Final Palm Springs Post – Thanksgiving, Joshua Tree, Wacky RoboLights and more!

I am writing this from St Louis on 12/31 – Happy New Year!
This is an action-packed final Palm Springs post, including:

  • Thanksgiving
  • Moorten Botanical Garden
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Holiday Festival of Lights Parade
  • Architecture Tour
  • RoboLights
  • Aerial Tram
  • Salton Sea

Thanksgiving: We were so happy to have friends from Chicago in for Thanksgiving!  Jamie (whom I spent most of my Chicago Thanksgivings with!) flew into San Diego and drove over with Cathy & Don!  We had a fabulous dinner (cooked the turkey right side-up this time), great wine, laughs, and relaxation time in the hot tub!  Such a fun time!

Moorten Botanical Garden (Sat 11/28): Founded in 1938, desert trees and cacti from around the world, 3000 plant varieties, and the world’s first enclosed ‘cactarium’.  Worth a visit – $5 entrance fee and takes about 30 min to walk through. 

Joshua Tree National Park (Sat, 12/4), where the Colorado and Mojave Deserts meet!

Our friend Paul came in for a visit and one of our first destinations was Joshua Tree National Park, tops on my list for a visit!  Very happy we went and wish we had more time there for exploration!

Hiking in the northwest corner, Black Rock Nature Center:

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Joshua Tree, the Tree of Life – the Joshua Tree grows primarily in the Mojave desert, highly adapted to minimal rainfall by spreading its roots in a dense shallow network to soak up as much moisture as possible.  Almost every part of the tree is used by people or animals – baskets, sandals, and mats were made from weaving its fibers, birds nest in them, and animals eat its blossoms.  A dead fallen tree provides shelter for lizards, ants, and scorpions.  Eventually termites return it to the desert, enriching the soil for the next Joshua Tree to sprout.

Next we drove into the main park area, drove through Hidden Valley…

Hiked Barker Dam…

and took in the scenic Keys View!

Driving out of the Park….

Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade: We checked out the local Christmas parade before a great dinner at Le Vallarius.

Architecture Tour: Paul booked us an incredible tour of Palm Springs architecture.

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Tonga Hut!  Our second tiki bar – it was slow, we got the grand tour, including access to their ‘secret’ party room!  Cool!

Robo Lights

  • 4 acres, 8.7 million lights
  • Dave and Paul chatted with Kenny Irwin, the artist behind the madness, for a bit. It was pretty funny because at first Kenny was sort of frozen in a display, almost pretending like he was part of it. Strange dude for sure!
  • See a professional video at:

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (Mon 12/9):  largest rotating aerial tramway in the world

Salton Sea (Tues 12/8)

One of the world’s largest inland seas (~350 square miles) and lowest spots on earth (-227 feet below sea level)

The most recent inflow of water from the now heavily controlled Colorado River was accidentally created by engineers in 1905. In an effort to increase water flow into the area for farming, irrigation canals were dug from the Colorado River into the valley. The resulting outflow overwhelmed the engineered canal, and the river flowed into the Salton Basin for two years, filling the historic dry lake bed and creating the modern sea, before repairs were completed

The high salinity (greater than the Pacific, but less than Salt Lake) limits the type of fish that can live in it, now it’s just tilapia.  The bones from fish that didn’t survive now make up the ‘sand’ on the shoreline – not a place you’d want to picnic but the views are pretty amazing of this desert sea!

We drove through Bombay Beach afterwards and it brought back memories of the townships in South Africa – a scary community that time, and the Salton Sea, left behind.

The International Banana Museum (yes) was closed when we  passed through unfortunately!

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Happy 2016!


Go Take a Hike! Palm Springs Hiking Highlights

After being bound to more indoor activities in the heat of early October, it was refreshing to start taking advantage of the numerous hiking areas within minutes of downtown!  Out of the 4 main Indian Canyons, Palm Canyon and Andreas Canyon were my favorite – picturesque, unique, and unexpected (as there are a variety of palm oases sprinkled throughout)!

Each of these canyons, along with much of the land in Palm Springs was settled centuries ago by the Agua Caliente tribe of the Cahuilla Indians.  It was cool to see some of the history they left behind include numerous large mortars (used for grinding food) and very flat rocks used for tables.  There are currently 400 of these Indians living in the Palm Spring area.

All of the canyons are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Taquitz Canyon (Sun, 11/15)|
I took a free ranger-guided hike through Taquitz Canyon and glad I did!
I think the most interesting thing about this hike is the legend behind it.
Taquitz was the first shaman created by Mukat, the Cahuilla’s God/creator of all things.  Initially he was the guardian spirit of all shamans and used his power to do good within the tribe.  However, he soon began to use his power to harm his people and they banished him to live in a mountain cave near present-day Taquitz Canyon.  It is believed his spirit still lives in this canyon.  Taquitz is also rumored to ‘steal’ or ‘eat’ your soul if you visit his canyon as numerous people have mysteriously disappeared and have died in the canyon.  He is known for kidnapping a young woman, keeping her prisoner for some time, and then letting her go – she was found by the waterfall in the canyon with no recollection of the incident.  The Cahuilla believe Taquitz can be seen as a large green fireball streaking across the night sky.  Rumbling noises from the mountains and crashing boulders are attributed to Taquitz’s spirit.

The hike was somewhat challenging, and at the end we were rewarded with a 60 ft seasonal waterfall (saw a little trickle)!

Palm Canyon (Mon, 11/23)
15 miles long
Filled with indigenous California Fan Palm
Considered to be the largest California Palm Oasis in the world (yes, makes sense it’s in CA – ha ha!)
A virgin palm  is one whose ‘skirt’ has not been trimmed – the virgin palms have snakes, rodents, insects, and birds taking shelter in them!

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens (Mon, 11/23)
I definitely hesitated to visit after just going to the San Diego Zoo.  However the Living Desert Zoo does have quite a bit to offer, including beautiful natural desert backdrops and a large number of gardens.

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Andreas Canyon (Tues, 11/24)
Could be my favorite hike in Palm Spring – short and sweet – and with some steps 🙂  It’s interesting to walk along the creek and be surrounded by palms and boulders, then you cross the creek and you are in a wide open area in the mountains with spectacular panoramic views of the palms and the Indian Canyon area.

Murray Canyon (Tues, 11/24)
Not as picturesque as the others, but longer and more challenging, especially at the end of the hike where ropes could have been in order!  Lots of horseback riders come through here – I felt like I was in a western movie!  Endangered bighorn sheep are rumored to roam through the craggy rocky cliffs here – but I didn’t spot any.

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Our next hiking adventures will be at Joshua Tree National Park!

San Diego Rendevous!

Very excited to visit Cathy and Don in San Diego, a Chicago reunion before our Thanksgiving holiday together with Jamie in Palm Springs!

Arrived the afternoon of Thurs 11,19 after a nice and easy (and fast) drive.  Cathy and I walked to the shore right along Torrey Pines and ended up all the way in Del Mar where we promptly found a Mexican place with chips and margaritas!

San Diego Zoo (Fri, 11/20)

Snow Leopard and Giant Panda!

Koala, Porcupine, & Kangaroo

Secretary Bird and Jaguar

Other highlights

Sailing!  (Sat, 11/21)
What a treat!  Cathy and Don rented a boat along with their friend Chris.  We ended up in a regatta!  What a great day!

Heading out – motoring, little wind, nice views of the city!

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We find ourselves in more company – and then all of a sudden every boat has a spinnaker. Mistakenly, we are in a regatta!  Our sailors Don and Chris did a fantastic job navigating through the pros!

Objects are closer than they appear!

Heading back to the marina – enjoyed the ‘sunset reflection’!

Hotel del Coronado (the ‘Del’) – Coronado means crown in Spanish – it’s definitely a royal experience!


Torrey Pines State Park – hiking and breathtaking views! (Sun, 11/22)

2nd hike – Beach Trail – so unique and a nice reward at the end of the trail!

La Jolla – seals and sea lions – they weren’t out in abundance today but glad I got to see a few! (Sun, 11/22)

The road home – took the San Bernadino mountain route starting in Temeculah then passing through Idyllwild – gorgeous!



NYC Visit!

As I had a team meeting I organized and was attending on Wed 10/28, my Mom and I decided to have a girl’s weekend in NYC right before it – perfect timing, decent weather, and a fun time!  We enjoyed some incredible dinners (funny enough – two were restaurants that I had initially chosen for our team dinner on Tues night – Masserai dei Vini (amazing over the top service in a modern and loud environment), Patsy’s Italian (old school delicious Italian), and Club A Steakhouse (where we had incredibly huge and fabulous steaks with Dave’s sister Veronica)!

Times Square, Jersey Boys, and Patsy’s Italian (Sun, 10/25)

Cool views around and on top of the Grand Hyatt (Mon, 10/26) – we actually had a view from our room – a rarity in NYC.  The Hyatt also offered a special treat – a rooftop visit for a gargoyle-level view of the Chrysler Building!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Mon, 10/26) – I can’t remember the last time I’ve been in this museum, and I’d like to go back already!  I was so happy to be able to meet up with Gina (who was in town helping a good friend shop for a wedding dress) and Foster for a visit outside!

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On the rooftop garden (where there is also a bar when weather is more cooperative) – incredible views of the city!

Club A Steakhouse (Mon, 10/26)  Great night with Veronica!


St Patrick’s Cathedral (Tues, 10/27)

Around Rockefeller Center (Tues 10/27)

Around midtown and the Waldorf Astoria

Skyline view from LGA





Palm Springs…It’s Like Vegas without the Fun!

Hopefully you get a chuckle out of the title.  Dave came up with this motto for Palm Springs, and I have to say I agree!  Palm Springs and Vegas have quite a bit in common – weather, lots of palm trees, casinos, theater, museums – with ‘The Springs’ having it on a smaller less-exciting scale 🙂


Dave and I made the 10 hour drive from Albuquerque on Thurs 10/8 – where we had our final glimpses of the air balloons launching in the morning!  The drive went relatively fast and before you knew it we were driving past Flagstaff, AZ then into CA!  I took some pretty decent photos from the car, and many bad photos!

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Our place
Our townhouse is really the highlight of Palm Springs – it’s very lux, modern, emphasizes indoor/outdoor living, equipped with its own swimming pool and hot tub (which we enjoy almost every day!)  The location is decent – though we would prefer to be a little closer to town – just a few minute drive and about a 15-20 min walk.  In this location we are very close to a nice grocery store, and believe it or not, we have both walked to or from the airport (about a 25 min walk) – that is a first – love it!

Palm Springs Air Museum (Fri 10/9)
This museum stands out as one of the best air museums I’ve ever been to.  Not only did they have interesting things to see, the volunteers and guides were really informative, spent time with you, and were very passionate about the subject matter.  We had the pleasure of speaking with an older docent (in his mid 90s) who served in WWII as a young man, was at D Day, and apparently he enjoyed the company of many local ladies 🙂  He recently went to England and flew the very same plane he flew in WWII.  Pretty amazing.

Then we toured the inside of a B-17 along with another very informative guide.  He oriented us to the standard flight formation and spent most of the tour discussing the various positions and functions in the plane.  Very tough conditions and very tight spaces for these heroes in uniform to work in.   Thanks to them we speak English and not German or Japanese!

Palm Springs Art Museum (Sat, 10/10)
This little museum was a great way to spend some time on a very HOT Sat afternoon.  The temps were ridiculously hot when we first arrived, and at the time of this writing (11/8), they have cooled nicely and it’s absolutely gorgeous!  Back to the art museum….They had a cool (and very apropos for the area) exhibit on high heels with some of the most creative and crazy shoes I’ve ever seen!

We enjoyed the other temporary exhibit, the Weiner Family Collection – A Passionate Eye Exhibit and their permanent galleries which emphasized art from the West.

San Diego (Sat, 10/17)
San Diego is just over a 2 hour drive from Palm Springs and we decided to make a quick overnight trip.  We drove around downtown and spent most of Sat exploring Old Town which was a cute ‘frontier-like’ plaza with period buildings from the early 1800s when Spanish settlers arrived.  The area was decked out for Halloween.  We stayed in La Jolla and had dinner at the famous George’s at the Cove.

On Sun we drove up the coast, stopping at Del Mar and driving through Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Laguna Niguel en route back to ‘The Springs’!

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Halloween weekend
Dave was out of town this weekend.  I flew solo and did a little local touring around while he was away.  No trick or treaters arrived at the house (not surprised given it’s a gated community with no kids) and I didn’t get to see any crazy costumes (as the goulies were not out and about during the day.)  Maybe more celebrating next year?!

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Around Town

Next post will include a long weekend visit to NYC with my Mom!



Quirky Albuquerque – Tramway, Old Town, Nukes, Botanical Gardens, and More Balloons!

This post covers the rest of our week and vacation in Albuquerque.

Fri, Oct 2:  Sandia Peak Tramway in Cibola National Forest – 1st attempt (tramway halted due to high winds.)  At 2.7 miles, Sandia Peak is North America’s longest aerial tram and affords an 11,000 square-mile panoramic view of the Rio Grande Valley and New Mexico.

Mon 10/5, 2nd attempt:  successful and a little taste of winter at the 10,000 ft peak!