Monday, June 30, 2014

Palm Springs- last morning

We got up early, packed, and headed back out to Indian Canyons. We decided to hike Palm Canyon trail and were lucky enough to happen upon a ranger who suggested we follow the trail to the Victor trail, a nice moderate trail that goes along a nice ridge line with gorgeous views. We were glad we did! The beginning of Palm Canyon is through an oasis stream with tons of tall palms with lovely shade. Victor was hot and fully sunny, but gorgeous views! We got back a little before 10 when it started to really heat up.

We showered, checked out and headed to Cheeky's, a place highly recommended by several people we talked with and on tripadvisor. Yum. Farm-to-table food and very good. I got an heirloom tomato sandwich with applewood smoked bacon, fried egg and arugula. Kim got a blt with jalapeno bacon. We got a side of their homemade maple sage sausage which was amazing. Their bloody mary was great as well. yum!

Full and happy, we headed back on the four-hour drive back to Phoenix. The drive is pretty dull through the desert, but it wasn't too bad.

We're not totally sure of the lure of Palm Springs-- I assume the golfing is good, there is a casino, wonderful spas and a touristy little downtown with some good restaurants. Definitely great hiking and the proximity to Joshua Tree was great. It isn't a bad weekend destination from LA or Phoenix  and we had a lot of fun.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Palm Springs

We decided to 'sleep in' until around 7 which felt wonderful. We grabbed coffee at the Coffee Bean and Tea, walked around a little bit then got ready to go for a hike. the place we decided on didn't open until 8, which is unfortunate as it's so hot. Indian Canyons is gorgeous! It was highly rated on tripadvisor and several people told us it's worth seeing. The Andreas hike is around the oasis and much of the trip was by a shaded river. It was quite pleasant, relaxing and gorgeous. Then we did the Murray hike which was gorgeous but in a very different way. It was mostly in the sun and quite hot, but went towards a little oasis of palm trees.

We enjoyed our hiking thoroughly, but by 10 it was too hot so we headed back, showered and decided to grab an early lunch at 11:30. We went to the recommended Gyoro Gyoro, a sushi chain in Japan with several locations in LA and now Palm Springs. It opened a little over a month ago and was quite good. We got a sushi sampler and a chirashi sushimi, both of which were great samplers. Yum.

We booked a spa day at the Tuscan Springs Spa when we learned that the spa at our hotel was closed. What a great choice! Our hotel is right next to the main road so very convenient, but a less expensive option that is pretty basic. (Palm Mountain Hotel and Spa). We wanted a spa to go to and didn't want to drive, but we were really glad we did! This place was gorgeous! We felt like we were in Tuscany with the terra cotta tile, white walls, bougainvilla, tropical plants, tile.. it was really beautiful. There is a volcanic-heated hot spring well on the premises, which feed three mineral spring pools. One is hot, one warm and one cool. A large patio has several covered lounging beds, lots of comfy chairs, and a view overlooking the mountains and much of Palm Springs. It was definitely worth the drive.

We each got three-hour treatments, and I got a massage, foot massage, scalp treatment and a body scrub. Wow. Decadent and so wonderful! The lady who owns the place is from italy as well as her husband. They close from mid-July to the end of August as they are so slow. There are 8 very nice rooms that I would love to stay in sometime. It would definitely be worth the cost!

We headed back to our hotel, showered and got ready for dinner. Last night we went to the Falls Steak House which was recommended. It was quite good. We split a steak, potato and cesar salad. Tonight we decided to go to a french place called Le Vallauris. It was around the corner from our hotel and amazing! Beautiful patio covered with trees with fans blowing so it was quite pleasant. The service was amazing, manager came to talk with us and the food perfect! They had a price fix which was a great value. It wasn't an inexpensive meal, but was worth it. Kim got a pate, lamb with ratatouille, and a chocolate tart and I got smoked salmon (to die for and made in house), duck with apple and spinach, and a grand marnier souffle. I'm not a huge fan of grand marnier but it was quite good!

Tomorrow we're going to hike one of the other trails at Indian Canyons that two guys we met yesterday recommended, get breakfast at Cheeky's, a local place that is farm-to-table and highly recommended (several people as well as tripadvisor) then we'll head home.

We're both a little curious how Palm Springs sprung up as a destination place as there's isn't much here. The hikes are wonderful and there's a lot of spas and some shopping, as well as a casino. It's a mystery but at 4 hours or less from Phoenix, it's a nice place to visit and I'm glad I came!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Joshua Tree National Park & Palm Springs

My college roommate, Kim, reached out to me a couple of weeks ago to see if we could do a girls' weekend. Of course! She flew in and we spent the afternoon catching up. 

We headed out mid-morning on Friday and had a blowout just before Quartzite. We waited close to an hour for the AAA truck to come, then two of America’s finest pulled up behind up. The first ran my plate, then came over and after giving us a bit of a hard time, change the tire for us. The AAA guy showed up right after they finished. We went into Quartzite to the tire shop (surprising there was one as ‘fine dining’ there was Subway). Grabbed sandwiches then the car was done. Apparently there was a fault in the tire and there was a bubble that with the heat from the drive blew out. The hole in the sidewall was the size of a golf ball!

We were good as new and on the road again. We had two more hours and drove into 29 Palms at around 5 pm. We checked into our hotel, a little motel called the Harmony Motel, known for being the place where U2 stayed when they were filming their Joshua Tree images. It’s a cute little 7-room motel with character. The grounds are nice, and it had some cute little touches. Not as fancy as many hotels, but we loved the fact that when we asked if she had a trail map, the gal in the office handed us a Joshua Tree trail book that we could borrow! We of course stayed in the room that Bono stayed on (from U2). Of course.

She told us we could have driven through the park to get here instead of going around like Google Maps suggested. We decided to take a quick drive through some of the park before dinner, and it was beautiful! Lots of interesting rock formations and Joshua Trees everywhere after we drove 10-15 minutes into the park.

We left and grabbed dinner at the Palm Kabob House in town, which was highly recommended on tripadvisor. It was yummy! Kim got a gyro and I got a salmon kabob with rice. Two guys there recommended some hiking trails for us tomorrow. We drove to one and the ranger said he was locking the gate. It apparently doesn’t open until 6:30 to 7, and we’re hoping to get started earlier as it’s so hot. We’re reviewing our handy little guidebook to decide where we’ll go.

We haven’t gotten internet to work yet and are both tired, so I’ll post this tomorrow when I have the chance. We’ll hike and explore the park then will check out and head to Palm Springs.

It’s been so much fun catching up with Kimmie again. I met her in college and we lived together for a while. I think she was one of the only roommates I liked living with, and the only one for sure that I still talk with! It’s been (gasp!) 24 years. She lives in India now but is back in the US for a visit and asked to come visit for a girls’ weekend. I of course said yes! I haven’t seen her for four years so it’s so wonderful to reconnect.

Joshua Tree National Park became a national park in 1994, though it had been a National Monument since 1936. It is slightly larger in size than the state of Rhode Island. The park includes parts of two deserts: the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. The Little San Bernardino Mountains run through the park as well.

It takes around 15 minutes of driving into the park before you see Joshua trees and then they are all around. There are some beautiful rock formations as well with some interesting shapes. 

We woke up really early and decided to get out to hike before it got too hot. We first went to Keys Point and enjoyed a view of the Coachella Valley. We had trouble finding the trailhead, and after reading a sign about aggressive bees, encountered a few and decided to pick another spot. We drove to Ryan Mountain which was a gorgeous hike. We climbed a mountain then circled around the back of it and walked along a ridge for a while before hitting a peak. The hike wasn't long-- only a mile and a half, but took us a little over an hour and a half. It was gorgeous and worth doing.

We met a couple from New Hampshire (funny, as Kim and I are from Massachusetts, right next door) and a man from Germany. We climbed down and went to Hidden Valley, the highest rated hike on tripadvisor. It didn't disappoint and was really gorgeous. Very easy loop hike but the rock formations, trees and views were stunning. We then went to the Barker Dam trail and saw some petroglyphs (disappointingly colored back in so people can still see them) and the dam, which was built to hold water for cattle. The hike was nice with gorgeous rock formations.

It was around 10:30 and getting really hot. And we had to check out of our hotel, so we did that then headed into town for lunch. We decided to go back to the Kabob House and got salads with chicken shawarma which was amazing. We got a side of falafel and it was really light and different. Very good and we both enjoyed this place. I got a juice with carrot, orange and ginger and enjoyed it. Who knew? I don't eat carrots but in juice, it's pretty ok.

We decided to drive back through Joshua Tree park to see a couple of areas that were recommended: two areas with a lot of cholla cacti, and ocotillo cacti. The first was impressive and they were as far as the eye can see. The second was less so, and the ocotillo were all burned out and dried up. Just the wrong time of year for that. The drive through this part of the park was long and they were repaving the road, making for some nice driving but some of the trip was all gutted up and not so fun. We hit I10 and drove down to Palm Springs, checked in to our hotel the Palm Mountain Hotel and Spa and decided to walk around a bit before dinner to explore.

There's not much to this town. Some shops, restaurants, spas and casinos. We are both glad we have stuff planned tomorrow! Our restaurant reservation tonight (Falls Steak House) is literally right across the street from the hotel, which is great. Someone recommended it so we're going for it! 

We're mapping out our hike for tomorrow then getting ready for dinner. It's going to be an early night but we'll be up early tomorrow hiking before it gets too hot. By 10 am it's steamy here! We really want to go to Indian Canyons, which was highly recommended, but it opens at 8. So we're checking on options and then will head there around that time. We have spa day (afternoon) at 2 at a place with mineral springs. Can't wait! It'll feel good as we're both stiff from the hike today.

I'll post more tomorrow! S