This is our eighteenth year visiting Palm Desert/Coachella Valley area of California. We come here to enjoy the incredible scenery, hike in the desert and mountains and to watch polo. This year, as in most years, Monte and Aleta visited with us, thus doubling the fun.
We stayed in the Marriott’s Desert Springs Resort which is one of our home resorts. We love the beautiful landscaping and mountain views here always with the quiet peace that the resort exudes. As usual, we chose a villa on the upper floor so we have a balcony and better views of the mountains. The upper floor and proximity to an outside grill are the two primary factors in our choice of locations.
We used to come to the Valley and visit prime dining restaurants virtually every evening. However, we’ve evolved to almost exclusively grilling outside and dining in our villa. That way we save lots of money while also getting more time outside and meeting people. This year we made an exception on the fine dining and visited one of our long time favorites: Shame on the Moon. This restaurant is almost an institution in the area and we came here to celebrate Aleta’s birthday. As usual, the food, service and ambiance were excellent. Shame on the Moon always gets our highest recommendation!
While I’m on the dining topic I should mention the “holy trinity” of fast food restaurants in the valley. By that I mean: Del Taco, El Pollo Loco and In N Out Burger! None of these restaurants are in Central Illinois and we look forward to visiting each of them for lunch during our yearly visit.
Another yearly must-do on our list is to go hiking in Indian Canyons. This area is part of the Agua Calliente Indian Reservation and consists of lots of desert, mountains and three oases which have formed along the San Andreas fault. Here you’ll find cougars, rattlesnakes, Big Horn sheep, tarantulas, lizards, roadrunners and six different species of hummingbirds. (Note: In 18 years of visits we have seen lots of hummingbirds, lots of lizards, 1 tarantula, and 1 rattlesnake.)
Our first stop on our visit is the trading post halfway up the mountain and overlooking Palm Canyon. Here’s where we learn what animals have been recently spotted and where we relax and watch all the hummingbirds at the feeders. The weather was still a little cool (about 85 degrees) so no snakes had been spotted. Darn! We enjoyed the hummingbirds for awhile and then headed for our favorite spot in Andreas Canyon.
Andreas Canyon, like the other oases in Cochella Valley, is basically on top of the San Andreas fault. The two tectonic plates below have been grinding against each other for eons and have created rubble from the rock. This rubble allows water to percolate to the surface and where you have water you have life! To top it off, Andreas Canyon has a rushing stream of ice cold water from the San Jacinto mountains above; thus creating a paradise in the desert. For centuries the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians used this paradise as their summer home. It’s still sacred land to the Cahuilla but they allow visitors to come and enjoy this desert beauty.
We hike into the canyon to Mona’s rock. This is a huge rock in the middle of the stream that we like to sit and relax on. You hear the rushing/gurgling water, the birds in the trees and the occasional rustle of a lizard in the Washingtonia palm trees. This is our happy spot!
Another yearly activity for us is polo watching in Indio at the Eldorado and Empire Polo clubs. We reserve a table under the white canvas awnings and listen to the thunder of galloping horses and the cheering of the crowds. This is one of our favorite Sunday pastimes and you can read more about it here: Polo Sunday!
Geocaching in the desert and on the surrounding mountains is another favorite activity for us here. There are thousands of caches in the area and an unusually high number of creative hides, making it lots of fun to cache and enjoy the desert. We are always finding another new favorite spot in the valley while we geocache.
The J. W. Marriott Desert Springs hotel is adjunct to our resort and we love walking over there in the mornings for coffee by the fire pit. Their fire pit and adjacent ponds were the inspiration for the fire pit and pond in our back yard. Here we get a coffee, sit by the fire and meet people from all over the world. Pictured below are people we met from Canada and Boston: Jo Jo, Paula and Charlie.
Between the three of them they kept us laughing all morning. The funniest story came from Jo Jo. Her father had built a pond in his back yard and was having problems with herons eating his fish. One day Jo Jo visited her father and went out back to check the pond and noticed something odd…the fish were on the bottom and weren’t moving. She went to her father who was sitting on his back porch and told him about the non-moving fish. He said, “I know. I’ve been sitting on this back porch all day waiting on the herons to return. You see, I made some ceramic goldfish, painted them orange and put them in the bottom of the pond. Now, I just can’t wait to see the look on those herons when they swallow one!”
Palm Desert and the Coachella Valley continue to be one of our favorite vacation spots in the world. The weather is beautiful and the scenery is incomparable. There are hundreds of great restaurants in the area and there are plenty of activities to keep you busy for days. It’s very very hot in the summer months so I’d advise you to plan your visit between October and May.
Maybe we’ll see you at the fire pit and have a cup of coffee with you!