Rocks, Rocks and More Rocks
As far as the eye can see in Joshua Tree National Park. The amazing landscape looks like you are walking on what used to be the ocean floor. While it looks pretty barren, it is the Mojave desert after all, this place is actually teaming with life as there are many different species of plants and animals that call it home. In fact, we were lucky enough to see a group of six or seven bighorn sheep lounging on some giant rocks as we started our first hike out to Barker Dam. Amongst the most diverse rock formations you’ve probably ever seen are hundreds and hundreds of Joshua trees, hence the name. According to legend, Mormon pioneers considered the limbs of the Joshua trees to resemble the upstretched arms of Joshua leading them to the promised land. The park encompasses some of the most interesting geologic displays found in California’s deserts. You really have to see it to believe it.
The other reason to visit Joshua Tree is to discover what true peace and quiet really is compared to the world most of us live in of endless noise. You can literally hear a pin drop in this place. Your footsteps in the coarse sand echo off of the giant boulders and if you stand still you can actually hear a birds’ wings flapping in the distance. We saw many birds, lizards, and ground squirrels during the day. However, you’ll have to stick around until dusk to see some interesting nocturnal animals like snakes, kangaroo rats, coyotes, and black-tailed jack rabbits. Dusk and dawn are good times for viewing many kinds of animals, both those just going to bed and those just getting up.
After a long hot day in the park, we were happy to check in to the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. In what used to be a mid-century, desert modern, former Westward Ho with a Denny’s is now the Ace Hotel & Swim Club. This funky, hipster 173-room hotel, spa and resort is within biking distance of downtown and about an hour drive to Joshua Tree. What I love about Ace is its laid back, carefree feel yet the attention to detail is still very prominent. The entire resort has an organic, bohemian, ecofriendly design all the while maintaining a very relaxed and inviting space whether you’re in your room, at the pool or in the bar. Our room had the most cozy and comfortable king size platform bed and rainfall shower with Rudy’s barbershop organic amenities. There is a nice working desk and 300 sq ft of living space. I love the huge mirror over dual sinks, which is great for people sharing a room. There are other rooms that offer garden patios with a fire pit and lounge area and your canvas doors can be pulled back to enjoy the cool night air while sleeping.
There’s plenty of places to chill at Ace – you can relax at one of their two pools listening to old school music all day, visit the Feel Good Spa for a treatment, and almost every night there are events at the Amigo bar including DJs, Bingo, live music and occasionally craft beer fests. Feel free to bring your dog as they are incredibly pet friendly – in fact, they’ll even allow him to sit in his own chair at your table for drinks or dinner by the pool!
Palm Springs and the surrounding areas of Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage have tons of dining options. One night we ate at Workshop Kitchen & Bar which had an upscale, classy feel with cozy booths or the longest dinner table that you could dine at. I tried their house specialty drink, the Guaposito which was a lovely mix of mezcal vida, lemon, creole shrub, housemade orgeat and grenadine, and maraschino liqueur. Smokey and tart! For dinner we had the Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with toasted hazelnuts, market peach, aged balsamico, olive oil, and pecorino romano; and the Market Veggie Enchiladas with grilled corn, poblano roasted peppers, spaghetti squash, kale, grilled tomatillo sauce, cotija cheese, and topped with a fried egg. Both were excellent.
The second night we headed out to Cork & Fork in La Quinta which was a cozy and intimate little tapas bar. They have an amazing number of wines, many of which you can do 3 oz tastings. For starters, we tried the Goat Cheese Bruschetta with grilled bread, pesto, truffle honey, roasted tomatoes, balsamic, and pistachio and the Grilled Peaches with burrata, candied pecans, truffle honey, olive oil, balsamic, basil, and prosciutto – both were delicious. Don’t miss the Filet Mignon Street Tacos with sriracha aioli, pickled red onion, avocado, and cilantro. The restaurant is Chef Andie Hubka’s dream – a place for people to experiment with food and wine in an unintimidating setting – and that it certainly is!