Monday, April 15, 2019

Palm Desert & Arizona Trip 2019

In March, Daniel and I were lucky enough to take 10 days off of work to head down to the warmer southwestern states of California and Arizona for a mega-family trip that was worth all the memories in the books. We spent 6 days with my dad and his wife in Palm Desert, California and then spent 4 days in the Phoenix, Arizona area to celebrate his cousin's wedding (and a couple family reunions as well!).

Most of the photos you'll see in this post were of our many hikes and eats along the way... I have been trying to be more present in the moment so I haven't been taking quite as many photos. I think these ones will do our trip justice. It's the memories that count, anyway, right?

On the first day, we flew into San Diego en route down to Palm Desert and our first stop on our way to PD was a quick bite in Old Town. We had just been to San Diego back in October, so when we landed we knew our favorite spot and headed straight for Casa de Reyes in Old Town. Their drinks, the atmosphere, the food--it's all too good to go anywhere else (though Coyote Café comes in close second for me because of their amazing service).

After getting our fill of chips & salsa, margaritas (just one!), and fajitas, we began the three-hour drive to Palm Desert. We always love our road trips.

On our first day in Palm Desert, we hit up one of our favorite trails, Henderson Trail, for a quick hour-long hike before an afternoon round of golf with my dad and his wife. We were excited to dust off the clubs at Desert Falls Country Club. It was our first 18-holes of the season. We have golf league now every Tuesday so that was a good season-opening warm-up.

The next day, we went for a long hike at Indian Canyons in Palm Springs. This photo was taken at the bottom of Palm Canyon trail, heading up to Coffman Trail. It was pretty windy in the desert that day, but Indian Canyons is a great place to go when it's windy in the valley because the canyon shields the wind and weather pretty well. We love Indian Canyons because it's a pretty steep admission to get into the park (if you want to go several times), but military has free admission so we try to take advantage of that. We LOVE all the trails there.

While there was plenty of pool time, eating out, and having fun in between the hikes, most of the photos I chose for this post were our fun hikes since we love them so much and Southern California offers such diverse, interesting trails! The photo above was taken while we were hiking Moon Country Trail at Coachella Valley Preserve. The superbloom was insane!

I was so excited to spot a horny toad sunning himself on a rock. Normally Daniel is the one who catches all the lizards, but this time I got to have a go at the little guy and I was able to catch him pretty easily. We took some photos and let the little guy go. It was hard not to want to take him home as a pet (we resisted, don't worry)! 

Another place we love to go because their chips & salsa are amazing is Casuelas Nuevas in Cathedral City. If you can't tell already, it's kind of our thing to go for really long hikes and then go out for Mexican food. Nothing really hits the spot like cali-Mex food after a day in the sun!

One of our favorite trail systems, Whitewater Preserve, was closed during this trip due to flooding. We were bummed to miss out on the superbloom out there, but we took advantage of the convenience of the Coachella Valley Preserve and hit up a couple different trails during our PD stay. The photo above was from a hike along Pushwalla Palms trail at Coachella Valley Preserve.

One of the new Mexican places we tried after a hike was Mamacita's. Now, I have to say, that place does not look like anything special from the outside and on the inside you almost feel like you've walked into a total hole-in-the-wall. But the food... the food! It was so good and so affordable! Pictured above are their naked shrimp/fish tacos and I'm already craving them and wanting to go back for more.

One of our very favorite hikes this trip was at the Living Desert Trail at the Living Desert in Palm Springs. It was the longest and most beautiful (and challenging!) trail we did this trip. We were a little apprehensive... you might not think there would be a 5+ mile trail within a zoo that could offer you anything of value but I tell you what--this trail was amazing. The views and being able to hike through a canyon, over mountains, and have a panoramic view of the entire Coachella Valley was truly spectacular. We will for sure be adding this one to our list of repeats (all the other trails we did were repeats).

Most of our evenings in Palm Desert ended in games or fire pits, including Gin rummy and homemade margaritas at Dad & Karen's!

After six days in Palm Desert, we made the journey to Phoenix, Arizona. Our original intention was to go for Daniel's cousin's wedding, but we added a lot of extras in to make the most of the trip. We stayed at the Vee Quiva hotel and casino in Phoenix and while it was a little bit out there and separated from the city, it gave us exactly what we needed. We had a cozy room, a pool, access to local trails, and a decent commute to anywhere we wanted to go in the Phoenix area.

The first morning in Phoenix, we hiked up Telegraph Pass & The National Trail around South Mountain. The trails in Phoenix were really different than those in Palm Desert. For the most part they offered more elevation and equally scenic views. That's why we love hikes so much... they're always different everywhere we go.

I don't have many other pics of the other hikes we did in Phoenix, but we also hiked (I ran) Holbert Trail. That one was perfect training for all the Spartan races I had/have coming up.

One of the best stops we made in Phoenix was McMahon's Ice Cream in Chandler, AZ. Oh my goodness, it is A MUST GO for all ice cream lovers in the Phoenix area. The birthday cake & cookie dough flavors were PHENOMENAL! I want to go back and try all the rest!

As I mentioned before, we were in Phoenix for a reason! Daniel's cousin was getting married, so we were elated to spend her special day celebrating her and her new husband. The best part was that day was basically a family reunion with Daniel's Dad's entire side of the family. The day before, we'd had a reunion with his mom's entire side of the family. It was a weekend filled to the brim of meeting family members I've only met on Facebook (or didn't know existed!) and I was so overjoyed to finally put names to faces. I think I have them all down like a pro now, and I'm pretty blessed to say I'm a part of a really fun and amazing family.

As you can see, we had some really good times at the wedding. Daniel's parents are so fun, and the entire weekend and meeting all of Daniel's family members was a huge highlight to the 10-day trip.

On our last day in the desert, we visited the Wildlife World Zoo in Phoenix, AZ. That place was insanely cool because you got to be so up close and personal with the animals. Of all the exhibits, the rhino was so cool--we were RIGHT by him. I also loved the baby animal exhibit and was so tempted to sneak a baby jackal home with me. I mean, I saw the older jackals and pretty much changed my mind right then... but the babies were so darn cute. I've never seen a baby animal exhibit like that (purely for newborn animals) and it was very heart-warming. I was so impressed with the entire zoo's amazing animal interaction and exhibit set-ups!

And the last photo of the post--my souvenirs! I truly love being a tourist. My friend Andi got me hooked on penny press souvenirs last May when we went to the Oregon Coast, and I have collected 15 pennies over the last 11-months. Can't wait to continue adding to my collection.

I wish I wasn't so busy lately--it's been hard to share these vacation photos on time (we were on this trip a month ago today), but it's so fun to look back on the memories that won't fade away anytime soon. Hope you guys enjoyed our CA/AZ trip recap. I have a LOT of things going on in April so this blog is about to liven up in the coming weeks!!

If you're interested in our past Palm Desert trips, you can see them here!