Desert Hot Springs and Joshua Tree National Park
We spent a week in Desert Hot Springs, California, a small city just outside of Palm Springs. Turns out, the desert is AWESOME. Let’s talk plants. Boring right…? NO! In the desert everything that was once mundane is now fascinating. Oranges growing on trees, ripe for the picking, and one wrong step can mean a foot full of cactus. How… exciting?
We picked and ate oranges off of this tree and they were fantastically flavorful.
We decided to stay at Desert Pools RV Park – a nice quiet place to stay. Good rates if you are a Passport America member. The whole area is surrounded by mountains lightly dusted in snow – really beautiful scenery. I didn’t realize how mountainous this area is.
AND, of course, the hot pools themselves. Since the area lies directly on the San Andreas fault, there is a fair amount of underground heat being generated. Terrifying and soothing on the bones all at the same time…
Kelly and I made it a personal goal to go to the hot tub and pool every single day. It was just too nice not to. In the evening time we would head down and get our soak on.
The area has some great hikes. Nina from Wheeling It was nice enough to put together a list of all the dog-friendly hikes in the Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs area. This was invaluable information and Max and I were able to find some great places to hike. We went about 4 miles through a large swath of protected land called the Whitewater Preserve. This is where I had the opportunity to hike a couple of miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. Yes, I read the book Wild, and yes, I have always wanted to hike on this trail. Very exciting.
On Saturday, we spent the day exploring Joshua Tree National Park. I am slightly embarrassed to say this National Park hadn’t even made it on my radar yet, although of course in passing I had heard that it was supposed to be cool. Understatement. It was amazing.
The park is named for the beautiful and somewhat odd looking Joshua Tree.
These trees are found exclusively in the Mojave Desert of the Southwestern United States. They are considered to be endangered due to climate change. At this point, there are actually forests of them in the desert within the park, and it was a stunning sight to see.
Of course, our visit was not without its complications. Our consistent lack of research and planning brings us both gifts and hardships.
If you take the time to research even one single thing about how to drive to Joshua Tree National Park, you will notice that all of the results will immediately warn you not to follow GPS directions because they will lead you astray. This extremely helpful and pertinent information was lost on us, however, because we failed to research even one single thing before throwing the park name into the GPS and setting off on our way.
The drive there seemed a little odd: No National Park signs, and an increasingly pothole-filled dirt (sand) road. And how odd there aren’t any other tourists here…? At the time somehow these facts didn’t set off any alarm bells. So we drove about 10 miles down some crazy pothole filled dirt roads into the middle of absolutely-freaking-nowhere.
But no matter – we got lucky once again and the totally out-of-the-way back road we took led us straight to Eureka Peak. Eureka Peak is the 4th highest peak in the park, and it provides awesome views in all directions. The car put us close enough to the top that we only had to walk about 200 feet to get to the pinnacle. A totally cheating way to climb a mountain, of course, but hey.
Detour – worth it.
Then we went back and figured out the CORRECT way to get into the park, which surprise surprise, does NOT involve deeply sandy backroads and a total lack of sign-age. Who would have thought? There is a visitor center and everything.
My favorite part of Joshua Tree National Park was the part with these huge doughy rocks. It looks like the Flintstones world come to life.
These rocks are absolutely perfect for climbing. I was in heaven – I love to climb on rocks. I immediately scrambled up and took some photos of Kelly from above.
The whole area is totally surreal. And littered with dangerous-looking cacti. And some of them actually ARE quite dangerous – if you brush up against one of these guys (jumping Cholla) they jump out and latch on to you.
We will be heading back to Joshua Tree at some point this winter because I did NOT get enough climbing-time on all the amazing rocks. We are planning to be around the area for the next couple of months, so it shouldn’t be too tough to plan another visit.
After Desert Hot Springs, we spent a fun-filled week in San Diego with my parents who came to visit for the holidays! More on that coming next.