I love California with a fanaticism that borders on full-on obsession. I haven't been to every state, but it's hard to imagine that there's one out there that is more beautiful or weirder than this one. That said, if the Coachella throngs get to be too much for you out there in the desert, there are several quick(ish) side-trips you can make to experience some of that signature weird beauty.—Kate
According to its website, the Integratron "is an acoustically perfect tabernacle and energy machine sited on a powerful geomagnetic vortex in the magical Mojave Desert." So...basically, it's a dome built according to the principals of sacred geometry
, and it offers sound-baths
, in which quartz-crystal bowls are played to produce specific vibrations that are supposed to heal and recharge your chakras and who doesn't need that in the midst of some hard-core partying? If you go, make sure to go with an attitude of respect and good vibes.
The Salton Sea is a salt-water lake that sits below sea-level directly on top of the San Andreas Fault. A man-made lake created as a resort destination in the early 20th century, the Salton Sea instead proved to be a total environmental disaster. Driving by, you're likely to see abandoned stores, motels and campgrounds, all of which give the place a post-apocalyptic feel, enhanced by the fact that, in certain sunlight, the ground, water and sky become indistinguishably the color of salt. It also attracts its share of eccentrics, highlighted in a 2004 documentary narrated by John Waters
, a noted eccentric himself.
An explosion of color in the middle of the desert surrounding the Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain is artist Leonard Knight's testament to God's love. Using thousands of gallons of donated paint and found materials, Knight built the mountain over the course of more than three decades, even rebuilding it entirely after it once collapsed. There's a yellow brick road and a garden of eden, and the entire site is awe-inspiring and beautiful, and one of the most special places you could ever go.
The Cabazon Dinosaur park includes a three-story T-Rex that's open to the top for you to climb and peer out of his toothy grin, and a gift-shop inside a Brontosaurus. It's also where Pee-Wee stopped in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. When you walk through the park, be sure to read the signs, and you'll soon realize that these dinosaurs are actually all about.
A "living museum of desert lore," Moorten Botanical Garden is a cactus lover's dream. The former home of a family of desert botanists, the garden is full of desert relics living, dead and fossiled. There are more than 3000 different species of desert plants here, and it's also the home of the world's first 'cactarium.'