look up at the night sky, it’s a priceless beauty quite like no other and even gets me awe-struck as a grown adult. Explore the backyard area, and take in the cacti of all shapes and sizes. You may even hear coyotes in the early morning calling and see wild hares running through the plains.
So this is my love letter to Joshua letter and the Californian desert . It is a magical part of the world and I hope to visit again this year. If you’re feeling called to go on a spiritual journey - the desert will always make space for you, and welcome you with open arms.
See you soon my friend.
Love, Nat xx.