Palm Springs

For our last couple days in Palm Springs, we kept things low key.  On Friday, we hiked the South Carl Lykken Trail, North (yes, it’s a very confusing name).  It’s a thousand feet of elevation gain over a pretty well graded trail.  The view at the top was nice and of course coming down much easier.  Our evening dinner at Lulu’s was enjoyable.

Saturday, we browsed a nearby arts & crafts fair that we could walk to from our hotel.  It was similar to the Art Festivals we have back at home.  I took a nap and L’ went on an extra hike (but I thought about exercising, so it counts as a workout).  The weather clouded over a bit in the afternoon so it was far from optimum pool/spa weather.  We even saw a few brief sprinkles of rain.  Our dinner nearby at Johannes was excellent and definitely our best food of the trip.

There weren’t as many photos from these couple days, but the relaxation factor was very high and made it well worth it.

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Joshua Tree

We got an earlier start today than the past few days to have more time at Joshua Tree National Park.  It’s not too far from Palm Springs, but it gets dark around 4pm as the sun goes behind the mountains; we wanted to maximize our daylight adventure.  We picked up sandwiches (I find it a little odd how Subway’s are now often at gas stations) on our way to the visitor center .  With our brochures in hand and park fees paid, we were on our way into the park.

Many of the sites are part of short (1-2 mile) nature trails as opposed to longer, more strenuous hikes.  This was fine as it was cold out.  Some of the park is as high as 5000 feet above sea level and thus considerably colder than Palm Springs.  Much of our day was spent wearing all of our gear to stay warm in the 43 degree weather.  At least the sun was nice and warm.

We stopped at Hidden Valley, Barker dam, Keyes view, Skull Rock, Arch Rock and the Cholla Cactus garden .  Each of these let us see different aspects of the park.  There is a lot to see beyond just the namesake Joshua Trees (which technically aren’t even trees).  To top it off, we watched the moon rise over the mountains as the sun set.   We then headed out the southern entrance and returned to Palm Springs.

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Today we went to The Living Desert, a zoo located in Palm Desert (a few towns over from Palm Springs). It took surprisingly long to get there so by the time we made it to Palm Desert, we stopped for an early lunch. We finally made it to the zoo by the early afternoon.

palmsprings145The zoo is reasonably sized and we were able to see the whole place. There are two sections, North American and African. We saw a variety of animals and met up with friends from home who were also in Palm Springs for vacation.

While in the snack shop, I spotted my college friend and his family who I haven’t seen in several years.  Small world, since they live in Seattle. It was nice to briefly catch up.

Getting back to town, we went to the Fisherman’s Market & Grill, which was very good. You pick your fish and then they grill it for you. Tasty, reasonably priced, and quicker than a full sit down service restaurant. A good end to another fun day.

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We returned to Indian land today to visit Tahquitz Canyon. After a steep admission charge, we began the roughly one mile hike through the canyon that ends at a sixty foot waterfall. The hike is well signed and coordinated with our map for various points of interest. The waterfall is very pretty and we begin the hike back after a snack and photos.

When we got back to town, we had lunch at Sherman’s Deli, just a block from our hotel. We’re not sure what makes it the claimed “kosher style” (since they had a ham & cheese sandwich), but the rare roast beef sandwich was good. More importantly, they had egg creams! The waitress said it was the first one she had made so I gave her my expert assessment- it was very good.

I was now ready for my nap. L’ decided she needed more exercise so she went for a hike on the Museum Trail while I snoozed. When she returned, she took a short nap and then we went for dinner at a Japanese place around the corner from the hotel.  Not quite the traditional Christmas outing for Chinese food, but close enough.

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We went to the Palm Springs visitors center outside of town to find out about hikes.  We were able to get discounted tickets to the Indian Canyons area.  It’s  owned by the Agua Caliente Band of the Cahuilla Indians and they charge rather steep prices.  At least we now knew better what we wanted to visit and had a couple useful maps.  As a bonus, there was a pretty rainbow outside which seemed odd in a desert.

palmsprings025After lunch back in downtown Palm Springs, we went to Indian Canyons and did the Murray Canyon hike.  The hike follows the stream through the canyon.  We saw the large palm oasis and continued hiking to the trail end where there is a small cascade of waterfalls (known as the Seven Sisters).  The hike had about seventeen stream crossings (each way), but none were too treacherous.  The hike was pleasant and we rewarded ourselves with a dip in the hot tub back at the hotel upon our return.

After a shower and an excellent nap, we had dinner at Las Casuelas Mexican restaurant which was good.   There were plenty of restaurants open even though it was Christmas Eve, so for once, we didn’t have to struggle to find decent food.

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After breakfast we went to the Santa Maria Museum of Flight. It’s a small museum located near the Santa Maria airport. Small museums like this are often fun because the people that work there (usually volunteers) are excited that you’re visiting and more than willing to give you a guided tour. This was exactly the case here:  as soon as we paid the small admission fee, the docent (a Marine in the Vietnam War) began walking us around the two hangers full of exhibits and the outdoor area of airplanes. While not the most amazing museum, it was a fun stop for an hour or so.palmsprings001

From Santa Maria, we drove to Lompoc for lunch. We ate at Bravo Pizza, which was no Speederia, but adequate and with a pleasant staff who gave us free bread sticks while we waited for our pie.  We then made the quick drive across town to the Wine Ghetto. Before another tasting at Flying Goat, we tried another winery that had some good reviews on yelp. The winery was Fiddlehead, but it was not as good as Flying Goat. The goat keeper was good as usual and we picked up a couple bottles.

We made a final wine stop at the Melville Winery (we had Melville wine with dinner over the summer and had a note to visit them when we were back in the area). There wasn’t much we liked, given how much we liked the previous wine of theirs that we had. 

Now we made our way to Palm Springs, braving the Los Angeles traffic and aggressive drivers. My Atlanta driving experience comes in handy here as the traffic moves at similar speeds to what it would in Atlanta.  Without any major delays, we made it to our hotel by dinner time.  After unloading the car, we had dinner at Sammy G’s Tuscan Grill, which we found adequate, but nothing we’d rush back to.  Our hotel is only a block away from downtown so we strolled back to our room and were now ready for our weeklong stay in the desert.

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