Palm Springs: Top 10 U.S. Places to Travel

Greater Palm Springs Area

Desert Oasis

Looking Up at Oasis Fan Palms

Golden Barrel Cacti

Roadrunner in Desert

Close-up of Roadrunner Face

Anna’s Hummingbird at Mexican Honeysuckle in Desert Garden

Greater Palm Springs was voted one of the top ten places to travel in the United States by Lonely Planet in 2017.  We visited in early spring and loved it as usual!

Palm Springs: Giant Wind Turbines

Wind Turbines by Mount San Jacinto

Trio of Wind Turbines

Wind Turbines in Desert Landscape

San Gorgonio Pass in Black and White

The San Gorgonio Pass near Palm Springs is one of the windiest places in California.  The area is famous for its huge wind farms containing over 4,000 wind turbines.  The largest blades measure half the length of a football field.  Currently engineers are working on a prototype that would have blades twice the length of a football field mounted on a tower taller than the Empire State Building!  Another post is at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/california-palm-springs-wind-turbines/

Desert Art: Mirror House

Mirage House of Polished Steel

Kaleidoscopic Mirrored Interior

View of Palm Springs from Inside the House

Outside of House Reflecting Wind Turbines in Distance

Mirrored House Angles

Mirrored Corner Angles

Recently we enjoyed seeing some of the Desert X art installations on view throughout the Coachella Valley in Palm Springs, California (https://www.desertx.org/).  Overall the exhibition runs February 25 – April 20, 2017, but this exhibit will remain open until October 31st.

Artist Doug Aitken created this mirrored home of polished steel called “Mirage”.  Environment and home are blended together in this unique kaleidoscopic structure.  The view is said to be especially stunning at sunset and in moonlight.  This was a favorite and a real treat to see on the last day of our trip!

Desert Art: Mirrored Pillars

Curve of Mirrored Pillars

Pillar Row

Pillars Reflecting Sky

Authors’ Portraits in Pillars

When we visited Palm Springs recently, we were happy to see some of the Desert X art installations on view throughout the Coachella Valley (https://www.desertx.org/).  The exhibition runs February 25 – April 20, 2017. 

These pictures show a ring of mirrored pillars called “The Circle of Land and Sky” by artist Phillip K. Smith III.  I think it would be fun to have a couple of mirrored pillars at home in the flower garden!

California: Palm Springs Art Museum

Your Dog Fiberglass Statue

Your Dog Fiberglass Statue

Sputnik-Style Starburst Chandelier

Sputnik-Style Starburst Chandelier

Golden Rain

Golden Rain

Acoma-Hopi Seed Jar

Acoma-Hopi Seed Jar

Rattlesnake and Desert Iguana Basket

Rattlesnake and Desert Iguana Basket

Paiute Beaded Basket

Paiute Beaded Basket

Navajo Yeibeichai Rug with Female Dancers

Navajo Yeibeichai Rug with Female Dancers

Driftwood Bronze Horse

Driftwood Bronze Horse

Picasso Owl

Picasso Owl

Twin 6-Foot Bronze Hearts in Outdoor Sculpture Garden

Twin 6-Foot Bronze Hearts in Outdoor Sculpture Garden

Costa's Hummingbird at Red Salvia in Dining Courtyard

Costa’s Hummingbird at Red Salvia in Dining Courtyard

We always enjoy visiting the Palm Springs Art Museum in Southern California. There is a wonderful variety of items on display, and it is delightful dining outside beside cacti and hummingbirds. Info about visiting the museum is at: http://www.psmuseum.org/

Joshua Tree National Park – A Favorite!

Cholla Cactus Garden Sign

Cholla Cactus Garden Sign

Close-up of Teddy Bear Cholla

Close-up of Teddy Bear Cholla

Sun Ring over Cholla Cactus Garden

Sun Ring over Cholla Cactus Garden

Mojave Mound Cactus

Mojave Mound Cactus

Joshua Tree Nicknamed the Telephone Pole

Joshua Tree Nicknamed the Telephone Pole

Bent Over Joshua Tree

Bent Over Joshua Tree

Large Joshua Tree

Large Joshua Tree

Jumbo Rocks

Jumbo Rocks

Close-up of Rock Formation

Close-up of Rock Formation

Joshua Tree Landscape in Infrared

Joshua Tree Landscape in Infrared

We always enjoying visiting Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert of California – it is one of our favorites! 

The spiny Cholla Cactus Garden is a wonderful place to take a careful walk (no sandals or flip-flops allowed). We got extra lucky when we visited because a sun ring formed in the sky above us – amazing!  More info on how sun halos form is at: http://earthsky.org/space/what-makes-a-halo-around-the-moon  

Joshua trees are fun to see because they come in so many shapes and sizes as a result of the environment. They are a member of the lily family. The rocky landscape is quite scenic, and is criss-crossed by multiple earthquake faults.  The San Andreas Fault forms the southern boundary of the park. More info about these faults is at: http://www.nps.gov/jotr/learn/nature/faults.htm   More info about visiting Joshua Tree National Park is at: http://www.joshuatree.org/

 

Anza Borrego: Galleta Meadows Sky Art

Grasshopper and Scorpion Pair

Grasshopper and Scorpion Pair

Infrared Grasshopper

Infrared Grasshopper

Infrared Scorpion

Infrared Scorpion

Merriam's Tapir

Merriam’s Tapir

Infrared Desert Landscape

Infrared Desert Landscape

Giant Tortoise

Giant Tortoise

African Elephant

African Elephant

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

Gold Miner and His Mule

Gold Miner and His Mule

Willys Jeep

Willys Jeep

Sand Verbena

Sand Verbena

Flowering Opuntia Cactus

Flowering Opuntia Cactus

Epic Desert Flower Bloom in Spring 1998

Epic Desert Flower Bloom in Spring 1998

Sculpture Installation Map by Galleta Meadows

Sculpture Installation Map by Galleta Meadows

Every time we visit Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California, we always make time to see more of Ricardo Breceda’s metalwork creations at Galleta Meadows.  He carefully considers the placement of each statue in the landscape for best effect.  New “Sky Art” is constantly being added to the desert plain. 

A simple driving tour map is pictured above, and a detailed interactive Google map is at: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1Eh2KAR81FCa5sgPDCaGwoPcF-8g&hl=en_US&ll=33.255457461934164%2C-116.35907649993896&z=12   Maps are also available around town in Borrego Springs.  An interesting article is at http://www.desertusa.com/borrego/bs-art.html

All posts about the sculptures are at: https://naturetime.wordpress.com/?s=galleta

Desert wildflower blooms are usually best during an El nino year because rain comes to the desert.  The best desert wildflowers we’ve ever seen was the Palm Springs bloom of 1998.

California: Return to Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree and Rocky Landscape

Joshua Tree and Rocky Landscape

Each Joshua Tree Has a Unique Shape

Each Joshua Tree Has a Unique Shape

Flowering Joshua Tree

Flowering Joshua Tree

Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus

Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus

Claret Cup Hedgehog Cactus

Claret Cup Hedgehog Cactus

Joshua Tree is one of our favorite national parks (near Twentynine Palms, California). The trees are giant members of the Yucca family. The largest tree in the park is 42 feet tall, 34 feet wide, and has a trunk 9 feet around. Although trees start off growth as a single stalk, each one quickly develops its own unique shape due to damage to the growing tips. Joshua trees have a very important role in the Mojave High Desert ecosystem. This beautiful landscape has been featured in many movies and TV shows. More info is at: http://www.nps.gov/jotr/naturescience/jtrees.htm   A previous post is at: https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/joshua-tree-national-park/

Anza Borrego: Native Palm Oases and Carizzo Badlands Overlook

Native Palm Groves Sign

Native Palm Groves Sign

Pygmy Grove Oasis

Pygmy Grove Oasis

Washington Fan Palm with Skirt of Dead Fronds

Washington Fan Palm with Skirt of Dead Fronds

Cholla Cactus Growing on Mica-Studded Granite Rock Slopes

Cholla Cactus Growing on Mica-Studded Granite Rock Slopes

Barrel Cactus Surviving with Few Roots

Barrel Cactus Surviving with Few Roots

Flowering Barrel Cactus

Flowering Barrel Cactus

Panorama at Carizzo Badlands Overlook (click on picture to enlarge)

Panorama at Carizzo Badlands Overlook (click on picture to enlarge)

Carizzo Badlands Landscape

Carizzo Badlands Landscape

Close-up of Carizzo Badlands and San Jacinto Fault Zone

Close-up of Carizzo Badlands and San Jacinto Fault Zone

The southern region of Anza Borrego Desert State Park contains many treasures. We especially enjoyed hiking on Mountain Palm Springs trail, which leads to several native palm oases.  The oases here form where groundwater seeps up to the surface along the Elsinore fault zone. The trail begins up a dry wash leading past cholla and barrel cactus.  The landscape’s white granite rock contains mica that sparkles in the sun.  The first group of palms encountered along the trail is the Pygmy Grove. The “skirts” of dead fronds on the palms provide shelter to owls, bats, snakes, and many other creatures. In Fall and early winter, animals feast on the palms’ sweet sticky dates.

A little further south is a spectacular vista overlooking the Carizzo Badlands. As you look out at the Coyote Mountains, you are looking at the active San Jacinto earthquake fault zone. These mountains are rich in fossils of mastodons, camels, zebras, and sabertooth tigers from a million years ago. What was really amazing was that no one else was around when we visited – the only sound we could hear was the wind. Not a car, not a plane, only silence. It was magical. More info about the geology and natural history of Anza Borrego is at: http://www.abdnha.org/anza-borrego-desert-geology.htm

 

Anza Borrego State Park: Sculptures in the Desert

Statue of Extinct Horse in Local Fossil Record

Statue of Extinct Horse in Local Fossil Record

Statue of Ancient Gomphotheres (related to elephants) in Local Fossil Record

Statue of Ancient Gomphotheres (related to elephants) in Local Fossil Record

Statue of Nonlocal Allosaurus Dinosaur from Jurassic Era

Statue of Nonlocal Allosaurus Dinosaur from Jurassic Era

Statue of Nonlocal Spinosaurus (spiny lizard) from Cretaceous Period

Statue of Nonlocal Spinosaurus (spiny lizard) from Cretaceous Period

Statue of Nonlocal Utahraptor Dinosaur Guarding Nest of Eggs (Jurassic Era)

Statue of Nonlocal Utahraptor Dinosaur Guarding Nest of Eggs (Jurassic Era)

Fanciful 350-foot-long Dragon Serpent with Rattlesnake Tail (road runs through middle of sculpture)

Fanciful 350-foot-long Dragon Serpent with Rattlesnake Tail
(road runs through middle of sculpture)

Head of Multi-Part Dragon Serpent

Head of Multi-Part Dragon Serpent

Sculpture Installation Map by Galleta Meadows

Sculpture Installation Map by Galleta Meadows

Visitors at Anza Borrego State Park, California, can’t miss the metal sculptures at Galleta Meadows. Over 100 statues by Ricardo Breceda dot the desert landscape. Some statues are based on local fossils found in the area, and others are more fanciful. All are fun to see!

A simple driving tour map is pictured above, and a detailed interactive Google map is at: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1Eh2KAR81FCa5sgPDCaGwoPcF-8g&hl=en_US&ll=33.255457461934164%2C-116.35907649993896&z=12   Maps are also available around town in Borrego Springs.  An interesting article is at http://www.desertusa.com/borrego/bs-art.html

All sculpture posts are at: https://naturetime.wordpress.com/?s=galleta

California: Retro Palm Springs Architecture

Palm Springs Visitor Center (former Tramway Gas Station) with Distinctive Angular Roof

Palm Springs Visitor Center (former Tramway Gas Station) with Distinctive Angular Roof

Round Boulders Behind Palm Springs Visitor Center

Round Boulders Behind Palm Springs Visitor Center

 

Colorful Mid-Century Modern Home

Colorful Mid-Century Modern Home

Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway - 1960 "House of Tomorrow"

Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway – 1960 “House of Tomorrow”

"Swiss Miss" A-Frame Home

“Swiss Miss” A-Frame Home

Home Featuring Decorative Concrete Privacy Walls

Home Featuring Decorative Concrete Privacy Walls

Home's Dramatic Entrance Windows Overlook Desert Landscape

Home’s Dramatic Entrance Windows Overlook Desert Landscape

Palm Springs, California, has one of the largest concentrations of Mid-Century Modern architecture in America.  The Desert Modernism style combines sleek lines and modern materials with desert living.  Important elements of design include color, lighting, and texture.  Windows are placed to overlook the desert landscape  Many Desert Modernism style homes built in the 1950s and 1960s are now in top demand as chic retro-style housing.  Shops in town specialize in matching atomic/space age furniture. This architecture is so popular that tourists flock to Palm Springs every year for Modernism Week (http://www.modernismweek.com/).  Popular architectural landmarks are detailed in do-it-yourself driving tours:  (http://www.visitpalmsprings.com/page/mid-century-modern-architecture/8185).  More info is at:  (http://www.oldhouseonline.com/mid-century-modern-houses-in-palm-springs/)

California: Palm Springs Wind Turbines

Wind Turbines Along Highway 10

Wind Turbines Along Highway 10

Wind Turbines on Ridge

Wind Turbines on Ridge

Wind Turbines Among Sand Dunes

Wind Turbines Among Sand Dunes

Wind Turbines in Front of Mount San Jacinto

Wind Turbines in Front of Mount San Jacinto

Palm Springs, California, is home to the oldest wind farm in the United States.  Visitors can’t miss the wind turbines – it is surreal driving on Highway 10 among them.  The oldest wind turbines were built in the 1980s and stand 65 feet tall, with 15 foot blades, rotating up to 700 times per minute.  Newer models stand 300 feet tall, with blades half the length of a football field, rotating up to 45 times per minute.   Thousands of these wind turbines line the San Gorgonio Pass, producing electricity for the Coachella Valley.  This area has abundant wind energy because the air funnels through the mountain pass between the cool ocean and hot desert – sometimes reaching 80 mph!  There are even special dune buggy tours among the wind turbines.  A fun television episode of California’s Gold includes a visit by Huell Howser to the top of a wind turbine and can be viewed here:  https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/2001/01/08/windmills-californias-gold-3012/

California: Return to Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Sign

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Sign

Rotating Aerial Tramway Car

Rotating Aerial Tramway Car

View Looking Down

View Looking Down

View Looking Up

View Looking Up

Viewing Platform at Mountain Station

Viewing Platform at Mountain Station

View of Coachella Valley

View of Coachella Valley

Mount San Jacinto State Park Forest at Top

Mount San Jacinto State Park Forest at Top

Old Style Tram Car at Base

Old Style Tram Car at Base

One of our favorite things to do in Palm Springs, California, is to ride the aerial tram car up to Mountain Station near the top of Mount San Jacinto (8,516 feet).  The distance between the mountaintop and the desert floor is over 2 miles one way, and the journey takes about 15 minutes.  The circular rotating tram cars are state-of-the-art and were built by Switzerland.  The temperature difference between the top and bottom is quite dramatic.  There aren’t many places where you can hike beside cactus and play in the winter snow – all in the same afternoon!  More info is at: https://www.pstramway.com/about-us/history/  A previous post from 2012 is at: https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/palm-springs-aerial-tramway/

Mojave Desert Cacti Flowers

Yellow Barrel Cactus Flowers

Orange Mound Cacti Flowers

Green Cholla Cactus Flower

Pink Beavertail Cactus Flower

Cacti are adapted to life in the desert.  They can survive temperature extremes with very little water.  Spines protect them from hungry animals.  If the rains come, they bloom in spring.  Mojave Desert cacti flowers are very colorful!

Anza Borrego Time Travel

Wind God Bird in Nest Bringing Babies a Snake

Wind God Bird Baby in Infrared

Columbian Mammoth

Columbian Mammoth in Infrared

Camelops

Harlan’s Ground Sloth and Baby

Sculpture Installation Map by Galleta Meadows

Sculpture Installation Map by Galleta Meadows

You feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you see the prehistoric metalworks creatures on the desert plain at Anza Borrego Springs.  All of the animals roamed the area millions of years ago. 

Ricardo Breceda positions each piece of his Sky Art carefully at Galleta Meadows for realism. Breceda hopes that his Sky Art creates a sense of fun and whimsy, and connection to the landscape.  Apparently it does, because people have weekly picnics by the sculptures, and decorate them for the holidays!

A simple driving tour map is pictured above, and a detailed interactive Google map is at: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1Eh2KAR81FCa5sgPDCaGwoPcF-8g&hl=en_US&ll=33.255457461934164%2C-116.35907649993896&z=12   Maps are also available around town in Borrego Springs.  An interesting article is at http://www.desertusa.com/borrego/bs-art.html

All metal sculpture posts are at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/?s=galleta

 

Mojave Desert Wildflowers

Datura Flowers

Brittlebrush

Desert Tortoise beside Purple Chia and Desert Dandelion

Sand Verbena

Dune Evening Primrose

Blue Phacelia/Wild Heliotrope

White Desert Star and Purplemat

Canterbury Bells

Desert Candle

Although the Mojave Desert has been dry in 2012 and the wildflower season is minimal, other years have been spectacular!  Keep up with current wildflower reports at:  http://www.desertusa.com/wildflo/ca.html.  When the rains come and the flowers bloom, you don’t want to miss it!

Anza Borrego Desert State Park

Anza Borrego Barrel Cactus

Anza Borrego Earthquake Fault

Anza Borrego Ocatillo Trail

Anza Borrego Spring Flowers

Anza Borrego Desert State Park in Southern California is a World Biosphere Reserve, and National Natural Landmark.  Borrego is Spanish for bighorn sheep.  It is the largest desert park in the United States!  More than 650,000 acres have been set aside for future generations.  More information for visitors is at:  http://www.abdsp.org/  and  http://theabf.org/

Joshua Tree: “Sticky” Cholla Gardens Trail

Cholla Cactus Gardens Sign

Cholla Cactus Gardens Trail

Cholla Cactus in Bloom

Cholla "Teddy Bear" Cactus

You must walk very carefully on the Cholla Gardens Trail at Joshua Tree National Park.  Teddy bear cholla cacti are far from cuddly!  The cacti are so spiny and sticky that small animals use them for defense around their burrows.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree and Giant Boulders

Joshua Tree and Mojave Desert

Rounded Boulders in Mojave Desert

Joshua Tree Infrared Landscape

Joshua Tree is one of our nation’s newest national parks.  Joshua trees are giant yucca plants that survive extreme heat and cold in California’s Mojave desert.  The park’s classic Western landscape has been filmed extensively for movies and television.  The desert scenery is spectacular!

Palm Springs: Aerial Tramway

Palm Springs Aerial Tram Car

View at Top of San Jacinto Mountain

Mount San Jacinto State Park Sign

Mount San Jacinto Trail

Snow at the Top of San Jacinto Mountain

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway transports the world’s largest rotating tram cars up the steepest mountain in North America.  The tram cars are attached to steel cables that carry them over 2 1/2 miles from the desert floor to Mountain Station at 8,516 feet.  The cars pass through 5 plant and animal life zones – the equivalent of traveling from Mexico to Alaska in 15 minutes!  The tram was such a challenge to build that it is considered an historic civil engineering landmark.  Popular TV shows filmed at the tram include Columbo (1972 episode “Short Fuse”); Mission Impossible (1971 episode, “The Tram”); and Dirty Jobs (2008, season 4, episode 12, “Aerial Tram Greaser”).  The view from the top of San Jacinto Mountain is spectacular!   A 2014 post is at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/california-return-to-palm-springs-aerial-tramway/

Palm Springs: Big Horn Sheep Statues

Big Horn Sheep – Desert Theme

Big Horn Sheep at Airport

Big Horn Sheep at Aerial Tram

Big Horn Sheep at Living Desert

Palm Springs was named for the palm trees growing around the bubbling springs in town.  Street names reflect famous people who lived there – Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Gene Autry, and Gerald Ford.  Sonny Bono was the town’s mayor in the 1980s.  Palm Springs is surrounded by the Mojave Desert and San Jacinto mountains.  This dramatic landscape allows you to enjoy a green oasis, play in the snow on a mountaintop, and hike in the desert – all in one day!  The bighorn sheep statues displayed around town  were painted by local artists.  Bighorn sheep have eyesight similar to 8 x 10 binoculars!

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