It’s been a little over six weeks since I got back from my late October/early November trip. First stop was the Palm Beach wedding I featured in my last post. Then I flew out to LA for a few days to visit our youngest son and his girlfriend, as I had yet to see their adorable apartment in person. Next up? A long-planned trip to Joshua Tree and Palm Springs with a group of college girlfriends.
All in all, there would be a total of 12 of us. Nine for two days in Joshua Tree to start, and three arriving for the four days in Palm Springs. I wouldn’t say I was apprehensive about being with such a large group, especially as they are all decades-long friends, but it had been five years since we all took a big trip together. I needn’t have worried. It was one of those lifetime experiences you will never forget and will always treasure.
Some key advance planning insured that things went as smoothly as possible. Carol took charge of finding our accommodations, as well as organizing a sunset wine tasting, and setting us all up on the SplitWise App. I did my best to line up dining options — not all meals but enough to insure we weren’t left with fast food or takeout as our only option. And Peggy booked us on The Mod Squad Martini & Mid Century Modern Tour in Palm Springs. More on all this a little farther down.
If you’re wondering about my outfit, it’s really my go-to daily wardrobe spruced up with a hand-painted jacket purchased in Joshua Tree (my one splurge) and a cute hat I bought last winter and promptly forgot about. Otherwise, it’s simply a classic cashmere sweater, cuffed straight leg jeans, and walkable booties — all shopped from my closet. Because it was quite a bit warmer out West, I didn’t wear this actual look on our trip, but it would have worked for those cool (cold???) desert nights. I did wear a variation of jeans, a top and walkable shoes almost every day. Another reason to stop overpacking — just hoping I learn that lesson one of these days.
Sweater: Skull Cashmere, sold out. Super on-sale alternative in 10 colors here.
Hat: Target, old. Cute alternative here.
Now I’d like to switch the conversation from clothes to the two special destinations we visited. While I have been to Palm Springs several times, I’d never been to Joshua Tree. Or its namesake National Park where two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together in 792,623 acres of land sculpted by strong winds and occasional torrents of rain. The almost surreal landscape is peppered with huge rock formations and an endless variety of Yucca Brevifolia, more familiar to us as the Joshua Tree. These twisty, spiky trees create unforgettable silhouettes against the desert backdrop. And a plethora of birds, mammals, reptiles and insects depend on them for food and shelter. I lost count of how many I photographed!
While we explored the natural wonders of the Park, our home base was the recently opened Joshua tree AutoCamp. Their Premium Airstream Suites are outfitted with every possible comfort — a bright and airy sitting room (with foldout Queen bed), kitchenette, separate bedroom with another Queen bed, ingenious storage solutions, bathroom with tiled rain shower (and luxurious Ursa Major toiletries), and your own private patio with a fire pit and dining area. A few of us shared, which was a bit tight, but overall more than enough comfy chic for singles or a couple. They also have tiny houses if you need more space or there for a longer stay. And pets are welcome as well.
JT AutoCamp amenities include a multi-functional Clubhouse with curated food and drink, irresistible shopping, a light daily breakfast, bar and gathering areas. This is where you’ll find the outstanding staff 24-7 as well. You’ll also enjoy a community fire pit, luxurious pool, and complimentary mountain bikes.
Aside from the Park (which deserves more than the one full day we had to explore), you’ll want to wander around the quirky town of Joshua Tree, experience the Noah Purifoy Foundation and its fascinating outdoor Assemblage Sculptures, and treat yourself to a gourmet lunch at La Copine (a short drive on the way to Palm Springs). We didn’t make it to Pappy and Harriet’s, so that’s for next time.
Then it was on to Palm Springs. Full disclosure, we had already kicked off our Palm Springs experience when we picked up a slew of our group at the airport before we headed to Joshua Tree. That foray entailed a trip to Norma’s for our kick-off lunch. It was fabulous BUT make sure you make a reservation!
For this part of our vacay, we booked all 14 rooms at Hotel California, which proved to be the best and surprisingly affordable decision. We enjoyed a convenient location, especially when it came to hiking the nearby canyon trails, privacy, and a place to get a little crazy. Plus, we could indulge in a pool, hot tub and well-designed fully equipped kitchen, a delectable daily breakfast, and Happy Hour cocktails all to ourselves. Once again, we were hosted by the most incredible staff.
In addition to the exercise we got from hiking in Palm Canyon, I would totally recommend doing a power walk through one of Palm Spring’s residential neighborhoods. Four of us crashed an Open House and got to walk through an amazing, perfectly preserved mid-century modern home. Some of us also strolled through the Moorten Botanical Garden.
For dining, our highlights were Lulu (Brunch), Farm (French inspired farm-to-table) and Elmer’s (old school diner). I left one night open for breakout group dining, but that was a mistake. In hindsight, I would have researched GREAT takeout or even cooked in the chef’s kitchen. Another highlight was attending Palm Springs Halloween on Arenas Road. The costumes were amazing, and everyone was just so friendly and all about a good time. What was extra special is that three of us who attended have gay children, so our group was honored to support local Palm Springs LGTBQ charities.
Did we have some hiccups along the way? Sure. Did we have a blast? Absolutely. I think it almost defies belief that I have such a wonderful group of college friends that I can travel the world with…and still want to do it again. And again. I’d love to hear about your travels and travel recos with friends and family. Let me know!
Pappy and Harriet’s (also live music)
NOT TO BE MISSED:
World’s Greatest Crochet Museum (where I got this amazing jacket designed by @ShariElf)
Beauty Bubble Salon & Museum (Documentary coming soon!)
I know this is an extra long post, but I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to message me if you have any more questions about Joshua Tree or Palm Springs. In case I don’t get another post out before Christmas, I wish you and yours the happiest of Holiday Seasons — however, wherever you celebrate.
Photos by Kristin Moore-Gantz @artdirectthis and MP Allegaert
I use affiliate links and may receive a small commission for some purchases you make. Thank you!