Monday, September 21, 2020

Joshua Tree and Palm Springs Getaway

For a long weekend getaway in Joshua Tree and Palm Springs, Tori and I drove up Wednesday night after work and stayed at the High Desert Motel.  It was a standard roadside motel, but it was clean and located less than 10 minutes away from the entrance to the Joshua Tree National Park.

We woke up at sunrise on Thursday morning and drove over to Rattlesnake Canyon located near the Indian Cove Campground. We arrived at 7am to escape the heat of the day and had the whole canyon to ourselves. My Chevy Truck looked like it was starring in a TV commercial parked in front. There is no marked trail within Rattlesnake Canyon, instead you make your own path as you scramble up into the boulder-choked ravine. This is my favorite hike in the whole park, sitting at the northern end of the Wonderland of Rocks, ten square miles of huge boulders and cliffs.

We enjoyed a second sunrise as the sun climbed over the nearby mountain ridge. When we visited in the spring of 2019, there was a small stream flowing down the center. All that remains along the watercourse is dried-out algae waiting for the infrequent rains of winter to return. Climbing the steep wall near the dry waterfall, we traveled much higher into the canyon then last time. Scrambling under a giant boulder perched precariously on the slope, we emerged onto a large open area where we could finally see outside of the canyon to the joshua tree-covered plain below.

After sunning myself like a lizard on the smooth rock shelf, we crept up to the edge of a narrow, but deep ravine, carved out of the monzonite rock and polished smooth by the intermittent stream. At the bottom, we could see a string of half-empty pools leading toward the dry waterfall we passed farther down the canyon. Tori took a photo of me sitting along the steep edge trying to get the perfect shot. It was a little scary even though I was on solid rock.

The grey skies had been overcast all week from the California wildfires, so it was great to see blue once more above our heads as the smoke dissipated in the high desert. With no other hikers, we had the whole canyon to ourselves. Heading back down, Tori slipped on a loose rock in the dry stream bed and banged her knee and elbow. Luckily, we were near the entrance of the canyon so we were not far from my truck where we could drive back to the motel and put some ice on it. 

After breakfast from the Crossroads Cafe, we re-entered the national park at the Main Entrance and drove all the way through, descending from the high-altitude Mohave Desert into the Colorado Desert area of the park. Except for the Cholla Cactus Garden, we had never visited this less-iconic section as we stopped to stretch our legs in the 108 degree heat at Porcupine Wash and Turkey Flats to stare at Pinto Mountain across the plain. Driving through the mountain pass of Cottonwood Springs, we went all the way to the sign at the Southern Entrance before turning around and heading back.

Back in the high-altitude Mohave Desert, we stopped at Twin Tanks to hike the Arch Rock Trail.  Because of the intense heat, we chose this short 1.2 mile trail that we have never hiked before. Most of the trail is flat before reaching the ridge of boulders set back from Pinto Basin Road. I captured a great shot of Tori standing under a Joshua Tree with the far ridgeline appearing closer than normal with my telephoto lens.  

Once we made it into the boulder field, it was not far to the iconic Arch Rock. At 30 feet wide, it is not a huge arch, but it was impressive nevertheless. After cooling off in the shade and hydrating, we continued along the narrow crevasses beyond. With its flowing formations of weathered rock, this unique and surreal section of the trail stood out from other areas of the park. 

We found a perfect spot to set up my tripod and take a couple of Standing Acro Poses. What you don't see in the pictures below is the swarm of bees as we quickly jumped into two versions of the Counter Balance Thigh Stand. Tori was stung by one of them before we escaped. On our walk back to the trailhead, I felt a little bit of heat exhaustion near the end despite drinking my entire water bottle. The air conditioning and ice-cold Gatorade from our cooler helped me recover quickly. During our drive out of Joshua Tree, we stopped on Park Boulevard so I could take a picture of the hump-backed rock formation sticking out of the side of Ryan Mountain.

Driving down into Palm Springs, we could see smoke drifting over the windmills in the San Gorgonio Pass from a new wild fire on the slopes of the San Jacinto Mountains. My father has a timeshare at the Palm Canyon Resort so we spent the final four days of our trip lying by the pool in the desert heat.

Our room had a great view of the San Jacinto Mountains from the balcony. After relaxing from our long day in Joshua Tree, we drove into Downtown Palm Springs and had dinner and cocktails at Lulu California Bistro. I love the cooling water misters everywhere to help combat the heat.

On Friday morning, we hung out at the pool, eating avocado toast for breakfast and sipping cocktails until noon. Except for the pool's slides and jacuzzi, the rest of the swimming area was open during the pandemic. We did have a laugh at the elevator's social distancing guidelines with the floor signs facing the walls on each side of the confined space. Instead, all the guests were taking turns with the elevators instead of multiple groups trying to ride at the same time. The great thing about the dry desert heat is that my sunglasses never fogged up while wearing a mask.

For lunch, we went to The Real Italian Deli for sandwiches and drove to Desert Hills Premium Outlets.  Along the way, we could see the red flames of the wildfire on the mountain slopes. With fire engines parked at the base, we could see that the fire was pretty contained. After shopping and posing with the large Metal Rat Sculpture by Ricardo Breceda, we stopped for Date Shakes at the nearby Hadley Fruit Orchard on the way back to Palm Springs. For dinner, we had Mexican food under the cooling misters at Las Casuelas.

On Saturday, we spent another morning at the pool, practicing our Standing Acro Poses in the water. After the pool closed for an hour at noon for their daily cleaning and sanitizing, we headed down to Palm Desert to drive up the winding Palms to Pines Highway into the Santa Rosa Mountains. At the Coachella Valley Vista Point, we stopped for the great view of the desert below. Further up the mountain, the Cahuilla Tewanet Vista Point was closed but we still had a great view from the side of the road. At the Sugarloaf Cafe, we turned around and headed back down.

I love the picture below of Tori walking down the center of the empty boulevard lined with palm trees. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown has been changed to a pedestrian-only street since the last time we visited. For dinner, we had reservations at FARM, a Provencal-style French restaurant with a lovely outdoor garden patio. In the evening, they only serve a 5 course prix fixe menu that changes every week.

We had a Bachelorette Party sitting behind us with all six women wearing wedding dresses. After an Amuse Bouche, I had the Citrus Burrata Salad and Tori the Ahi Tuna Tartar for our second course. After the Limoncello Sorbet as a Palate Cleanser, Tori had the Chilean Sea Bass and I had the Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb. For desert, we enjoyed the Chocolate Mousse and Banana Crepe.

After lying out by the pool on Sunday morning and watching Justin Herbert's first game as the Chargers quarterback against the Kansas City Chiefs, we drove over to check out the Windmills in the San Gorgonio Pass. Garnet Avenue is the frontage road along the 10 Freeway with good views of the giant windfarm turbines with a mountain backdrop. After finding a good spot to set up my tripod, Tori climbed up to stand on my shoulders in the Two High Pose and she hooked her foot around my neck for the Flag Counter-Balance Pose. I think they came out really good in the photos below.

For dinner, we went to King's Highway. While the remodeled dining room of the former Denny's Restaurant was closed, we enjoyed a nice meal on their back patio near the hotel pool. After checking out of the resort on Monday, we headed back to the Outlets for an in-store appointment at Lululemon since we were not able to make it in on Friday. The Turkey Sandwiches on Focaccia bread were so delicious at The Real Italian Deli, that we picked up two more to eat for dinner when we returned home.