Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year & Welcome to the New Blog layout!!!

As you can see, we have a new header with some pictures of places we’ve been (in case you’re curious, from left to right: Bow Lake in Banff National Park, Charcoal Kilns in Death Valley National Park, the California Coastline). Some other changes/additions/moves:

  • You can add your name to the Follow this Blog link

  • You can now Share this Site with the Bookmark link

  • The Subscribe To link is easier to find (on the right)

  • The Blog Index (very helpful in finding information about specific places or topics) is the last bit of information on the right margin

  • The Blog Archive is now below the last post.

We look forward to hearing what you think of these changes! Just click on the word "Comments" below any post or email us.

Thanks for reading our travel blog these past few months, and we look forward to more camping and travels in 2009. Peace to all.
Suzanne & Brad

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hiking in the Coachella Valley Preserve, Thousand Palms, California

Located in the Indio Hills north of the Coachella Valley is the Coachella Valley Preserve (free admission; donations are accepted at the Visitor's Center). This 17,000 acre preserve is a part of a larger system of preserve land designed to protect the threatened Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, found no where else in the world. The preserve offers visitors the opportunity to explore several desert palm oases (which are fed by a constant flow of water coming from the San Andreas Fault). The largest and most easily assessable by car is the Thousand Palms Oasis. This oasis is located at the Preserve’s Visitor Center and is right off Thousand Palms Road. Here you will find easy trails and board walks that take you through an amazing dense grove of fan palms, cattails and high reed grasses. The Visitor Center offers a wealth of information regarding the preserve’s history, the resident animals and the numerous hikes that you can take to other oasis and viewpoints. We decided to hike out to the McCallum Grove Oasis and then do the Moon Country loop trail totaling about 4.5 miles. McCallum Grove is about one mile north from the Visitor Center. The trail is level, well traveled and takes your through typical desert flora. What makes The McCallum Grove unique from the other oasis is it has a large pond and the water contains Desert Pupfish. These minnow sized fish were placed here to protect them against extinction. Near this oasis we picked up the Moon Country loop trail. This is an easy trail the takes you up the ridge along a large wash area and loops down back through the same wash area to the Visitor Center. The terrain is very open but the trail is well marked. It’s a nice desert hike with the oases being the prize destinations.



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Sunday, December 28, 2008

College of the Desert Street Fair, Palm Desert, California

We went to the street fair at the College of the Desert, held every Saturday and Sunday, 7am-2pm. Located at the corner of Monterey and Fred Waring streets, the fair is quite large with an assortment of items - jewelry, pottery, art, pet accessories, tons of golf equipment including bulk golf balls (a dozen for $5), clothing, etc.... There is food to eat, as well as a small farmer's market with fruit and vegetables. It is a fun way to spend a few hours. There is free parking at the college and there is no admission to the street fair.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Desert Hills Premium Outlets & Cabazon Outlet Shopping, Cabazon, California

Like many of you, we went shopping the day after Christmas and went to the Desert Hills Premium Outlets and the Cabazon Outlets, neighbors to each other on I-10 about 20 minutes west of Palm Springs off Apache Trail Road (take the rotary to Seminole Street and you’re there). Now this is outlet shopping like none-other ~ yes, there are the typical outlet stores: Eddie Bauer, Bass, Samsonite, Harry & David (MooseMunch – YUM!), but have you ever seen stores like these in an Outlet Mall:

Barneys New York? Burberry? Dolca & Gabbana? Gucci? Hugo Boss? Prada? Movado? Jimmy Choo? Judith Leiber?

Granted the RV life doesn’t require much use for 4” Jimmy Choo’s, but they are pretty! Now there weren’t great sales at the mall, although Coach and Burberry’s had lines out the door with great sales – they know how to discount!

TIP: If you go to the Management Office at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets, you can buy a coupon book for $5.00, yet is free with some group memberships, like AAA. The savings range from a free drink when you buy a lunch at the food court, to $50 off when you buy $500 at the Ralph Lauren store.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

More free things to do in the Coachella Valley, California

Here’s a list of some more FREE things you can do in the Coachella Valley (Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indio area):

First Wednesday of Every Month ~ Art Walk in Palm Springs, 6-9pm
The Backstreet Art District shows original contemporary art and modern art in several studios. Meet behind the Mercedes dealer on Cherokee Way & Matthew Drive, off Highway 111.

First Thursday of Every Month ~ Art Walk on El Paseo Drive, Palm Desert, 5-9pm
Walk around and enjoy the art, artist receptions, galleries and festive atmosphere. There is parking on the street or behind the galleries. If you get a bit early, there shops on El Paseo are wonderful.

Every Thursday ~ Old Town La Quinta Concerts, 6-8pm
Concerts on the lawn – bring a blanket, chair, cooler of food & drink – enjoy!

Every Saturday in February & March ~ Wine & Music Series 5:30-7pm
The music is free and begins at 6pm at the Gardens on El Paseo, however if you want to enjoy the wine and cheese, there is a $10 donation which benefits a different local charity each evening.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Free things to do in the Coachella Valley, California

Here’s a list of some FREE things you can do in the Coachella Valley (Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indio area):

VillageFest in Palm Springs every Thursday 6-9pm
The streets are closed on North Palm Canyon Drive and vendors come out to sell their wares. There’s food to eat, fruit & vegetables, crafts, art, and street musicians. The Visitor’s Center, local animal shelter, and local police also have booths. We went to this a couple times, and it was a nice way to spend a Thursday evening. We wrote about going to this a couple times, click here for more information.

Palm Springs Art Museum every Thursday 4-8pm
The museum is free every week during this time. We also went one evening and enjoyed ourselves. Be sure to get there early, as parking can be a hassle. We wrote about going to this a while ago, click here for more information.

Oasis Gardens in Thermal (by Indio)
This is a date garden that has a nice video showing the date farm history. There are free samples, a small place to grab a bite to eat (along with date milkshakes), and a gift shop. Click here to read more.

Shields Date Garden in Indio

This is another date farm with free samples, date milkshakes, and they even sell produce such as oranges and grapefruits. We did not go to this date farm, but it’s right in Indio on Highway 111.

Indio Farmer’s Market & Flea Market every Wednesday & Saturday
Behind the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indo, off Dr. Carreon Street) is a farmer’s market and flea market from 6-9pm. Some days it is free, other days it is $0.50 per adult. They have a variety of fruits & vegetables, household items, clothes, shoes, personal items, etc…. Click here to read about our visit.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Back to Catalina Spa & RV Resort, Desert Hot Springs, California

We’re back at Catalina Spa and RV Resort for two weeks and continue to enjoy the Palm Springs area. One thing we really like about this campground is the people – we have felt very welcomed. When we were here prior to last week, we played water volleyball, Brad played horseshoes, we played pickle ball, joined in pot lucks, as well as the Sunday night sirloin burger meals. It was the same experience at Indian Waters (our campground last week) – although we didn’t particularly like the separation we wrote about last Monday, the people at Indian Waters were also very nice and there were a lot of activities, such as organized hikes, meals, game night, pool tournaments, etc… We didn’t partake as much in Indian Waters as we were busy exploring more of the surrounding area, but were welcomed at game night, learned a new game and made some new friends.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ladder Canyon, Near Mecca, California


If you want a great moderate loop day hike through narrow desert canyon passageways and a view from inside the San Andreas Fault, then Ladder Canyon is the place for you!

Nestled in the Indio Hills northeast of the town of Mecca, Ladder Canyon is actually an offshoot canyon from Painted Canyon. From Box Canyon Road, take 66th Ave about 3.5 miles until you see the Painted Canyon sign. Turn left onto a dirt road for 5 miles until the end to Painted Canyon. (There is literally a sign that says "End".) As you face the canyon, to your right there is an information sign - this sign doesn't mention Ladder Canyon, but you are in the right place. To get to Ladder Canyon, you hike up this smaller canyon (the one on the right) a mile or so to the trail head. Watch for a brown wooden post on the right side labeled Ladder Canyon which has an arrow pointing left to the beginning of the hike. The trail was a little difficult to find, but once get on the path, it's well traveled and obvious. The first third of the hike takes you up a narrow wash area where you have to scramble over several rocky areas and up four ladders. The narrow passages give you a very unique perspective on how water has cut these deep cracks into the hills. At times the passageways are as narrow as two people and extend straight up for more than sixty feet. As you continue to climb uphill the hike begins to open more and more until you reach the summit. From here you have nice views of the Salton Sea and a 360 degree view of all the surrounding mountain. The hike continues towards the television towers to the north. Watch for cairns and arrows to help you find your way. You'll continue past a field of ocotillo and eventually on your right you will see the trail down. The very end of this downward hill is a bit of a scramble, so be careful. Now you will be back in the canyon is which you started, but the fun is not over yet! As you continue walking (you should be going to the right - there are arrows and cairns to help) in about a mile or so there are two more ladders to descend, and alas, you are just about half a mile from the start. This was a fun, different kind of hike; about 5 -6 miles in length, and except for the scrambling and ladders, an easy hike.

If you are just in the mood for an easy walk/hike, you can go to the canyon on the left by the "End" sign and walk for miles. We actually looked for the trail head in this canyon first, walked about one mile before turning around, and it was open and nice. Remember, you are walking in the San Andreas Fault, so cross your fingers for no earthquakes!
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Farmer's Market & Flea Market, Indio, California

Every Wednesday and Saturday evening, 6-9pm, there is a farmer's market and flea market at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio. The admission is 50-cents per adult and it is a large market, with about 6-8 rows of vendors each probably a football field in length. There's a lot of fresh fruit, including cacti, as well as clothing, shoes, furniture, toiletries, household items, gardening supplies, hand tools, power tools - practically anything and everything. Most of the vendors and customers were Spanish-speakers, so it was fun to try to speak the very little Spanish we know (which pretty much is the word "gracias"). The fresh roasted peanuts were a huge hit with Brad.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow in Joshua Tree National Park, California


Snow in the desert? We planned to do the Lost Palm Oasis hike in Joshua Tree National Park today, but due to a very rare nine inches of snow at the southern end of the park by the Cottonwood Visitors Centre, it was recommended we not hike to Lost Palms. So we decided on the shorter three mile loop trail to Mastadon Peak. This hike is nice, starting with a paved walkway down to an oasis. If you just go this far, you will see some beautiful fan palms and yuccas. The trail continues past typical Colorado desert flora – small cacti and yuccas - and eventually forks to where you can continue onto the Lost Palms Oasis, or bear left towards Mastadon Peak. (Good hikers can do both hikes in one hike as Lost Palms Oasis is 7.2 miles and Mastadon Peak is an off-shoot of the hike.) Continuing on the Mastadon Peak trail, this is where the slight uphill climb begins, as you ascend to the peak. Once at the peak, you can see views of the Eagle Mountains and Salton Sea. Unfortunately, due to LA smog (yes, this far away – 150 miles) we could not see the Salton Sea. At this point the trail loops back to the parking lot, but due to the snow, we couldn’t follow the trail past the peak, so we turned around and went back the way we came for an overall four mile hike.

If you’re in the area, this would be a good hike. There’s some uphill elevation to the peak, but it’s not difficult at all, and you can get some very good views on clear days. We added some snowy photos of Joshua Tree ~ enjoy!

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino and La Pinata Restaurante, Indio, California

We have heard so much about the casinos in the Coachella Valley that today we decided to check out the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, only a few miles from our RV park. This is a nice hotel & casino which offers it's guests a well-equipped weight and fitness room, beautiful outdoor pool and hot tub, a 24 lane bowling alley, many restaurants and of course, the casino. Although we didn't eat in the restaurants, we did review each menu and toured the locally famous buffet. All provide a large and nice variety of items from which to choose. The casino is nice, but it's a typical smoky casino. The casino is predominately filled with slot machines, but has an assortment of table game including one craps table. The minimum bet on each table was $5 or more. We asked if the table minimums are ever less than $5, and were told no; given that we like to play craps, that's a lot of money on the table, so we passed. However, we did see penny slots, and decided to grab the pennies we've accumulated in the ashtray of the truck and see if we could win a buck or two. First we signed-up for a free Players Club Card, which allowed us to partake in the casino's various promotions. Upon registering we each got a free t-shirt (XL, so Brad got two free t-shirts and Suzanne got none), our names were entered for a drawing for a new car and we each received $3 free on our Players Club Card to start our gambling. Well, we parlayed our total of $6 in free money into $12.50 at the nickel-slot machines! Now if only the stock market would yield that kind of return......

All that winning and casino excitement made us hungry, so we headed to La Pinata Restaurante, a Mexican restaurant recommended to us by a woman at the RV park . When we got there it was still Happy Hour so we decided to eat the half priced appetizers in the bar. The appetizer menu has about eight items to choose from and the portion size is quite large. If we had known the large sizes, we probably would have only order one item to share. The drinks were at a discounted price as well. The food, staff and atmosphere were all very good. Their regular dinner menu consisted of a wide range of authentic Mexican food. We'll definitely go back if we are in the area again. This restaurant can be found on the left side of Hwy 111 just past Monroe Street going west. Bring your appetite, you'll need it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Date Oasis Garden, Thermal, California


Southeast of the Palm Springs and Palm Desert areas in the Coachella Valley is the Date Oasis Garden . This is a 92 year old 175 acre working date palm ranch that specializes in the wonderful Medjool variety as well as many others. At their store you can taste over a dozen different dates, read about the history of the ranch, purchase dates and other gifts, and enjoy their famous date milkshakes. The store is nearly surround by the fields of palm trees which makes for a very tropical and relaxing feel. This ranch is also one of the largest providers of date palm trees around the world. We learned that all the varieties that they grow are originally from Iraq, Iran or Northern Africa. It turns out that countries in the middle east now are purchasing trees from Date Oasis Garden to reestablish groves that have been eliminated due to wars. Who knew that the Coachella Valley played such a role in the world's palm dates? If you like dates or want to try them for the first time, then we recommend a visit to the Date Oasis Garden.

Tip! We learned after our visit that there are free milkshake coupons in the Date Oasis Garden's tourist brochure, so watch for them tourist information stands.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Slab City, Niland, California

Why go to Slab City? Well we were curious to see it because we had heard about it in RV circles and also because it was featured in the book and movie Into the Wild. Slab City is an abandoned WWII marine base east of Niland, California which is located on the southeastern edge of the Salton Sea. Needless to say it’s in the middle of nowhere. Soon after the war, the military removed the buildings leaving the concrete slabs and access restrictions, so people moved there in their campers and trailers to live free and “off the grid”. Living there today is a mixture of permanent residents as well as RVers that are spending a few days. All the residents live or park where they want in this 60+ acre area without water, electricity and sewer facilities…it’s as primitive as it gets. After driving around on the dirt roads we came upon a structure called the Slab City Oasis Club so we decided to stop and have a look. We were soon greeted by a friendly gentleman named Mike Bright who provided us history of the city and answered any questions that we had. He also showed us photos taken of him with Sean Penn during the on-location filming of the movie Into the Wild. He provided us much insight into the nature of the culture and people who make Slab City their home.

As we were leaving we stopped at the entrance of Slab City to explore Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain creation (which the Folk Art Society of American designated as a National Folk Art Site). This is one of the most famous landmarks in Slab City made popular by visitors posting pictures on the internet and again by the story told in the book/movie Into the Wild.

Living in this remote desolate desert, Leonard has been able to make his own adobe (mixture of clay and straw) and find inorganic materials from the desert like tires, car window and more to build a 3-story creation of his faith’s message. Inside and out, Leonard has painted every surface with a selection of bright colors. His creation has been a work in progress for over 19 years with surprising vision. With each visitor that appeared, he was eager to walk everyone through the inside of the structure and explain how he built various parts. He was also very patient to take a picture with anyone that asked. At the end of his mini tour he wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to walk on his yellow brick road path that takes you through and to the top of Salvation Mountain.

What’s more interesting than the obvious uniqueness of this creation is Leonard Knight’s enduring commitment, passion and open generosity to share what he believes in with anyone that stopped. After walking and exploring freely his mountain and vehicle creations, he surprised us again as we left by not asking us for money to support his efforts rather by giving us a picture puzzle of Salvation Mountain and sincerely thanking us for stopping to visit. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate what Leonard has created out of nothing in the desert. You will have to see it to truly believe it.

We posted more pictures of Slab City, and oh, if you go to Salvation Mountain, we're sure Leonard would love another can of paint!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Indian Waters RV Resort, Indio, California and A Great Restaurant!

Indian Waters RV Resort is in Indio, California which is a nice area to stay if you want to explore southern Joshua Tree National Park, the Salton Sea, and more. Indian Waters RV Park is a Western Horizons park and part of the RPI network. Quite honestly, not our favorite park. There are two different sections - one for Western Horizon's members, which we are not, and one for RPI members. Although all the sites are large with a concrete pad to park your rig, the area for members is grassy with full hook-ups and the area for non-members is gravel with only electric and water. Neither of us has ever been a fan of this kind of separation - it does not look favorably upon the RV Park. There is no cable throughout the park, and wifi is free, although it is terrible. Western Horizons knows their wifi is bad because they even give you a disclaimer when you check-in of the reasons it's bad. Computer-maven Brad can tell you that they just need to spend a bit more money and get some more bandwidth. The positives of Indian Waters, as there are some - it is clean, has a pool and hot tub, horseshoes, shuffleboard, a dining area and lot of activities. There is a social room with a small book exchange. Quite honestly, we probably would not come back to this park - the segregation just gives the place a negative vibe.

Now onto one of our favorite subjects - food! We found incredible Italian restaurant on our way here - Papa Dan's. It's in Palm Desert and Suzanne had, with no exaggeration, the best Margherita Pizza that she's ever had. Brad enjoyed a meatball sandwich which was also great. They make their own Mozzarella cheese and it was fantastic! We have plans to go back - their menu is full of choices, their staff was great, and the prices were reasonable. When you're in this area, this is the place to go - yum!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Joshua Tree National Park photos, California

Some photos of Joshua Tree National Park have been posted ~ Enjoy!
We'll be in the area for a few more weeks, so this is just the beginning!

Check our our NEW Blog Improvements (on the left-hand margin):
  1. A Blog index was added for finding content easier.
  2. Blog posts archiving is now done by month instead of by week.

The holidays are coming!

Please remember to use our amazon.com button on the left if you plan to shop at Amazon. Did you know that they have more than books? They have CD, DVDs, games, gifts of all types - probably anything you need! Can't think off what to buy for someone - give an amazon.com gift card. They also gift wrap & send items (some items even ship for free)- can't be easier!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fortynine Palms Oasis Hike ~ Joshua Tree National Park, California


According to desert oasis legend, you can see an oasis from a distance but once you get close, it always vanishes. At the end of our three plus mile hike today, the Fortynine Palm Oasis at Joshua Tree National Park was quite real and spectacular against this mountainous barren landscape. The trail is a one-way moderate hike over rocky and loose gravel that takes you up several ridges and then down into a deep valley where the oasis lies in a collection point of several adjoining canyons. Here you will find several large and tall native California fan palms scattered amongst several small pools of water. This is one of 158 desert palm oases in North America and Joshua Tree National Park has five of these oases. You can also find cattails and cottonwood trees in this isolate garden. The trail itself offers several great views of the valley to the north, as well as desert flora including many red barrel cactus. This oasis is such a unique and stark contrast to the desert landscape that you don’t want to miss. You can find this hike on the north side of Joshua Tree National Park just four miles off Hwy 62 at the end of Canyon Road. We did the hike in two hours including the twenty minutes exploring the oasis itself.

To round out our day in Joshua Tree NP, we hiked the Indian Cove Nature trail that was nearby. This is a .6 mile interpretive trail providing information about the unique plants and animals that make this desert wash (a major drainage channel) their homes. This easy loop trail is surrounded on three sides by large rock hills where rock climbers are often seen. If you are looking for a 30 minute, easy and informative desert hike with nice views, then definitely check this out. You can find this hike on the far west end of the Indian Cove campground.

Joshua Tree National Park costs $15/vehicle per week, $30 for an annual pass, or free if you have an America the Beautiful pass.

Check our our NEW Blog Improvement (on the left-hand margin):
1. A Blog index was added for finding content easier .
2. Blog posts archiving is now done by month instead of by week.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Palm Springs Art Museum & Villagefest (again), Palm Springs, California

The Palm Springs Art Museum ($12.50 per adult) is free on Thursday evenings from 4-8 during the weekly Villagefest, so we went to enjoy the Keith Haring exhibit, as well as other exhibits on show. The Haring exhibit was quite interesting, with art that was less colorful and more indicative of his somber take on the world. There were also a few Andy Warhols to enjoy, as well as the rest of the museum. The museum building was quite modern and nice, with friendly docents who were quite informative.

Of course, all of this art browsing made us hungry, so we enjoyed dinner at The Vineyard Tuscan Grill, where the third time was a charm - we finally found a very good, well staffed restaurant in Palm Springs! Although a bit on the expensive side (we're starting to think that all restaurants in the Palm Springs area will be on the expensive side), the service was very good and the food excellent.

Again, Villagefest brought out the interesting, the talented, and the crafty. One thing we forgot to mention last week was The Palm Springs Walk of Stars - similar to the Hollywood Walk of Stars, the Palm Springs Walk of Stars is dedicated to those stars who at one time called Palm Spring their home.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

campgrounds in the Desert Hot Springs area, California

There are many campgrounds within a 3 mile radius of Catalina Spa & RV Resort (where we're staying), so we decided to check them out and see what type of amenities, sites, etc.. they offer.

Desert Pools RV Resort - This is a Western Horizon's park, so a membership to Western Horizons or RPI is needed to stay here. One interesting thing we've learned is that Desert Pools & Catalina have a reciprocal agreement, so members in both parks can use the other park's facilities, so many members go back-and-forth to play water volleyball, pickleball, etc.. The sites here are all very long and fully-graveled, but quite open with very few hedges/greenery for privacy or wind (it can get windy in the desert) protection. The central clubhouse has three hot tubs, a large pool, and the usual library book exchange, meeting room, etc...

Caliente Springs RV Resort - This is a private park open to the public, so no membership is required to stay here, although it is a 55+ park, which means at least one member in your group must be at least 55 years old for you to stay here. This park has a lot of mobile homes, and there is a section for RVers, with sandy, large sites (although there is a sign that they have limited big rig access) and no hedge between, so privacy is lacking. The clubhouse was very nice with nice gardens around it.

Sands RV Resort - This is also a private park open to the public, so no membership is required to stay here, and it is also a 55+ age park. This was a beautiful park- there's a nine-hole public golf course and the grounds are maintained quite well. The campsites were all gravel and had very nice, high hedges on two sides, yet many sites were back-to-back; the campsites were co-mingled with park model homes, rather than sequestered as with Caliente Springs. The clubhouse was beautiful - a large dining room, very nice weight/exercise room, library, card room, pool area with spa, etc....


The holidays are coming!
Please remember to use our amazon.com button on the left if you plan to shop at Amazon. Did you know that they have more than books? They also gift wrap & send items - can't be easier!

Also, restaurant.com is having a new promotion: Now you can save 70% off at Restaurant.com when you try our new coupon code "ONLINE". It can be used on both of their most popular products, Dinner of the Month Club and their $25 Gift Certificates. This offer is valid December 8th through December 11th! Please remember to use our button (again, on the left) as well. Thanks!!


Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Living Desert, Palm Desert, California

The Living Desert is a zoo in Palm Desert, just a few miles south of Palm Springs. They have many animal exhibits of desert animals, many which are rescued and/or endangered animals, as well as botanical gardens which represent deserts from around the world. Every December, The Living Desert hosts the WildLights Holiday Festival which is a festival of beautiful holiday lights throughout the front part of the zoo, food including make your own s'mores over open fires, Santa Claus, music, and a nocturnal animal show at 6:30pm. We went to the WildLights Festival ($7.75/adult, however we had complimentary tickets from someone we met at the campground) and although enjoyed it, we were glad we didn't pay $15.50 for the experience - it was more geared towards families with children. There were two very interesting things, though - they have a huge 1:22.5 inch scale Model Train Display which was quite detailed with trains running through more than 3000 feet of track past a variety of destinations, and just outside the entrance to The Living Desert was a telescope which was positioned on the moon - it was so powerful, we could see the craters on the half-moon. The astronomer with the telescope explained to us that when the moon is half-full, it's the best time to see the craters.


Prior to our visit to The Living Desert, we had dinner at Restaurant Guillermo, recommended to us by a very informative woman we met at the Palm Desert Visitors Center. Well, the restaurant started with potential - the waiters were very nice and the decor equally nice, but the food was just average to good, and as the waiters were all focused on a large party coming-in after us, the service lacked. Not sure if we just hit the restaurant on a bad night, or it is normally just so-so. We also strolled around the El Paseo Shopping District, which is the Rodeo Drive of Palm Desert, with art galleries, restaurants and high-end shops such as Gucci. Unfortunately, we got here when the stores were closing - we thought they'd be open late as it is the holiday season, but they all closed at 6pm on a Saturday night in December - go figure!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Off to explore Joshua Tree National Park today (entrance fees: $15/vehicle for the week; $30 for an annual pass. We have the America the Beautiful Pass, so it was free). After getting hiking information at the Oasis Visitor Center, we set out to explore the park and take a few short hikes. Since we got a late start today and only had about five hours of daylight left, we chose a couple of short hikes and one viewpoint.

Our first hike was Arch Rock at the White Tank Campground. This is a .5 mile moderate hike through some very interesting rock outcroppings to a small arch. The trail takes you through many narrow cracks in the rocks which makes the hike a lot of fun. There are other trails (not sure if they are official) throughout this rocky area to also climb around and see other very interesting rock formations. Next, we made a quick stop at Skull Rock. This is a 30 feet tall rock right off the road that looks like a elongated skull. We then proceeded to Keys View. From this viewpoint you are able to see the entire Coachella Valley which includes the cities of Palm Springs, Palm Desert, the Salton Sea and more. But the most interesting view from this 5185 ft vantage point is the San Andreas Fault. From here you can actually see the ridge where the continental plates meet. It was very interesting and well worth the drive to the view point.
Our last stop and hike of the day was Hidden Valley. This is a one mile loop hike in the middle of a huge rock outcropping that is in the middle of a yet larger valley. The one mile round trip hike begins by taking you through narrow passage ways in the rocks to where you are inside a bowl or fort of surrounding rock walls that encompass the valley thus the name Hidden Valley. The trail then follows along the internal parameter of the valley winding through groups of Pinon and Juniper pines, cactus and the numerous other desert plants. Also along the walls of the valley are several higher groupings of rocks that look like sentinels of the valley. This is a very unique and interesting hike that you don't want to miss. Surrounding the Hidden Valley and throughout the park are forests of Joshua Trees. These aren't trees but a variety of yucca that can grow to be 40 feet tall with multiple branches. Seeing these majestic trees and you'll immediate know why this is an amazing place.

Speaking of the San Andreas Fault, we experienced an earthquake as we wrote this blog! No kidding!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

VillageFest ~ Palm Springs, California

Every Thursday evening from 6:00 - 10:00 pm, Palm Canyon Drive, the main street in Palm Springs, is closed to traffic and becomes a pedestrian street fair with a variety of entertainment ~ from places to eat, small tables to shop, musicians, and of course, people-watching. We first had a good, but over-priced and less-than-stellar service meal at Kalura Trattoria (although the location was great) and then enjoyed meandering the tables. There were the usual merchants - jewelry, soaps, candles, lamps and fire pits made to order, chair massage (which always had a line), fresh fruits, sweets, dinner food; and the somewhat unusual - like the street performer who had a wind machine so his cape could capture the high-on-the-mountain-breeze while he "played" the violin - but it was actually a CD, and the music continued while he stopped to adjust the air machine to better sway his cape. It was entertaining, to say the least.

The holidays are coming!

Please remember to use our amazon.com button on the left if you plan to shop at Amazon. Did you know that they have more than books? They also gift wrap & send items - can't be easier!

Also, restaurant.com is having a new promotion: you can save 60% off at Restaurant.com when you use the coupon code "LIST". It can be used on both of their most popular products, Dinner of the Month Club and their $25 Gift Certificates. This offer is valid December 5th through December 7th! Please remember to use our button (again, on the left) as well. Thanks!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Exploring Desert Hot Springs, California

Desert Hot Springs is a suburb of Palm Springs with basic amenities such as a couple major food stores, a few gas stations, library, Chamber of Commerce, chain restaurants, etc... The one area attraction that we happened upon as we searched for a Visitors Center (which is found at the same place) was the Cabot's Pueblo Museum, which is a Hopi inspired Pueblo handmade by Cabot Yerxa which includes his collection of early Native America pottery and tools and furniture of the period. We didn't stop to view the museum, but have plans to return when we have a bit more time. We did learn about many hiking, shopping, eating, and exploring opportunities in the area, so stay tuned for those!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Catalina Spa & RV Resort, Desert Hot Springs, California

We booked two-weeks at Catalina Spa & RV Resort (an RPI park) with plans to come back for another two-weeks at the end of December. We, of course, were taking a chance that we would like this park sight-unseen. We are thrilled!! This is one of the nicest campgrounds we've stayed - the sites are clean, large, have some privacy with flowering shrubs - there are many, many activities, five nice swimming pools - two (the spas) at the adult center and three at the family center. The family center also has a large lodge-type facility with many potlucks planned. The adult center has a large area for games, a book exchange, poker room, pool room, and small restaurant. Although we no longer have our sweet dog Mickey, it cannot go unnoticed that there is a great off-leash dog are (actually three, so dogs that do not get along can be separated) with shade trees, toys, water bowls - chairs for the parents -the works! There are two laundromats which are both very nice, and it happens to be the least expensive laundry we've found so far. The staff is also incredibly nice - we even had someone stop by and welcome us to the park! We're very excited to be here for a while and are looking forward to enjoying the activities as well as the surrounding area of Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park, and more!

Photos - we've posted the San Diego photos as well as the photos from Los Angeles, so enjoy those!


The holidays are coming!

Please remember to use our amazon.com button on the left if you plan to shop at Amazon. Did you know that they have more than books? They also gift wrap & send items - can't be easier!


Restaurant.com is having a promotion: You can save 50% you try the new coupon code "JOY". It can be used on both of their most popular products, Dinner of the Month Club and their $25 Gift Certificates. This offer is valid December 1st through December 4th! Please remember to use our button (again, on the left) as well. Thanks!!

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