Seven days in Palm Springs

Trip Start Feb 17, 2010
Trip End May 17, 2010

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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day 1 - San Diego to Palm Springs

We were really quite sad to be leaving our little beach cottage in La Jolla.  The landlord, Ozstar, had been really good to us and even took us out for a few hours up to his beautiful house looking out over the village where he fed us tacos and beers, and then took us to a wonderful lookout over the whole coastline from Del Mar down to Mission Beach.

After picking up our car from Avis, we headed to our local cafe, Windansea Cafe, where Vahik really looked after us.  During our time in La Jolla, we came here for our daily caffeine fix most days and often for lunch - the tuna sandwiches are to die for.  As usual our coffees were excellent.

After saying goodbye to Ozstar, we headed across the mountains and Cuyamaca highway hugging the Anza-Borrego desert- a really nice trip that took us about 4 hours including a stop in Julian for apple pie and ice cream.  The scenery was pretty cool - lots of boulder strewn mountains, great cacti and even some snow on the top of the ranges.  The entry to Palm Springs, through Palm Desert was amazing, we've never seen such manicured roadsides.

The hotel we're staying at in Palm Springs (The Chase Hotel) seems really good.  Our room has a small kitchen, a balcony overlooking the pool and stunning views of the surrounding mountains.  And, even better, its one block from the main drag.  On our first night the main road was closed to cars for the weekly 'Village Fest' night market.  It was a really good atmosphere; lots of crafty type stalls and plenty of food stalls - we couldn't resist the bratwurst rolls.

Day 2 - Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Up early so that we'd miss the Good Friday crowds going up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, probably the biggest tourist attraction in town (well that was the plan anyway, unless you count 10am as early!). Well anyway, we eventually got to the tramway station at about 11am and were allocated on the 11:20 trip. 

Just a little about the tramway.  There are 2 cars each of which hold upto 80 passengers.  The trip takes about 10 minutes during which time you climb about two and a half miles to over 8000ft.  Whats more, the cars rotate as you ascend, so it doesn't matter where you stand, you get all the different viewpoints. They say that the climate change on the trip up is equivalent to driving from Mexico to Canada.  It was certainly weird to step out into THREE FEET OF SNOW when it was over 80 degrees in Palm Springs when we left!

We spent a bit of time wandering around and playing in the snow, but because of Jon's ankle (he's still recovering from Achilles Heel tendonitis) we were a little cautious about doing too much.  Walking across thick, semi-frozen, semi-thawed snow is difficult enough at the best of time, but a little disconcerting when your trying to rehabilitate a damaged ankle.  

So we were up there for about 2 hours then came back down and went straight to what is supposedly the best coffee shop in Palm Springs (Koffi's - there are actually 2 of them on town). Well, as it turned out, the coffee was pretty good, so I can see us back there again!

When we finally got back to the hotel at about 5pm we couldn't open the door to our room and the key got stuck in the lock.  After a bit of wiggling the key about we went down to reception to get their help.  The guy on reception was really helpful but in trying to get the key out the whole locking mechanism fell out, but we still couldn't open the door.  The handyman tried to see if he could get in through any of the windows or off the balcony and was amazed that we'd locked everything before we went out - apparently most people don't bother locking up when they go out!  So they called the locksmith, at which time we thought it was about time for dinner so headed across the road to Matchbox for a pizza and a few beers.  When we got back at about 9pm they'd managed to open the door to our room, but the locksmith was having problems getting a new lock to work.  By now, the owner, handyman and locksmith were staked out in our room.  So we went in, had a chat with them for a while until they finally got everything fixed at about 9:30.

Day 3 - Joshua Tree National Park (West section)

Big day for Finola today.  She hasn't driven for ages, and hardly at all on the RHS, but it was her turn today (we've decided to take turns driving).  The trip to Joshua Tree National Park took about 50 minutes and Finola did great.  The first part of the trip took us through a huge Windmill Farm - absolutely amazing, and then on through several small villages before we arrived at the Park HQ where we organised all our passes for the next 50 days.  Then it was onto into the park.  Pretty quickly we were driving through strands of Joshua Trees (actually not trees but Yucca plants) and then through the 'Wonderland of Rocks'.  We made several photo stops on the way, but our first real stop was at Key's Point with amazing views over Palm Springs and the San Andreas fault line.  We then continued on to Hidden Valley where we hiked for about an hour through amazing rock formations and by great cactus plants.  Then it was on to Barker Dam for another walk, this time to a small lake.  Overall we were in the park for about 5 hours - very enjoyable and we'll be back for more in a couple of days.

When we got back to Palm Springs we had another coffee (at the other Koffi's this time- just as good) then back to the hotel for a well deserved beer.

Day 4 - Earthquake in the desert 

Due to bad planning on our part (we'd forgotten it was Easter Sunday), our day of sightseeing around Palm Springs and all the adjacent towns was slightly ruined by the fact that almost everything was closed.  So we drove down to Palm Desert anyway and had a stroll along El Paseo where all the art galleries and art shops are.  We did a bit of window shopping, which is probably all we would have done even if the shops had been open - the prices were a little out of our price range - try $30,000 for a single piece.

We then drove to a shopping centre in Rancho Mirage which we noticed had a coffee bar that was open when we passed earlier.  So we had a coffee and then went to the cinema there which was showing 'How to train your dragon' in 3D.  After Avatar we're quite keen to see a few more 3D movies to see how they compare.  We both agreed that the special effects weren't up to Avatar standards but the movie was still fun.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped in at the local supermarket (Ralphs) to but a couple of things for our planned hiking tomorrow.  We'd just entered and were starting to shop when something fell off the roof and then the whole floor started shaking - obviously an earthquake.  If you've never been in one it's hard to describe the feeling - we used to get a lot when we were living in Wellington New Zealand, and are used to the short jolts, but this one seemed quite strong and got bigger and bigger for about 30 seconds.  Quite a few things fell onto the floor and broke, but you still just stand there waiting either for it to stop shaking or for it to get much worse. Funny thing, most people didn't leave the store until the shaking had finished (us included) and then for only a couple of minutes. The only exceptions were the store staff who were out quicker than if the knocking off hooter had sounded!  Apparently the quake was centered in northern Mexico, quite a big one at 7.2, but 20km below the surface so the damage was minimal.

We went to a highly recommended Thai restaurant (Thai Smile) for dinner, and the food was actually quite good and reasonably priced.  We would definitely recommend.

Postscript:  We were both woken at about 4am by an aftershock which made the room sway backwards and forwards.  It did make us think that we should have an emergency bag of clothes and valuables near the door otherwise there'd be two naked bodies running around if there was a big quake.

Day 5 - Joshua Tree National Park (East section) 

We drove down to the south-west entrance to the park at Cottonwood Springs today.  This side of the park is quite different to the West side as it is at a lower altitude.  The East section is actually the Colorado desert, the West section is the Mohave desert.  Much of the centre is the 'Transition zone'. In the Colorado desert area there are no Joshua trees but many more cacti and, at the moment, lots of colourful spring flowers. We did a couple of hikes in this part of the park including one through a mass of cholla cacti and one out to a large rock arch..  We then drove on through the centre of the park to a longer hike at 29 Palm Oasis.  The 3 mile hike was up over a small hill to a beautiful oasis in the middle of a large dry desert area.  By the time we started the hike the wind had come up and it was like hiking through a gale.  But it was worth it as the Oasis was, well and oasis in the middle of the desert.  

On the way back to Palm Springs we hit a dust storm which closed the road leading to our hotel.  We had to drive around town a bit, but it didn't cause too much of a problem as we just went to Koffis (again) for a couple of coffees.  We spent the evening in relaxing, watching tv and waiting for the next natural disaster to hit!

Day 6 - Palm Springs work day 

We decided that we needed to get some work done today, so spent most of the day in our room doing some trading development work.  Finola's also reading 'The Great Depression Ahead' by Harry S. Dent Jr., which we highly recommend if you're interested in a possible scenario for the world economy over the next few years.

Day 7 - Indian Canyons

We were first to arrive at the entrance gate of Indian Canyons even before the park staff had arrived, so we were also first on the trails which was great.  Almost as soon as we went on the trails we were greeted by a small animal (rodent??) who was looking up at us from a hole in the ground.  We took a couple of photos, and he disappeared.  He popped back up for another photo then, when he saw us he dropped back into his hole, and then filled it up with dirt from inside the hole to close it off. By the time he finished you wouldn't have guessed there was an animal  there.

We headed to Palm Canyon first and hiked up through the canyon past all the palm trees and did a couple of side trips to view points.  We then hiked back along the ridge back to the visitor centre (actually a trading post). We then did a small circle loop in Andreas Canyon which was also very good. 

In the evening we went out to eat at Zini. We had tapas which were really quite good - not the best we've ever had, but pretty good all the same.


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