Exploring California’s Desert Country Through The Eyes Of A Travel Photographer

A lone dog patrols his turf in the area around Pioneertown.

We love Baldemar Fierro around these parts. The widely acclaimed travel photographer has shared sage advice for our own creative pursuits and gladly visited the foul-smelling city of Vernon, CA and the most remote reaches of Alaska to score pictures for Uproxx. Though the trip to Vernon offered an education, it was the chance to travel across Alaska’s expansive wilderness that really connected with Fierro’s sensibilities.

“I like to find beauty in the mundane,” he told us. “Vernon showed me how badly we’ve messed things up, but Alaska reminded me what we’re fighting for and that’s always the better way to teach, in my mind.”

This month, we wanted to send Fierro across the dusty deserts of inland California. It seemed like a nice combination of Alaska’s broad vistas and Vernon’s scruffy edges. We also wanted to highlight Pioneertown — one of the most photo-worthy (and road trip worthy) cities in the nation. This small hamlet was once the refuge of movie stars shooting westerns in the desert and is very much en vogue once again (thanks largely to one of the most iconic underground music venues on the planet).

Baldemar was excited about all of this, but there was a wrinkle: He needed to make it a working trip and couldn’t go off the grid the way he had in Alaska. To remedy the problem, we sent him in a Chevy Cruze, a new compact car that’s completely wifi’d up and seems ready made for vagabonding photographer-types.

As he traveled, Baldemar hooked up with a whole fleet of Chevys on a similar adventure, visited the famed Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, and took plenty of sweeping photos of this sun-scorched, less inhabited corner of the nation’s most populous state.

All photos and captions by Baldemar Fierro.

Live music by Tony Marsico’s Band of Thieves at Pappy and Harriet’s.

This is the sign of successful flirting.
A couple takes to the dance floor at one of the most historic venues in the country.
Pioneer Town at dusk.
No pools look quite the same as the much-needed pools of Palm Desert and Pioneer Town.
Fine dining in Pioneer Town.

Hanging at Joshua Tree.