The Ultimate Road Trip: THE SILVER SNAIL : A solo woman's full-time RV adventure
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Palm Springs, California

The first thing that comes to mind here is - 80 degrees!!! Yup. And yes, it is true that Palm Springs borders the inhospitable Mojave dessert, but somehow with sunny 80 degree days, hot mineral spring baths, and a swimming pool, I've made peace with the desert. I landed at Sam's Family Spa, which is actually in Desert Hot Springs, a few miles north of Palm Springs. It's different here, because it doesn't have all the palm trees, green grass (golf resorts) and overall green-ness of Palm Springs. Desert Hot Springs stays true to its natural aridness - but it also hasn't experienced the same kind of development as Palm Springs. And honestly, if it wasn't for the hot mineral springs baths and swimming pool here at Sam's (all very beautifully landscaped to feel like you are in a jungle), I probably wouldn't feel like staying very long. I'm really not a desert girl...but I do like the idea of being someplace dry and warm in the winter. And something I realized when driving around - the desert just might be more beautiful at night, if for the simple reason that you can't see the litter that permeates the open spaces and sides of the road. What's the deal with that?

Upon arriving at Sam's, as I was hunting for the perfect site in the park, I spied my Alaskan neighbors from Pismo Beach - Tina and Ralf - dressed in shorts and sandals and enjoying the sunshine. How good it was to see them again! They are both artists and have a gallery in Skagway, Alaska ( Ralf carves elegant fossil ivories and Tina paints beautiful watercolors. To keep sane, they head south for a few months during the brutal Alaskan winter, which at the time was experiencing single digits and blizzard conditions. We all agreed that, even though the desert's not our thing, this was a good place to hang for a while, chill out, and try to get some work done. Here's a picture of them when we were experiencing a bit of a cold snap that came after a tremendous wind storm:


Besides the close proximity to Palm Springs, my base at Sam's was also convenient for a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park...and what an unusual, other-worldly place that is. Driving through the park on the main road gives you a sense of being worlds away from anything you think you know. Here would be a good place to camp out and spend a few nights gazing at the starry night sky and taking moonlit hikes through the desert. There are gigantic rock formations and boulders strewn about that look like melted ice cream. In fact, these attract a regular crowd of rock-climbing enthusiasts. I didn't know there was more than just Joshua Trees here. By the way - if you didn't know - the trees got their name from a group of Mormons when they came through looking for a place to settle and thought the trees looked like hands reaching toward God, like the story of Joshua in the Bible. There are a few no-hookup campgrounds within the park, and though many of the sites seem designed for tents, you could still get a 20-foot silver snail in there - something I would like to come back and do one day.



Now here's a funny thing - and a big surprise - about being in Palm Springs. It lies in the shadow of Mount San Jacinto, and an easy drive up from the I-10 Banning exit brings you into a stunning high-country wilderness environment - with snow and pine trees and aerial views of the desert valley below. Not only that, but there is a mountain town, full of mountain character and worthy of a spot on anybody's destination list, and it's called...Idyllwild. Idyllwild - what a name, don't you think? Idyll. Wild. I love it. I want to live there just so I can say I live in Idyllwild. I went up with Riley to do a little dayhike and just passed through the town....well, okay - I stopped for coffee. It was getting dark though, so I made a mental note to come up here the next time it snowed to stroll around and maybe do some Christmas shopping.

...but my heart was elsewhere...

Yes, it was nice to be in a place that was warm and had Idyllwild for a neighbor, but I was feeling a tug to spend the holidays in Brookings. So I said goodbye to Tina and Ralf, took one last soak and swim at Sam's, and packed it up for the trip north.


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All images and words © Sharon Pieniak
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