A week of family fun

After eleven glorious days filled with hot pools and palm trees, our stay here at Sam’s is coming to an end.

Sam's Family Spa
Palm tree view out our side window

It’s been a relaxing and fun-filled week and a half out here in the desert. The best part was that we had company! Tim’s mom Carol arrived on Tuesday and spent the week hanging out and exploring the area with us.

Sam's Family Spa
Tim and Carol getting in some quality mother-son time

We had a great time relaxing around the RV and in the hot pools catching up on all that has happened since we last saw her 6 months ago. In the mornings Phineas and I enjoyed having a walking partner, and he was especially excited to discover that she found room in her suitcase for a bag of doggie treats. What a lucky grand-dog he is!

Sam's Family Spa
An early morning snowy surprise!

Sadly, the day after she arrived the weather took a turn from the previous week’s temperatures in the high 70’s to a much chiller (but more seasonal) temperature range in the lower 60s. The wind picked up and it even rained on and off one day. We made the best of it though and managed to get out and about to enjoy some of the awesome natural beauty that this area has to offer. By far the highlight of our adventures was a trip to Joshua Tree National Park. We drove over to the park’s southern entrance and spent the entire day exploring the park. Joshua Tree is a unique place to visit because it encompasses portions of both the Colorado and the Mojave desert, which play host to two distinct desert environments. The eastern half of the park, where the elevation is generally below 3,00 feet, is part of the Colorado Desert. Here the landscape is dominated by flat terrain filled with scrubby looking Creosote bushes, the occasional tall spiky Ocotillo and large patches of Cholla Cactus.

Joshua Tree National Park
Pinto Mountain, Carol posing with an Ocotillo

Fairly close to the transition zone, where the two deserts meet, lies a large Cholla cactus garden. Much of the garden is contained in a fenced area with rock lined paths offering safe passage through theses cool looking cacti with a mean reputation.

Joshua Tree National Park
Cholla Garden with a gorgeous mountain back drop, Warning sign!

The Cholla cactus is sometimes called the jumping cactus because if you get too close the prickly spines have a tendency to “jump” out and cling to your skin and clothing. To make matters worse, the spines are small and numerous which means if you accidentally brush up against one you can easily become infested with hundreds of these unwanted little buggers. Don’t worry, we took note of the warnings and came out thorn free.

Joshua Tree National Park
Like many things in the desert, these plants can cause you some serious damage

As we headed west and crossed over into the Mojave desert side of the park, the landscape immediately became rockier with large boulders assembled like art sculptures.

Joshua Tree National Park
Tim enjoying the view from up high

Among these boulders lie several of the park’s nine campgrounds. We drove through Whitetank, a small 15 site campground where the sites are tucked amid the boulders and enjoy amazing views of the surrounding area. This campground has a 25-foot limit, including tow vehicle, but we spotted a few sites where we could have squeezed in if we unhooked the truck and parked it perpendicular in front of the airstream (we’ve done this at a few other national park campgrounds). The overnight fee at Whitetank is only $10/night, but with almost non-existent cell service across the entire park it seems unlikely that we will stay there any time soon.

Joshua Tree National Park
Cool campsites at White Tank

The other indication that you have entered the Mojave desert side of the park is the sudden apparence of Joshua Trees. Even though we saw tons of these crazy looking trees during our stay in the Mojave National Preserve, I was still pretty excited and kept making Tim pull over so I could take pictures of “just one more”. There’s something so thrilling about driving through a desert filled with trees that look like they came from a Dr. Seuss book. It just never gets old.

Joshua Tree National Park
Us with the trees

We followed the main road all the way through the park, taking a few side trips along the way. One of the side trips was on an 18 mile dirt road called the Geology road where four wheel drive was required to traverse the last 10-mile portion. At the beginning of the road we picked up a brochure that described 16 points which corresponded with numbered posts on the side of the road. It was like a driving geology lesson. The second detour road was up to Key’s View where we got a sweeping view of the valley below and the mountains beyond. Unfortunately there’s almost always a layer of smog in the valley so the view was kind of obscured.

Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree forest, Dry lake on the Geology Rd, Mountain scenery from Key’s View

Our next outdoor adventure was at Whitewater Preserve just west of Desert Hot Springs on the edge of the San Bernardino Forest. The 2,826 acre preserve offers trails, wildlife viewing and access to one of the area’s rare year round rivers.

Stunning view of snowy mountain tops

Phineas was beyond excited about the river. We let him play around in it for a bit before heading down the trail.

Phineas enjoying the lovely stream
Phineas enjoying the lovely stream

The preserve has several well-marked trails, including one that includes a section of the Pacific Crest Trail which travels all the way from Mexico to Canada. We decided both of those destinations were a bit ambitious for us, so we stuck to the shorter river loop trail that climbed up a hillside and offered sweeping views of the canyon and surrounding mountains.

Carol & Tim at the top, Carol climbing the switchbacks, View at the top of the trail
Carol & Tim at the top, Carol putting her fears aside on the wide open switchbacks, View at the top of the trail

The trail continued along the top of the ridge before heading back down into the canyon.

No words for the beauty of this view
No words for the beauty of this view
More stunning views

We also spent some time to explore downtown Palm Springs. Having a visitor is an excellent excuse to go out for dinner, so two nights in a row we ventured out for some really good meals complete with pre-dinner coffee and ice cream stops. Downtown Palm Springs is a fun place to walk around in the evening with lots of cute shops and fun holiday decorations. On Thursday nights they close off Palm Canyon Dr. to traffic and have a street fair with vendors selling all kinds of crafts and food. Thursday night is also when the Palm Springs Art Museum offers free admission from 4 to 8. We took advantage of this deal and spent a few hours wandering around the museum. The three story museum is filled with a mix of modern art, native woven bowls, desert landscape paintings and a collection contemporary glass art that we all were especially intrigued by.

Thursday night downtown street fair, Holiday lights in Palm Springs, Frech fries!
Thursday night downtown street fest, Holiday lights in Palm Springs, Frech fries!

It was so wonderful to have Carol visit us. The week just flew by. Everyday we feel lucky to live this life filled with travel and exploration and it was really nice to be given the opportunity to share a little bit of it with someone else.

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A clean RV equals happy RVers. This cordless, rechargeable vacuum offers up great suction power along with a selection of attachments for various surfaces. The small size makes it easy to store and the battery lasts long enough for two or three uses.

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