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A few hours from Los Angeles, 40 minutes north of Palm Springs, is the Morongo Basin, home to a handful of high desert small towns that act as an escape for city folk and boast a community of artists and outdoors lovers. Places like Joshua Tree, Morongo Valley, Yucca Valley, Landers, and Twentynine Palms are notoriously affordable by Southern California standards, making them a draw for many women—a cool, safe place where we can also own property. It’s no surprise, then, that many of the local businesses are women-owned and the highlights below are truly superb…not just “desert good” (for a full archive of lady-run businesses, check out daughtersofthedesert.com). Take into account the otherworldly landscape, inherent desert quirkiness, and just the right amount of woo, and you’ll want to seek refuge at this SoCal destination, too. 

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STAY + EXPERIENCE

Book a room in advance at the serene oasis of Mojave Sands Motel (62121 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree); the compact, roadside retreat has only five sought-after rooms. The Joshua Tree Inn (61259 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree) has been a mecca for Gram Parsons fans for decades (he spent his last hours in room 8), but locals love this hotel for its picturesque pool. 

For a relaxing meditative treat, and a uniquely desert experience, schedule a sound bath at the Integratron (2477 Belfield Blvd., Landers). Owners Linda Krantz and Robyn Celia host world-class music acts at their historic roadside saloon and BBQ joint Pappy & Harriet’s (53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown)—even Paul McCartney recently played the small but legendary venue. (Pro tip: Monday open mic is a favorite night for locals.) A visit to Joshua Tree National Park is a must, but so is respect for the land. When driving through the park or around the desert, stay on marked roads—Joshua trees look like mystical creatures, but they’re actually very old, very fragile succulents. 

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SHOPPING + PLANTS

You can’t visit the hi-des without doing some vintage shopping. At The End’s two locations (55872 Twentynine Palms Highway, Yucca Valley; 49925 Twentynine Palms Highway, Morongo Valley), owner and stylist Kime Buzzelli will help you flaunt your wild creative soul with colorful graphic dresses and art-to-wear clothing. Black Luck Vintage (7350 Acoma Trail, Yucca Valley) has a little bit of everything including home goods, records, and clothing. Stop into Holly’s Trading Post (49700 Twentynine Palms Highway, Morongo Valley) for vintage ceramics and textiles, and Pioneertown General Store (53635 Mane St., Pioneertown) for curated vintage with a Western vibe.

Cactus Mart (49889 Twentynine Palms Highway) is one of the first landmarks you see when you drive through Morongo Valley, where visitors have been digging up their own baby cacti since the 1960s. And florist The Bloomin Gypsy (55827 Twentynine Palms Highway, Yucca Valley) also boasts a plant-focused gift shop called TBG Homegrown curated by floral designer Veronica Lowe.

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EAT + DRINK

La Copine (848 Old Woman Springs Rd.) means “girlfriend” en français, and this French-American restaurant from co-owners Chef Nikki Hill and musician Claire Wadsworth has put Yucca Valley’s Flamingo Heights nabe on the map. Their fried chicken is a favorite, but I go for their delicious lamb burger and duck fat potatoes. After hiking in Joshua Tree National Park, fuel up on vegetarian and vegan dishes at The Natural Sisters Café (61695 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree), and be sure to save room for a slice of vegan pie heaven made by local baker Boo. Wine & Rock Shop (59006 Twentynine Palms Highway, Yucca Valley) is a newly opened libations shop, which offers really pretty crystals along with bottles of beer and wine. 

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ART 

Midnight Oil Gallery (55818 Twentynine Palms Highway) in Old Town Yucca Valley has rotating shows, but make an appointment for a desert-inspired stick ’n’ poke tattoo from co-owner Taylor Elyse Compton. I might be biased, but you should try to catch open hours at the All Roads “Stordio” (7319 Acoma Trail, Yucca Valley), my tiny textile shop and studio where I work on large-scale weavings. Happy hookers can’t miss the World Famous Crochet Museum (61855 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree); the former photo-processing booth houses owner Shari Elf’s colorful, eclectic collection of crocheted items. At the weekly Sky Village Swap Meet (7028 Theatre R., Yucca Valley, Saturdays and Sundays), stop by the High Desert Test Sites HQ for a local-art-site driving map. Want to know more about hi-desert desert living? Listen to interviews with local desert ladies on the podcast Desert Lady Diaries.

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By Janelle Pietrzak
Photographed by Kat Borchat
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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