Thursday, April 14, 2011

Day Trip to Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree

Riverside, California is less than 45 minutes from Palm Springs so we took a drive over to see this remarkable city where the Bob Hope Desert Classic golf tournament was played for so many years and where the rich and famous come to play in winter. 

Mind you, this entire area is right along the San Andreas Fault and I am pretty nervous about "the big one" occuring while we're here. Nevertheless, holding my breath, I'm enjoying the whole experience.

Along the way northwest, we drove through beautiful green rolling mountains and up into what's referred to as "high desert".  I saw citrus trees and other agriculture, mountains, desert, palm trees, snow and cactus.  What a place!

Our first close look at the snow covered mountains came less than half-way to Palm Springs.

The desert floor approaching Palm Springs is literally "covered" with wind turbines. 
There are thousands of these huge propellers that generate power from the wind.
The winds in this area are staggeringly strong and is being put to good use with thousands of wind turbines.  Signs along the highway warn of the wind strength and it is felt as we drive...

In this picture you can see the snow capped mountain. I think it is the San Jacinto Mountain.
Palm Springs is the city on the desert floor.  It is tiny in this picture but can be seen if you look closely.

This picture was taken from the parking lot of the Palm Springs Visitors Center.
You can see the desert and the lush landscaping, some more of the thousands of wind turbines,
the mountains and some of the zillions of palm trees that dot the city.
At the visitors center we learned about the world's largest rotating tramcar here that provides a breathtaking journey up the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon to the mountain station at 8,516 feet.  This particular morning, the temperature at the mountain station was 16 degrees so we decided against freezing ourselves and our little dog to take a tram ride.  We did drive up a ways to the tram station and took these pictures coming back down.
Okay. We're driving back down from the tram station and that's Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs below.

Pictures just can't capture the beauty of the area.
Another shot coming off the mountain looking across the desert floor.
A drive along one of the main streets of Palm Springs.
It's really ritzy-rich here and the weather is about perfect -- in the 70's.

This is how the fashionable old people get around in downtown Palm Springs.
No plain ole "Rascals" here.  I want one -- in red.
The secluded retreats and exclusive estates of Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe are here as is the honeymoon hideaway of Elvis and Priscilla Presley.  Oh yes, lots of casinos too; but we don't do casinos.

From Palm Springs we drove 10 miles to Desert Hot Springs, a town that is most unimpressive on entry. It is nestled in the foothills of the Little San Bernadino Mountains between Palm Sprinhgs and Joshua Tree National Park.  Here's the thing that gives the town it's name: A cold water acquifer that provides delicious, award-winning drinking water and a hot mineral water aquifer for hot springs bathing.  There are over 40 spa resorts but all seem to be privately held and there's no place to just "see" or "put your toe in" for curosity seekers. Since we certainly didn't know this and did not bring swimsuits, we did not inquiry as to the hot spring spa hotels.

Looking around the town we found Cabot Museum which was interesting and relaxing for a break -- and Wayne needed a quick nap in the car while Lexie and I toured the property.  Seems this fellow, Cabot Zerka, a veteran of the Alaska Gold Mining Rush, settled this property in 1898 and was the first European to find the hot springs. He discovered them while digging his water well by hand in 1933.  The existing remains on the property are from his home built in 1944. He died in 1963. 

Home of Cabot Zerka, first European to find the hot springs.

One of the out building on the Cabot Zerka property.
Being so close to Joshua Tree National Park, we couldn't pass-up the chance to drive into the area even though time was running out and it was getting close to sunset. Being old folks, we like to be home by nightfall, you know.

Yucca Valley was a vibrant little city with every convenience imaginable. The sunshine was still warm and we took our time driving through it.  Along this area, we began to notice the famous "Joshua Tree" which is not really a tree at all. It is in the same family as the Yucca plant and the two grow side-by-side in many places and is a good indicator that you're in the Mojave Desert but it does also grow in the Sonoran Desert and alongside pines in the San Bernadino Mountains.

The Joshua Tree got it's name from Mormon immigrants who made their way west. Legend says they named the tree after Joshua in the Bible after seeing the limbs of the tree seemingly guiding them westward.  Trunks and limbs of the Joshua tree were used in early settler days for fencing and corrals. They were also used for fuel.

We had just a few minutes in the visitors center before closing time. 
Sadly we did not get into the park itself; we'll save that for another time.
There are two, possibly three, campgrounds in the park that will hold our large rig.  Great!

A bunch of Joshua Trees
Joshua Tree has been a National Park for 75 years in 2011. The park lies in both the Colorado and the Mojave deserts.  The Colorado Desedrt is the eastern half and below 3,000 feet elevation and part of the much larger Sonoran Desert that spans southern Arizona and northwestern Mexico.  The Mojave Desert is in the western half of the park and is over 3,000 feet.


  1. Awesome pictures! I think you are a great blogger. Love u pictures!

  2. I like the pics it is really beautiful.Thanks for sharing.