A few weeks ago, I almost had another “stay-cation”… While yes, I probably would have been productive enough to create a few more items for the Den & Delve Shop and gotten some things done around the house, a last-minute itch to escape had us packing our bags and heading to the desert for a few days.
First stop along the way was the Cabazon Dinosaurs. I’ve passed these many times over the years, and of course seen them in pictures and their many cameos on TV and movies, but never up close in person. The creation of these dinosaurs began back in the 60’s by Claude Bell who intended for them to attract customers to his Wheel In Cafe (now closed). “Dinny” the Brontosaurus still contains a gift shop in his giant belly. I personally love that the dinosaurs seemingly have not had much repair or updates over the years, and that despite probably countless visitors, this site literally feels like the land that time forgot.
We rolled into Palm Springs just in time for afternoon check in at the ACE Hotel. Although I hadn’t stayed here in many years, I defaulted to the ACE based on previous visits and because rooms were discounted that week (being weekdays prior to Memorial Day weekend). Oh – and most importantly, we could bring the dog! (Dante, the Italian Greyhound for anyone wondering). There are still some great aesthetic things happening around the hotel and it’s grounds, but I have to honest and say they’ve definitely “let go” over the years. Details have been stripped back (one example: what happened to the rugs in the rooms?) and everything seems worn and weathered (and not in a good way like the Cabazon Dinosaurs). The best part of our room was the outdoor fireplace, and even though it was probably too warm to fire it up, I did so anyway – just for the ambiance. On our next trip to Palm Springs, I think we’ll be trying our some new accommodations, so any dog friendly recommendations are welcome!
We had a couple different things on our desert to-do list, and a drive up to Joshua Tree National Park was ADVENTURE #1. After a hearty breakfast the next day, we headed up Highway 62 towards Yucca Valley and on to Twentynine Palms where one of the visitor centers has a dog friendly path out back. There really wasn’t much to see there, but I was able to get better clarification on where we could take Dante within the park. National Parks can have many restrictions on dogs, but basically (here anyway) if you’re on the road and he’s on a leash, you’re fine. Since we aren’t the types to be strapping on our backpacks & boots and hiking out into the desert anyway, driving through the park and stopping periodically for some sights & photos turned out just fine by us.
Joshua trees as far as the eye can see! Scientifically, Yucca brevifolia, is a member of the Agave family and in the subgroup of flowering plants that also includes grasses and orchids. Years ago the Joshua tree was recognized by American Indians for its useful properties: tough leaves were worked into baskets and sandals, and flower buds and raw or roasted seeds made a healthy addition to the diet (information via). Humans have actually occupied the area encompassed by the park for at least 5,000 years!
Rock structures throughout the park are visually stunning and the explanations of their geological formation are nearly incomprehensible – a true testament to the beauty and wonder of nature. I wasn’t close enough to capture some of the more impressive formations in the distance, but we did get to examine one particular pile up close. The distinctly visible “scar” that runs though the rock is the result of several stages of volcanic activity – from rising magma that cooled and crystalized between overlying rock, to chemical weathering caused by groundwater. I should have paid more attention back in Geology class, because now I’m intrigued and impressed! Overall, the entire park is a beautiful site and worthy of a visit if you get the chance (embarrassingly, I admit this was my first time after all these years in California).
ADVENTURE #2: A little treasure hunting in the vintage shops of the area. Both Palm Springs and Cathedral City nearby boast their own collection of vintage and mid-century shopping destinations. Not searching for anything in particular, we were pleasantly surprised to find just the right coffee table for our living room. We’ve been looking at replacements for our current one, but hadn’t really planned on looking (or finding one!) on this trip. I guess that’s how things happen naturally… when you’re not looking or expecting! We love the mix of organic sliced teak and the modern hairpin legs (and thanks to the great guys at HEDGE in Cathedral City for loading this heavy guy into our car). You can see how the table looks in our home over on Instagram. I also picked up some other smaller treasures like a set of vintage bamboo handled silverware (at a resale shop in Palm Springs) and an addition to my collection of LIFE Nature Series books (from a random thrift shop in Yucca Valley). Some other shops contained great items (not purchased) including a life-size golden rhinoceros head! (but I sure wish I had space and the cash for him)
ADVENTURE #3: Pioneertown. We’ve been hearing things about this tiny little town in the Yucca Valley so we took a small detour on our way home to check it out. The town started as a live-in Old West motion-picture set, built in the 1940s. The set was designed to provide a place for the actors to live while using their homes in the movie. Now mostly abandoned (sans a small pottery studio who’s taken up residence in one of the little shops), the tiny town strip is a quick visit but with plenty of photo ops.
The pièce de résistance however, is Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. Definitely the main attraction, this rustic venue is the home to nightly music performances and has plenty of character. Both indoors and out, this saloon and restaurant is covered in eclectic vintage objects and cooks all of their food on an outdoor mesquite wood grill. Our afternoon visit was too early to catch any live music, but we enjoyed a burger and beer on the outdoor patio none the less. I can only imagine this place at peak hours!
Before you know it, our little desert getaway had to come to an end… we climbed back into the car and began our journey back to LA. But although short in time, stepping out of our daily routine and surroundings made our trip feel longer than it was. It was a good reminder of how just a small escape and new adventures can refresh the mind and spirit – and doesn’t need to be a plane ride or week away. So for now, we say goodbye and thank you to the desert. We’ll be back again… after some other new excursions of course!