This article , touches on the entire bus trip that the Irish rock band U2 took before they released the album that was destined to be called “The Joshua Tree”, we will mainly focus on the portions of that trip that lie within the Mojave Desert.
Let’s start with what we know for sure, in 1987 U2 released an album called “The Joshua Tree”, before the album was released they traveled from Reno to Joshua tree with a few stops in between to take pictures. Later they would return to film videos in Los Angeles and Las Vegas after the album was released. The band U2 were aware of the mythology of the Mojave Desert, this is part of the reason they used it as a backdrop to their album. According to the designer of the album sleeve, Steve Averill, the band rented a coach in Reno, Nevada, at the time the cover was shot, The Joshua Tree album was tentatively titled “The Two Americas” with another alternate name being “The Desert”, the band wanted to capture the part of the United States where “nature and industrialization meet”.
Steve says the end photos for The Joshua Tree were the result of a “happy accident”, we had stopped and shot at a ghost town in Nevada (actually Bodie, California), and their photographer, Anton Corbijn wanted to shoot at Joshua Tree National Monument (now a National Park) next. After the Bodie shoot they drove toward Joshua Tree National Monument, along the way they stopped at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Monument (also a National Park today) and shot the cover photograph, then on Highway 190 just outside Death Valley they saw a lone Joshua Tree in the distance, it was then that the band began thinking of The Joshua Tree as a possible name for the album. They got out of the coach there and then and shot the inside sleeve photograph, all in all they were there about 20 minutes in the early morning cold weather. This famous session with the Joshua Tree became the back cover and the inside sleeve of the album which was released on March 9, 1987.
A friend and myself decided to drive to find this elusive tree that actually fell down from natural causes in the year 2000, we found the fallen tree on July 3rd, 2014. We assumed that it would be hot and we knew it was about a three hour drive without any big stops. Joshua Trees only grow at higher elevations because they need below freezing winters to reproduce so we knew it would be not quite as hot as the lower reaches of the desert. We found the spot to stop on the road near the infamous tree rather quickly, at about 4700 feet above sea level the site was quite a bit cooler than nearby Death Valley, our temperature was only about 100 degrees. I decided to try my new 4wd vehicle and we went down some fairly sandy washes, in the end we walked about 3/4 of a mile to find this iconic monument to an Irish rock band in the middle of the Mojave Desert. After being at the site for about 15 minutes and taking pictures we walked the 3500 feet back to the car. I would recommend parking on the main road and walking 1300 feet to the site, its much easier than driving off road, the wash was very soft and parking on the paved road is a relatively short walk and if you are a true fan of U2 this is the way that the band traversed to the tree from their rented coach.
Back to 1987, I believe that it was later that same day that they ended up at The Harmony Motel in 29 Palms for another photo shoot and stayed in the Motel for at least a night. While at the Motel it is rumored that they rented all of the rooms at the Harmony Motel but room #4 was rented as a group meeting place to congregate. If you visit the Motel ask for Ash the owner, she knows alot about the U2 stay back then, she is the current owner but she has contact with the person that owned it in 1987.
On a side note, my buddy that helped me find “The Joshua Tree” fallen in the desert is recently retired from United Parcel Service. He actually delivered packages to the Harmony Motel one of the days that they stayed there, when he made his delivery the owner at that time told him they were there in the Motel, so finding the fallen tree was kind of like coming full circle.
The Bodie, Zabriskie Point, Joshua Tree and Harmony Motel photographs were used to promote the band forevermore at concerts and on their memorabilia.
Anyone can visit these places if you know where to look:
Bodie is a state park in California, here is the link: www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=509
Zabriskie Point is in Death Valley National Park, here is the link: www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/furnacecreekarea.htm
The iconic Joshua Tree is on Highway 190 at coordinates: 36°19’51.00″N, 117°44’42.88″W
The Harmony Motel is in 29 Palms, it is rumored that they rented the entire motel but the gathering place where they all met was in Room #4, here is the link: www.harmonymotel.com
On a side note another Irish band called Snow Patrol also stayed at the Harmony Motel in 2010, following in the footsteps of their Irish brethren.
On our way home we visited the ghost town of Darwin, we also stopped in Lone Pine and drove up Whitney Portal Road to get a closer look at Mount Whitney. We then visited the Lone Pine Movie History Museum www.lonepinefilmhistorymuseum.org and learned alot about the movies that were made in this area including one of my favorites, “Tremors”.
Please be careful if you make this journey, summer is hot and winter is cold but you can always end your long day at the Harmony Motel just like U2 did.
Take It Easy – Mojave
The Hang Town Hikers.
I feel totally relaxed and comfortable on my favorite chair, as I view the amazing critter activity in my desert garden this gorgeous spring morning. The refreshing cool breeze and the warm sunlight strokes my skin gently, this magically rejuvenates and uplifts my spirits, whispering to me, the appearance of my most favorite season of the year, yes! Bright, beautiful and blossoming spring always awakens my soul to the wonders of Mother Nature.
In the desert spring is very flirtatious with her climate, some days she is light and breezy or she can be cheerfully sunny, sometimes she gets moody and places a damper on your day, (rudely interrupting your plans), by showing up overcast, rainy, damp, windy and cold.
Spring generally glitters and glow in colors that are bright greens, purples, warm pinks, oranges and yellow as she paints the desert landscape with sweet smelling wildflower blooms. She Rejuvenates the desert wilderness with blankets of green grass, fragrant smelling flowers, sweet sounds of chirping humming birds, merry quail families and over protective fussing doves that are nesting high up in the trees.
My desert garden is always a delightful picture of my favorite desert critters buzzing with joy and love, obviously happy to meet all their friends at their favorite play place, after a cold, dry and harsh winter. I hear chatting from the critters?
Mr. Tortoise whispers to Mr. Bunny “did you notice Ash is so happy, she did not even shoo Mrs. Red Racer away, when she found her in the garden this morning.”
“Off course she is always full of joy and happiness in spring because her favorite guests will soon be arriving”, replied Bunny.
“And who may I ask are they?” squeaked Lizzie,
“Or come on Lizzie don’t you know them”, replied Mrs. Red Racer in her husky voice.
“The famous “ Hangtown Hikers” the biggest fans of the Harmony, they adore Ash, love the desert wilderness, and totally appreciate critter land. They have been coming to the Harmony for the last nine years; they are a merry crowd that is always full of laughter and always in the mood for their happy hour celebrations.” Expressed bunny in a happy tone of voice.
“That’s right,” cried out Mr. Roadrunner,” “I like them too, they love Joshua Tree Park, always going on their long hikes and they enjoy eating at their favorite restaurants in town. Every year they do my favorite trail, the boy Scott Trail.” explained chirpy Mr. Roadrunner.
“I wonder why they call themselves the Hangtown Hikers.” (Whispered Tortoise to himself), to which Bunny chuckled,
“I know, on the last trip I heard Bob the leader explain the history of their name to Ash.”
“So it’s time for a story Bunny,” shouted Roadrunner delightfully.
Mr. Roadrunner than proceeded to instruct everyone to find a seat on the comfortable dirt. Bunny cleared his throat and began to narrate the historical story of the name of the town Placerville (as to why it once was notoriously called Hangtown).
Bunny loved the attention from his friends, he squealed with laughter, as he began narrating the story with excitement in his voice. “as history explains after the discovery of gold in nearby Coloma, California by James W. Marshall in 1848 sparked the California Gold Rush, the small town now known as Placerville than was called Dry Digging’s (after the manner in which the miners moved cartloads of dry soil to running water to separate the gold from the soil).
Later in 1849, the town earned its most common historical notorious name, “Hangtown”, because the miners quickly became short-tempered, and with the rising crime rate and the lack of readily-available law enforcement, they took the “law” (or lack thereof) into their own hands. Criminals were punished in short order, whether it be flogging or hanging, based on snap decisions made by impromptu courts with hastily-formed juries.
The first lynching in the camp, a triple hanging, came after a gang of five tried to rob a miner of his gold dust. However someone in in the crowd of 2,000 said he recognized three of the five (two Mexicans and one Yankee, that had been involved with a murder on the Stanislaus River).
The three suspects were hanged together from the huge oak tree in camp. The location of this well-used hang in’ tree is marked by an effigy dangling by his neck from the second story of the Hangman’s Tree Historic spot in downtown Placerville. The stump is said to be in the cellar. That is how the Town Placerville acquired its historical notorious name “Hangtown” as there were many such hangings during this period in the town.”
Bunny continued, “So my dear critter land that is why our dear friends from Sacramento call themselves the “Hangtown Hikers”
“I get it they like the history of their towns name,” whispered tortoise.
“Or maybe there name indicates that they will not tolerate bad behaviors from their hiking team, like the pioneers of their town” suggested Roadrunner.
“Gosh I rather be on my best behavior the next time they are here stuttered anxious Mrs. Roadrunner”.
“Yes, listen to Ash, you need to hide yourself the when her guests are around because they are afraid of you,” Lizze uttered naughtily.
The above information on the history of Placerville was taken from:
http://www.comspark.com/chronicles/hangtown.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placerville,_California
An article on Joshua Tree National Park. Feature as the worlds most beautiful destinations. Joshua Tree National Park is the one of the world’s 100 unforgettable destinations.
As I briskly hike the 49 Palms Oasis trail (one mile away from the Harmony Motel) I feel the warm July breeze lightly blowing onto my skin, signaling to me the approach of the heat which bathes the high desert in a boisterous manner during our summers. I always enjoy the end of the trailhead; it has a scenic oasis which houses its resident palm trees, “in a rocky gorge amidst an arid desert landscape. The palm trees wear their giant fan palms heavily hanging down…”
“Its distinctive leaves are shaped like a fan and folded like an accordion….. Looking much like petticoats, the fan palm’s dead leaves remain attached to its trunk until removed by fire, wind, or flood.’’ (www.nps.gov).
I notice Mr. Tortoise merrily making his way to the oasis as well, his chunky hind legs are struggling to move faster. Every now and than I sense Mr. Tortoise getting a little anxious, that he will lose his friend Mr. Roadrunner on the trail, especially as hikers interrupt his pace, to take their pictures. He desperately tries to keep up with his charming friend who is thoroughly enjoying his popularity with the travelers on the trail this still summer morning.
I almost hear a conversation between these two critters as I walk right behind them. Mr. Roadrunner, breathing very heavily, almost coughs out his words, “The meeting is at 11am…I hope that everyone will be on time…”
“I am sure they will” replied Mr. Tortoise sounding tired. “Besides, it’s a good thing that it is at the beautiful 49 Palms Oasis, right here in our home town, and less than a mile away from our stunning Harmony Motel. I love the oasis, especially the canyons, so rocky and full of crevices; my little ones enjoy this spot and it is their favorite play place.”
“Yes, me too,” cried, Mr. Roadrunner with laughter, “I love the fan palms with the shade they provide and the height they have. I enjoy picnics with my family there, where we can play in the green, cool shade, flying up to the heights and perching on tall palm leaves where we have breathtaking views. The oasis at the 49 Palms is my kind of home, full of water or at least moisture, depending on the time of the year. Pity I cannot stay there all year round. And sometimes during our visits we get a chance to see the bighorn sheep as they play and graze!”
“I also enjoy the 49!” exclaimed Mr. Tortoise “Because its a quiet spot, not many travelers are aware of this part of the Park. It provides me with so much privacy and tranquility,” he whispered to his friend.
“Yes, you are quite right, Tort, answered Mr. Roadrunner. “Many people are not aware that the gateway to the Joshua Tree National Park is the City of Twentynine Palms. In the wilderness of the high desert, Mother Nature has provided us with a beautiful, comfortable home here.”
Mr. Roadrunner went on to say, “ Twentynine Palms is a desert oasis for our travel friends from all over the world; it provides the adventurous traveler with clear blue skies in the daytime and with dark skies at night for star gazing, unpolluted by city lights. And then there are the scenic landscapes and clean, crisp, fresh air all year round.”
“And, our friendly human friends here are grateful and proud of our presence, as we enhance the natural desert life, as the oldest inhabitants of the Mohave preserve,” he added with distinct pride in his voice.
article written by Ash(nalini) Maharaj
This post written by Ash ( Nalini) Maharaj
It’s 6.am, on this beautiful cool November morning, at the Harmony Motel, my favorite part of my day. It is my time with the desert, and I savor every moment of desert’s luxurious mornings she graciously gives me each day. I am sitting at my favorite patio of the Harmony Motel with a hot cup of coffee, eagerly awaiting the Sun to make her majestic rise. She rises slowly and steadily this morning at dawn, spreading her beautiful rays of red and deep orange throughout the east side above the horizon, illuminating the sky with her brilliant colors, the sun mesmerizing me as she turns into a deep golden yellow, allowing daylight to lazily peep onto the world.
The Sun creates an enlightening, warm, bright picture of her full magnificence on the desert landscape. Her beauty is truly authentic, and she is not shy to flaunt this in front of me. I breathe in her rays of vitality, and she energizes my entire being, making me ready to experience a day full of joyous energy. I salute her presence and significance to my life each morning.
I smell the fresh earth of the desert and I notice that the fig tree in the Harmony garden is shedding her dry leaves, the leaves slowly falling to the ground in bright colors of deep yellow, gold and browns, reminding me that the vibrant fall is fully here. The leaves, colored in these earthy tones spread across the gardens, creating a gift wrap image, that echoes a crinkling sound as you walk on them, this natural decoration in the garden brings in the festive mood of the season, making thanks-giving a full reality in this quite harmonious world Fall is my joyous season in the desert.
The desert introduces her seasons with great clarity; she had just showered us with her hot sultry summer temperatures in October, and now we are experiencing her fall’s cool and moderate temperatures. The desert in her cooler climate provides the opportunity to experience great adventures of hiking and star gazing in Joshua Tree National Park, in the wilderness of the high desert.
This post was written by Ash( Nalini) Maharaj
Suddenly my thoughts are distracted by a sound of crinkling leaves in the Gardens. My eyes dart to the Gardens, where I notice Mr. Roadrunner looking grimly at Mr. Bunny. On his right is the Harmony Lizard looking miserably cold on this November morning, while many other critters circle around Mr. Bunny straining their ears to hear his message. I almost hear Mr. Roadrunner complaining of having to attend a meeting so early in the morning. The Harmony Lizard tells Mr. Bunny, “The cold is not good for us reptiles, so hurry up with your agenda.” To which Mr. Bunny replies “Stop being a drama queen Lizzie, it’s just one morning and it’s only the first week of fall. Sorry, dear friends, but this meeting is very urgent!” “Well”, deliberates…. Mr. Bunny, enjoying each moment of attention from his friends. “He loves these meetings, because he gets to be the centre of attention,” Lizzie thinks to herself.
Mr. Bunny clears his throat, and continues with his message, “Now as you are all aware, Mr. Tortoise has been very depressed these past few weeks, because he lost his daughter in an accident. It was an off- highway biker, a thoughtless human that was only looking for his pleasure at the expense of our lives. Friends, we have discussed this many times that we need to help the tortoises as they are endangered group of critters in the high desert. We need to come up with a plan on how to save the tortoise critter; we cannot afford to lose them as they are the wisest critter and one of the oldest to our world. Their input to our survival in the desert is invaluable.”
“So I need a plan from you guys, at our next meeting at the 49 Palms Oasis. Lastly, we would not be spending Thanksgiving at the Harmony Gardens this year, as the traffic of travelers is going to be very high.”
“Oh,” said Ms. Red Racer, her huge eyes dazzling with vanity (she loved the limelight), “they love to take my pictures, and my popularity is highest during this time.”
Mr. Roadrunner then turns around slowly as feels the presence of his favorite friend,
“Oh Hi,” Mr. Tortoise,” he stutters.
The tortoise very shyly greets his friends. He truly has an innocent demeanor and I am surprised to find him in the garden, however I notice that his familiar appearance is admired by all of his friends in the garden. My thought takes me to my recent readings on this unique looking creature.
This post was written by Ash (Nalini) Maharaj
The desert tortoise is one of the most ancient critters of the high desert. These terrestrial animals adapt themselves very well to dry climate on land. Their homes in the high desert are burrows that are shaped in the form of a half moon. They keep cool/warm in these burrows to avoid the extreme cold or heat of the desert. You would be very lucky to encounter one.
They are beautiful reptiles that are totally passive in personalities. These humble souls have a beautiful hard decorative shell that almost seems to be artistically molded on their bodies by Mother Nature. Their long neck with their old wrinkled heads pops out of the shell, as they move slowly with their heavy rear legs (described as almost elephant- like in many critter books), reminding us of how ancient they are. To me they seem to be as old as the rock formations in the National Park. They certainly enhance the beauty of the desert environment. They are a joy to watch.For the desert tortoise, one of their primary modes of survival is storing water in their huge bladders; this storage allows them to keep a “year’s supply of water”. The tortoise can live a full life of up to 80 years, if this species is well protected.
Their movements are very slow; hence their speed in movement is no match for bikes, cars, trucks, and off-highway vehicles. These vehicles can easily crush a tortoise shell. Always check underneath your cars before you drive off, as they often look for shady spots to rest in the desert.
If you spot a tortoise during your adventures in the desert leave them alone. Because if you make them anxious, they can out of fear, release their supply of water, which can be fatal to their survival, especially if they cannot replenish it quickly. Moreover don’t use the desert as a dump site for your garbage or litter, as these creatures can get easily entangled in trash that can lead to their death. Trash attracts Ravens which are predators to the tortoise, its eggs and hatchlings.
Suddenly my thoughts are interrupted by the movements of critters in the garden, as they close their meeting by giving thanks for the tortoise life in the desert.
For more information on the tortoise and how you can help to save them you can visit the following websites www.defenders.org and www.mojavedesertlandtrust.org Information provided on the Tortoise was taken from pamphlets and newsletters provided by the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center.
And from the following texts:
1. The Desert Tortoise (answers to frequently asked questions) by James W.Cornett
2. A Field Guide to Desert Holes (revised edition) by Pinau Merlin
3. Indians and Desert Animals by James W. Cornett
The following article was written on the Joshua Tree National Park/high desert and the Harmony Motel, by Marjorie Copeland, (a CNN award Winning Writer www.cnn.com/WORLD/africa/africanawards/finalists_2008.html).
CNNarticle Our apologies- page one of the article is at the bottom and page 2 is the opening page (it is in reversed order, scroll down to read page one first).
This post was written by Ash (Nalini) Maharaj
Looking through the window of a guest room at the Harmony Motel, I am mesmerized at our beautiful desert gardens and then I spot my quail family walking merrily across the gardens on this beautiful breezy summer morning. Mama quail and her little darlings are a very pleasant scene to watch in the mornings, the little quails seeming so obedient and obliging to their parents; I almost hear Mama Quail telling her little ones “ Come along dears, there is no time for your quibbles, we need to hurry up to get to breakfast.”
Located in the high desert is our popular wildlife that we often encounter at our homes or in the Joshua Tree National Park, including bunny rabbits, quails, roadrunners, humming birds, lizards , bighorn sheep and many more. The high desert embraces her wildlife as any parent would, and provides them with the nurturing and comfort that all parents do for their young.
My favorite critter that I like observing, in the National Park is the bighorn sheep. At any given day, if you are visiting the famous 49 Palms hiking trail (less than one mile away from the Harmony Motel), or the Barker Dam trail, if you are lucky, you will encounter these delightful creatures, existing peacefully in the park, totally in harmony with their natural habitat.
They graze lazily, occasionally teasing and courting each other very tenderly. Their skin color blends with almost every tree bark in the park, and with their huge curly horns, they look at you fiercely, ready to charge if given any indication that an attacker is on site. They are a beautiful sight to watch. For the most part they sunbathe almost the whole day and graze at their leisure, allowing you to take pictures, and while staring at you silently. However it is said that they prefer to graze in isolation from humans, so I am very mindful of this. Their young are a pleasure to view, often meekly standing by their parents; they have a sweet and tender look about them, occasionally standing on their two hind legs (almost boasting the tricks that they can perform with their bodies).
My attention is suddenly awakened “to my present moment” as I watch the Harmony desert lizard, with his beautiful shiny, grey, chunky body, bolting across the patio, running furiously on his hind legs for a juicy bug that he has spotted for his breakfast this cool morning. He means business, and wastes no time in “being the predator” of the Harmony patio. These creatures will play the entire day, even in the hottest part of the day. They scurry around rapidly in total joy, enjoying the intensity of the sun on their backs, harmless. All I hear for most of the time as I walk on the pathways of the grounds are their rapid movements in the oleander bushes; they duck and dive as though playing hide and seek with their fellow mates.
Oh! There is Mr. Roadrunner, a rare delight, popping in, to say “ hi” to his friends, in the garden. He is truly a magnificent bird who prefers walking the grounds of the Harmony Motel, giving everyone his morning wishes rather than flying around. My eyes move to the naughty bunny that is chewing away at my beavertail cactus. My annoyance at the bunny is momentarily distracted, as I hear my favorite humming bird sounding her morning tune, perched high in the beautiful green fig tree of the garden. “Her humming resonates with me and reminds of what a wonderful place I am in right now”.