Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Family Time

The remaining days can be summarized as "simply amazing". 
Myself and Adam, Uncle Neal and Jay, my cousin Jessica, my cousin Jason and his girlfriend Kayla. It was just about spending time together, over good food, good drinks, catching up, and enjoying so many stomach-hurting laughs. It really was an absolutely perfect and relaxing week that was completely filled with love and enjoying each others existence. 
The area is absolutely lush with fruit trees all over the place, and since Palm Springs is primarily a second-residence (if not third or fourth), Jay has permission from many people to come raid their fruit trees "any time that he wants". So we did just that. We enjoyed fresh squeezed (and really delicious) grapefruit juice, ate oranges, and Adam and I tried kumquots (think large marble-sized oranges that you eat whole) for the first time. 

Neighborhood walk for morning fruit

Good Morning Rancho Mirage

Adam and Kayla...serious game

Each evening was spent over fine spirits and rousing games of Cards Against Humanity. Yes, we brought our deck with us, and we played every night. I told you that I was obsessed with the game. We also bore two more sets of addicts between Neal&Jay and Jason&Kayla. Uncle Neal and I got into a few of those laughing spells where you really cannot stop laughing. You know those; you cannot breath, tears are streaming down your face, your stomach cramping at the continuos hard-core laughing, and just about when you have yourself back under control you look at the other person and completely lose it again. Yep. That was us. For 10 minutes an episode.

Blame all of this on that man: Uncle Neal, Jason, and Jessica

Jay and Neal...trying to own the game
Sibling love at its best

Good Night Rancho Mirage

Uncle Neal and Jay

Kayla and Jason

Cousin love

Adam sunning with the girls

We met SO many awesome and captivating people at the reception, the time absolutely flew by. Uncle Neal and Jay are just those people in your life that absolutely enrich everything about the lives of the people they spend time with. Life just feels better with them being a part of it. That and my cousins are pretty damn awesome too, haha.
The week came to a close too quickly, not a single one of us wanting to leave. I seriously think I am just NOW getting over South Cali withdrawal...seriously, a mild depression from leaving. I cannot wait to go back! Thank you to everyone who made this such a wonderful and memorable trip.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Joshua Tree: Day 2

Honestly, after the disappointment of not having the stargazing I had been hoping for (and oh-so-eagerly anticipating for WEEKS), I was not really that happy about starting this day. Surrounded by all of this beauty and I was a bit of a sourpuss. It was still cold, ridiculously windy, and we still had to pack up and hike out 2 miles to the car. Oh and we are going to hike a mountain. UGH.

Good Morning Joshua Tree...the hike out.

The clouds that dashed my stargazing dreams

Honestly, I love hiking. A lot. I love being in nature, everything about it. I hate the first mile of any hike, especially when it is an early morning start. This combined with my sourpuss beginning, I was not having a pleasant go of hiking up Ryan Mountain. It is only a 4 miles up and back, moderate hike, but I was not pleased. This was the one hike I wanted to do the most, as it was the only one that was in the middle of the park AND offered a 360 degree view

Up Ryan Mountain we go!

Overlooking where we camped the night before

See the Big Horned sheep?

One of Adam's primary objectives for the park visit was to see Big Horned sheep...about halfway up the trail we encountered one. He graciously stuck around for us to take a bajillion pictures of him, as well as come close enough to share the lens frame with him. It was at this point that my sourpuss attitude evaporated, I love seeing my husband get so excited about something.

Taking it all in

Finally, the clouds are starting to break!

Much better, all better. It was awesome to stand at the peak and watch the morning haze dissolved into another radiant blue sky.

Sunbeams over Joshua Tree

Sunlight and shadows

So tranquil

Due to the projected cloudiness again that night, we opted to not camp out the second night in Joshua Tree. That combined with the texts from Uncle Neal and my cousin Jason who had arrive in town the night before beckoning us to come back, we only did a half-day in the park that day. We easily could have enjoyed the whole day with more hiking and exploring, so don't think that there isn't enough to do. We just found the prospect of being with family (and my cousin Jessica was landing later that day), to be more appealing.

Hello again El Ranchito
After a stop for breakfast/lunch/dinner at El Ranchito, we got properly cleaned up from being properly ripe from not showering for 2 days, living/hiking/camping in the same clothes for the same time period, and we ready for family fun.
We ventured back into Palm Spring to Koffe an afternoon pick-me-up and oh was it amazing. ALMOST as amazing as the coffee shop in Edinburgh...almost. The chai tea latte I had was actually made from a base of freshly steeped chai tea, not some powder blend. Delicious. We then ventured down to a local venue to enjoy happy hour and await Jessica's arrival.

On Thursday evenings Palm Spring closes down one of its main streets and opens it up for a Farmer's Market...it is great. Come for fresh fruit and veggies, stay for the 20+ food vendors of dinner, stock up on local made products, feed the horses, adopt a cat or dog, listen to or watch the street performers, and have a really nice time. It definitely "is the place to be" on Thursdays in this area.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Joshua Tree: Day 1

Everyone should visit Joshua Tree National Park. Everyone. It is breathtaking. It is simply breathtaking. Before this trip to California, hiking through Painted Canyon, and experiencing Joshua Tree, I did not know that the desert could be so captivatingly beautiful. These pictures do not even begin to do this park justice, and I think that they are really nice pictures. 
You do not need to be active, to hike and camp like we do, to thoroughly enjoy what this expansive park has to ofter...there is so much to see just driving around. You could drive all the roads in the park and be here all day. So please, put this on your list. Plan for a whole day here, there is that much to see, to be enraptured and captivated by. Honestly, I am trying to put something to words that cannot be, so I will stop here.

These are Joshua Trees

A sky so blue...

Incredible rock formations

Up close Joshua Tree

Up close not pleasant plant

You can drive right up to Keys View and park to enjoy the overlook view into the San Andreas Fault. There is a loop path that connects two vantage point, with the higher one giving you a 270 degree view. The other 90 degree are blocked by a mountain that the Big Horned sheep like to hang out on. Unfortunately for us, they were not there when we were.

Keys View: Looking over the San Andreas Fault

Keys View: Looking over the San Andreas Fault

Keys View: Looking over the San Andreas Fault

Keys View: Looking over the San Andreas Fault

One of our hiking excursions...

Cholla cactus

Pretty but painful

The Cholla Cactus Garden is actually a formal stop, parking lot and all, that you can stop at to view acres of the vicious cacti. There is even a 0.25 mile flat loop that you can meander to walk through them.

Cholla Cactus Garden

You kind of just get lost in it...

We climbed on everything, it was too tempting and fun not to!

There is beauty in everything...

...including the desert. Especially the desert.

Overwhelmed. In awe. Amazement. Pure peace. And happiness, lots of happiness.

There are a ton of pullovers, campsites, educational stops, parking lots, etc all over the park to stop into to get out and scout around. There are trails ALL over the place. You can be as active or inactive as you would like, but it was so much fun to get out and explore. To climb and jump, to enjoy the unimaginable blueness of the sky, and feel like a big kid getting back to enjoying the pure simple fun of Mother Nature. It was just so quiet and peaceful here. It also helped that it was a high temperature of 50 degrees, in the middle of a non-holiday week, so there were not many people around at all. There are so few times in life that you can actually experience pure silence, literally no sound at all, and I had that here. It was awesome. When was the last time you experienced true quiet?

Another interesting cactus

Home for the night, tent is up and ready for the sunset!

It may be the desert but it was only about 40 degrees...brr! Five layers here.

Good Night Joshua Tree

Note the glimpse of the fleece hat and gloves that were added...hello mid-20s

We stayed warm

The entire purpose of our camping out in the freezing temperatures was to experience the stargazing. I am obsessed with stars. Joshua Tree is so far removed from any towns/cities, and has no artificial lighting in the part, that it is suppose to have some of the most incredible stargazing that you can experience. Apparently though, we were there during those really rare times where it is cloudy at night. The only thing that could be seen was the very bright Big Dipper. It was a fantastic experience, but very disappointing.