In our (almost) annual pilgrimage to visit my dad and his wife at their snowbird winter oasis, Daniel and I hit the road last week and traveled 15-hours down to Palm Desert, California. Having a dad who spends half the year up in the mountains at the the lake in Idaho and the other half in the desert of California has some mega-perks—we get to visit some rock-solid travel destinations and get to catch up with two of the coolest people you could hope to spend a vacation with.
We love to drive ourselves down to Cali, because we're so on-the-go when we're down there, that having our own vehicle makes the most sense. We tried flying and renting a car once, and it just wasn't the same (and cost a whole heck-of-a-lot more!). We sure do love our road trips, our gas station stops, and our impromptu "Hey, pull over to catch that snake on the side of the road!" moments.
As we always do, we woke up each morning to hit the gym, then hiked for 2-4 hours, then enjoyed Mexican food (literally a different restaurant for a chips & salsa sampling every. single. day.), caught some sun—or caught up on some zzz's!—and then enjoyed happy hour and dinner out. That was our daily schedule—which was like the best playlist EVER on shuffle & repeat—for every single day of the whole week we spent there.
Since this was our fourth trip to the desert, we knew which hikes and areas we loved and wanted to return to (like Whitewater Preserve and the Coachella Valley Preserve), and which ones we'd be OK without this time (like Joshua Tree). We also knew we wanted to try a couple new trails and were not disappointed with the two new ones we tried—Henderson Loop and Carrizo Canyon, both off Highway 74.
Daniel hit a lifetime goal this trip and I was thrilled to be a part of it—we found a desert tortoise! Growing up in the Arizona desert, Daniel had always wanted to find a wild tortoise, and this time—just barely poking out of a hole as we were scaling a canyon—was a little sunbathing tortoise. Life goal—check!
In addition to our hikes and adventures, my favorite part of our trips is spending time with my dad and his wife, which sadly I missed out on taking any photos with them this trip. Bummer! We always get one on our golfing adventures, and this year I totally spaced it... I must've been too excited about being on a winning "Putters" team. Anyway, we got to spend some great quality time with them—introducing them to The Living Desert Zoo and enjoying some dynamite food at places like Si Bon (amazing lunch), Armando's (favorite FAVORITE Mexican & margaritas), Backstreet Bistro (the Fit Menu is where it's at!), and Los Pepes (family-owned traditional Mexican).
See a couple photos of our trip below, which is mostly a collection of our amazing hikes!
Enjoying the wildflowers and blooming yucca at Whitewater Preserve.
The overlook at the top of the Whitewater Preserve trail. This hike was about 10-miles. It was the perfect day for it.
Before setting off on our Whitewater Preserve trek. It was a long one and we hit it right in the middle of the afternoon. The weather couldn't have been better, coming in right around 82-degrees!
We traveled to the waterfall at Whitewater last time we were in PD, but this time we wanted to see the wildflowers since we had been too late to see them bloom last year. This photo doesn't do them justice. The hills were covered in the most beautiful flowers!
Just as we were leaving Whitewater Preserve, I stumbled upon this little gopher snake. He was surprisingly docile! Don't worry, we put him back.
After finding a sidewinder rattlesnake at Moon Country last year, we knew we needed to go back to try our luck again. We didn't find any snakes, but we did catch a gorgeously sunny day! Coachella Valley Preserve has some great hikes.
This little desert iguana was super friendly and let us get really close for a photo. We found him on the Moon Country hike... they were everywhere!
We took my dad and his wife to The Living Desert. It's a great way to spend the afternoon with all of their desert landscapes and animals and they even have on-site hikes... we intend to go back and do that one of these days.
It might be hard to see, but this is where Daniel checked off his bucket list item of finding a desert tortoise. I had to capture him capturing the moment! This little tortoise was just barely poking out of the hole and came out to say hello!
Man, he was the cutest. He didn't stay out for long after seeing us!
Climbing up a small canyon surrounded by gorgeous views and ocotillo, just after finding the tortoise on the Henderson Loop Trail.
Going up, up, up the tiny canyon on Henderson Loop. I love hikes that take us over long, scenic distances as well as ones that challenge us with a few vertical climbs.
The view from the top at Henderson Loop Trail. What a view, Palm Desert, what a view.
Between hikes and chips & salsa, we often had a chance to catch up on work, feed the ducks & turtles, and watch some mighty fine golfing at my dad's place. This is the view from his back patio. The mountains overlooking the pond make for some killer sunsets!
I climbed up on a rock at the top of Carrizo Canyon to snap this shot of Daniel while he was munching on some beef jerky. This was a very, very cool hike and a great way to round out our PD trip.
After snapping a photo of Daniel, he got one of me as I rested for a moment at the top of Carrizo Canyon. I loved the rocky, vertical terrain on that hike!
While these photos are fun, they just don't do our trips to Palm Desert justice. The views we see as we hike for hours upon hours, the early mornings and smiling faces of the regulars at the gym, the "Cheers!" over happy hour cocktails and dad's famous margaritas, the feeding of the ducks and fish in the pond each morning, and the good conversations by the pool with family are what really make the trip. We are so grateful each year when my dad and his wife open their home to us for a whole week—especially since we spend so much of it out on the trails and up in the hills.
We're already talking about next year's trip. And if it's anything like the last four, it will be one for the books. Until next time, PD. Until next time.
Check out all our past Palm Desert & California trips here!