Monday, November 29, 2004

TRAVEL: Joshua Tree National Park

This past Sunday my friend, Jane, and I headed out to Joshua Tree National Park which is about 2.5 hrs east of Los Angeles. After visiting Death Valley last year, I've fallen in love with the desert landscape so this was a real treat. We entered the park from the north and got some very helpful advice at the visiting center. After paying the $10 entrance fee to the park, our first destination was Hidden Valley. It has a easy 1-mile loop trail and you see an array of interesting desert plant life. The highlight is the dramatic rock formations which seem to be popular with rock climbers. Then our next stop was Keys View, and we got there just as the sun was setting. It offers amazing views of the desert, valleys and mountain ranges. You can see the Salton Sea and the San Andreas Fault on a clear day. Then we drove down through the park (and tragically hit a rabbit crossing the road). Unfortunately, it was dark most of our way through so we couldn't see much of the park except the amazing stars up above. We stopped at the Cottonwood Visitor Center and did a bit of star-gazing (saw two satellites!). I highly recommend driving through the park to admire God's creation. It'll take you about 1.5 hours, depending how fast or slow you go. He did some handy work in Joshua Tree.

Dinner was in Palm Desert at Pacifica (dinner $11-$30+) on El Paseo. I ordered the Ahi Sandwich with wasabi mayo, which is like sushi in a bun. It was quite delish except I was very disappointed with the fries. I consider myself a bit of a french fry connoisseur and I give Pacifica's fries a big fat F.

Our accommondations were at club intrawest's Desert Willow Golf Resort, which Jane's family kindly let us use (club intrawest is a Canadian company based in Vancouver!). I absolutely loved the southwestern decor. The color scheme consisted of red and orange with accents of green and blue. The colors were very warm, calming and soothing. And the showers are very interestingly designed (you'll have to see it for yourself).

The next day we went into Downtown Palm Springs and had lunch at Las Casuelas (lunch $7-$20). I had the black bean salad which was all right. Afterwards, we headed to the outlet stores in Cabazon, of course!

Final thoughts: It was a low-key weekend getaway. Even the atmosphere in restaurants is very casual. Everybody's wearing shorts, t-shirts and sweatshirts, even when dining out for dinner. Palm Desert is not as high maintenance as I thought despite its reputation for being the Beverly Hills of the desert. Right now is the perfect time to visit Joshua Tree before it gets too hot in the summer. The wildflowers will be blooming in the spring. It's actually colder in Joshua Tree than it is in Palm Springs right now. If you're into amazing desert vistas then Joshua Tree is the destination for you.

::5 stars::