Saturday, March 19, 2011

La Quinta, Palm Springs and Joshua Tree

Except for the enormous Algodones Dunes we passed through, not far from Yuma, on the California side, the drive to La Quinta, just south of Palm Springs, is not all that spectacular. Granted, it was pretty hazy. The Sultan Sea sat like a flat, dull mirror on the floor of the Coachella Valley, with nothing better to reflect than an equally dull sky.

The shapes and colours as we approached the Santa Rosa Mountains were a welcome contrast.

The cities of La Quinta, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City and Palm Springs are all situated inside the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. All have meticulously maintained, flowered boulevards that separate passersby from gated communities. The speed limit on all the roads is fifty or fifty-five miles an hour because the enormous gated complexes require few driveways. The snow-capped mountains provide sharp contrast to the palms and flowers in the valley bottom.

Pictured is one of the entrances to these wealthy gated communities. Most of the others are equally grand.

At this time of year RV sites in the area are expensive and hard to come by. Luckily for us we found Cahuilla Lake Civic Park where, using our Passport America, we paid just $11 a night. The first night there, because the lake side of the park was full, we were situated in the equestrian section, away from the lake. We never encountered any horse people though. Instead, we sat around the fire with two citified couples; one from Pitt Meadows, the other from Prince George.

Pictured is the equestrian campsite and then the lakeside campsite where we moved to the next day at Cahuilla Lake.

On Tuesday morning we got to move to the lake side of the park and then we took a tour of downtown La Quinta. After an unmemorable lunch at Red Robin, we went to spend the night with Robyn and Dale - the same couple that we visited at Key West. They’re renting a high-end house in one of those huge gated communities. It has three bedrooms, four baths and a separate casita, where we stayed. The house also has a huge gourmet kitchen, fourteen foot ceilings, is richly decorated and is situated on the PGA endorsed Legends West golf course.

When we got there, Dale was out playing championship level Bridge so Janice, Robyn and I hung around the pool and compared stories. She had very recently attended Charlie’s service in Vancouver so there was lots to talk about.

Pictured is the eighty-five degree saline pool at Robyn and Dales’ rental, with Robyn and Janice barely visible in the background.

When Dale got home Janice made some Guacamole to accompany cocktails on the deck. Later, Dale cooked Ribs while Janice made a Mixed Greens, Blue Cheese, Pecan and Red Onion Salad. Dale quick-fired some asparagus on the BBQ and I popped some red wine. Fine.

After dinner Dale and I were enjoying some of his excellent Scotch while the girls tucked into a nice bottle of white wine. Dale is extremely sharp and is obviously a very astute business man. He was having none of any mention of Zeitgeist, Jekyll Island or anything else that suggested the government wasn’t in full control though. He sees any of that stuff as pure nonsense. We had to agree to disagree.

Still, the visit was great. Thanks Dale and Robyn for the hospitality and the cool digs.

On Wednesday morning we walked the three-and-a-half miles around Cahuilla Lake and then took a tour of the towns between La Quinta and Palm Springs. We stopped for a late lunch at a Thai restaurant in Banning and then took the Freeway back home.

In the evening Janice and I sat around the campfire, trying to plan where to go next.

On Thursday we took a drive through the Santa Rosa Mountains and San Bernadino Forest. It was sunny and hot but, even with the constant wind that blew all day, it was thick with smog. Los Angeles is just ninety miles away.

We stopped at a lookout for lunch, and followed the Cahuilla Indian interpretive trail, before driving to the town of Hemmet. I never took any pictures all day because they would have been too hazy. It’s supposed to rain a little tomorrow so, hopefully, it will clear some of the smog. Should have got some pictures of the snow capped mountains the first day, when it was clear -something of a rarity I‘ suspecting.

Later, as Janice was preparing dinner by the fire, a gentle old Greyhound dog wandered into our campsite. Her owner, who turned out to be Rebecca, a thirty-seven-year-old real estate agent from Seattle, showed up a minute later.

Apparently Rebecca and her husband share different interests. She was RV’ing on her own. Interesting - especially for someone her age, who looks more like a librarian than an outdoors kind of person. She explained that she was searching for some kind of new start in her life. Since the real estate market has pretty well tanked in Seattle she figured it was an opportune time to make a change.

After weighing a few options, much to the dismay of all her family and friends, she bought herself a used trailer, a truck, and decided to hit the road for a month. Granted, traveling alone would make things quite a bit more difficult. It would be much harder to navigate, to back up and especially to hook up because the driver needs to back up to an exact spot in order for the hitch to couple - this could easily be a minor accident waiting to happen. On the other hand, the dangers that her friends and family most fear are most likely unfounded.

We invited her to share our dinner and then sat around the campfire until midnight. She plans to continue on to Arizona so we had lots of tips for her.

Pictured is Rebecca and her dog, Cassie, that she rescued about seven years ago from a race track near Portland.

On Friday we explored Joshua Tree National Monument. We approached the park from the south end and after twenty or so miles we thought we must have been missing something - it looked to us like just a bunch more scrubby desert.

Where the Mojave Desert starts though, everything changes. Massive granite boulders weigh on the landscape. Their shapes are limited only to your vision and imagination. The full moon is slated for tomorrow, Saturday, Apparently it’s going to be the largest in the sky since 1994 and it’s supposed be about thirty per cent brighter than normal. This would be such a cool place to see it.

Pictured are some of the massive boulders at White Tank campsite in Joshua Tree Monument.

At about the same time as we came upon the boulders, we saw our first Joshua Tree. The trees, which are actually part of the Lily family, cover the desert in a, (by our standards) sparse but uniform forest. The trees and the boulders form a very unique landscape. We’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Pictured is a Joshua Tree and, by happenstance, a woman rock climber.

We’re booked in here until Sunday and we’re not yet sure of our direction from then on…


  1. Sounds looks like Rebecca is in her 50s. What is with these mid-life crisis's.
    Are the mountains with the snow the San Francisco Mts. (that we saw)?
    So now I know what a Joshua Tree is.
    Pictures still look better than looking out our window and seeing the snow line way down again. 4 deg.
    Be Safe
    XOXO Mom/Rhelda

  2. Hi Tim,
    My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blog posts about things to do in Cathedral City to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you :)