Joshua Tree National Park is quite unique. Mostly unshaded, it has distinct areas of desert terrain and flora. There are many exhibit areas and also hiking and camping locations. Although it was very hot, the wind and dry air made it bearable to walk around for a while. We walked through the cholla cactus garden area. These cacti are native to northern Mexico and the south west US. Their yellow, tight needles create a glow that makes the plants look like they are lit. They are so cool-looking that you may be tempted to touch, however, there are lots of pointy needles. Their skeletons are also very interesting with a lacy-look. Although we spotted several of this type of cactus throughout the park, there is a huge concentration in one area.
The terrain changed abruptly from scrub to boulders, a walk was in order…the boulders look smooth from a distance but are actually mica and rough to the touch. Of course, there are copious Joshua trees everywhere. They are in the Yucca and Agave family. Some look like they had a rough night, others are spiked and happy. A downed Joshua tree exposed the secret of its water retention. It really looks like absorbent insulation. Everything in this park has a cartoonish look and a painful, pointy reality.
After the park, we headed to the oasis town of 29 Palms. Instead of the steep and hot hike to 49 Palms (it was a little too late in the day), we stopped for lunch at the Joshua Tree Saloon. It was the right decision. Drinks and a nice lunch were refreshing. We passed a wildly decorated car on the way.
Before returning to Indio, we stopped at Pioneertown. This Wild West town was built as an 1880s replica. Always meant to be a combination movie set and a visitor/tourist destination. More than 50 movies have been made here. Typically, it is bustling with activity including western shoot-out shows, cafes with live music and even a venue for an olde time wedding. Today, we visited a few shops and walked down the empty street; it was still a great blast from the past.
After a full day of triple digit weather, we made our way to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. This amazing ten minute, two and a half mile ride brings you to the much cooler San Jacinto Mountain station at over 8,500 feet. It was almost forty degrees cooler than our starting point. (It felt great; we all needed jackets) A brief history and geography lesson accompany the ride up. The views and the location are a sight to enjoy, we had a windy and dusty filled sky. There are many hiking paths and even places to sled or snow shoe when there is snow. We had a champagne toast, watched the sun set over the mountains and took the tram back down as the desert towns night lights twinkled.
The best way to end the night, relaxing by the pool (with a drink), taking in the night sky and just loving life!