I'm a lover of lists and the only one I've been laser-focused on lately has been my bucket list.
So when the opportunity arose to not only spend a weekend in Joshua Tree... but to spend THE weekend of the Perseid meteor shower in Joshua Tree, well, I couldn't refuse. We usually head up to our local mountains and camp out by our car staring at the midnight sky, but I'd always imagined doing something bigger than that. This was something that'd been on my bucket list for quite some time now, so this was our chance!
The icing on the cake? I'd also had my eye on The Joshua Tree House for a while, and it just so happened that the house was available for the night of the meteor shower. The stars had literally aligned so there was no way we could turn this once in a lifetime opportunity down.
This is how it went down.
I hadn't been out to the high desert since 1997. Seeing the windmills peak just over the hills was something only slightly familiar, yet also unusual and entrancing all at the same time. This was Jason's first time to this part of the desert and seeing the windmills, but for me it took me back to a time when blunt-cut bangs and gaps between my teeth were a more familiar sight. I'd like to think I've come a long way since then, but that family outing to Palm Springs back in the 90's was incredibly memorable nonetheless. I talked Jason's ear off on our way home about my last trip out here. Ask me about it one day 😂
There really is nothing like a drive out to the desert on a hot summer day. A/C on blast. Coffee in the cupholder. Camera in hand. The freedom to travel at whatever pace you dictate. It's these kind of vacations and getaways that I truly embrace — the ones where I can just soak in the ambience and just enjoy what it means to just be in the present without worrying about having to be somewhere or doing something. So often we find ourselves having to live within the boundaries dictated by someone or something else; it's nice to just get away from it all and be in an environment where none of that matters, if even for a day.
The Joshua Tree House
There's a reason why this beautiful home is nearly booked solid for most of the year - just look at it! We were lucky enough to score a stay at one of the most coveted homes in Joshua Tree, aptly named The Joshua Tree House.
There really are no words to describe all the little vintage boho details you'll find in The Joshua Tree House without actually visiting the home for yourself, so I highly suggest you book a stay if you're at all interested! They also have 2 other properties in Joshua Tree that you can book, and if I ever return, I'd cross my fingers for the Casita to be available because that outdoor area looks like a total dream. It was a breeze to book through Airbnb, and if you're a newbie to Airbnb, you can use my link here to get $40 travel credit to use towards your first booking (no matter where it happens to be!).
The property was also located close enough to the national park itself to get in within minutes, but far enough to avoid all of the town traffic so we thought it was great. Enough chatter, though. Onto the details!
After our drive, we arrived about 30 minutes prior to check-in so we just wandered around the property and took a few snapshots before entering the home. Once inside, our sweaty brows were SO thankful for the A/C that was pumping on full blast. It felt like opening a gas station refrigerator door; it was absolute heaven inside the home. And that's how you know this girl could never survive camping outdoors in this summer heat.
We turned record player on, put some Frank Sinatra on repeat, and chilled like villains with the A/C blowing until a few hours before sunset when we decided to head into the national park to grab our Joshua Tree park pictures (and hopefully not die from heat exhaustion).
Sunset at Joshua Tree National Park
The national park is but a short drive away from the Joshua Tree House. We decided not to do any of the hikes at the last second, and decided to pull off for an impromptu walk around an area more frequently accessed by climbers. This ended up being a good decision, since the area was actually devoid of anyone until the minutes immediately preceding sunset when cars began pulling up into the parking lot behind us. We were basically exploring the area all by ourselves for a couple hours in peace, AND we had plenty of shade from the rocks surrounding us whenever we got too hot.
The breeze that began blowing as the sun went down through the valley also came right between the rock formations which felt refreshing (albeit pretty dry), but relieving anyhow. We spent a good amount of time gallivanting and eyeballing all of the folliage and geographical formations in the surrounding area for quite some time before the sky turned into a fanta-like grapefruit and deep mandarin-orange color before finally setting.
We rushed out of there before the spiders crawled out of the gazillion holes that surrounded us like mines in the sand. We tip-toed quickly back onto the trail and back to the car before the hordes of tourists followed quickly behind us and we reaped the benefits of our haste mid-dinner as we watched the entrance of the Joshua Tree Saloon pile up with guests searching for any empty seats to fill. We were lucky enough to arrive when empty tables were easy to find, but now that everyone had soaked up their fair share of the sunset and slowly made their way back into town for dinner, we'd found ourselves ahead of the rush yet again.
I had a delicious classic BLT and Jason had a blue cheese burger - super tasty after a long, hot day out in the sun, and just what we needed before a night of star stargazing. The only thing that tasted better than my food was my iced cold water. o m g. I left my ID back at the house so I couldn't enjoy a hefe with Jason, but I wasn't too mad about that. You know when you get a tall glass of iced cold water—the kind that doesn't stink, with the crystal clear ice, that goes down smooth as ever? This was that kind of iced water. So perfect.
By the time we left, the dry desert winds had definitely picked up and when we arrived back at the house, the dust blowing on the jacuzzi end of the house was too much for us to comfortably bear, so we decided it'd be better to set up our camera by the front porch where the winds were being blocked.
The Perseid Meteor Shower
2 things I didn't account for: winds and bugs
My bad. Unfortunately due to the crazy number of bugs flying around us (and at the windows of the house!), we weren't able to sit outside and enjoy the still of the night, gazing up at the sky... at least for very long. Being outside just long enough to catch a glimpse of a few shooting stars, we both accumulated 2 bug bites each which we're both still recovering from. And boy, they're gnarly! I even brought bug spray. And because we were getting long exposure shots, it wasn't as if we could light a citronella candle next to us to keep the bugs away without affecting the amount of light pollution we were getting from the nearby buildings already. And the bugs flying at the windows of the house were hitting them so hard they kept making tapping noises—totally freaky!
The winds, in addition, weren't helping much with having to stare up at the sky for long periods of time so resorting to remote-controlling my camera from indoors and running outdoors wasn't much fun and we gave up on that after a short bit of time. We caught a few stars, a few shots, and ended up staying in with a few beers and snacks that we brought with us.
All in all, not as a successful meteor shower-watching trip as I'd imagined... but the experience was still one for the books!
Sunrise at The Joshua Tree House
With our alarms set for 15 minutes before the sun was due to rise, we woke up and peaked outside our windows. From the bathroom, I heard Jason telling me that there were coyotes outside staring back at him! Oh great, I thought, first bugs... now I can't even go outside to watch the sunrise?!
But we both stood at the windows facing the front patio and watched as 2 young coyotes stared up at one of the Joshua Trees for a few moments before they eventually ran off. We think they were trying to get to some of the birds up there, and later on in the morning I also saw 2 road runners and 2 quails tiptoe by so we were overall pretty amazed at how much wildlife we encountered in just a single day here!
After putting some things together, I made as much noise as I could while slowly opening the front door and making my way out onto the front porch after Jason had said he saw the coyotes run off to towards the side. We didn't see any sign of them after that, so we just enjoyed the sunrise from the property front as it rose up along the hillside.
After the sun had fully risen, we packed our belongings, relaxed in the morning light, swinging in rhythm with the hammock chair, and eventually decided to depart early and head to Palm Springs for breakfast just as the cool morning air decided to break. The afternoon sun would begin to burn its way through the desert any minute now, so we loaded the car, made one last look around the humble house we got to call home for a night, and made our way onto the road once more.
The road, our good ol' friend. For some reason, I just feel at home on the road. In the car. The comfort of this small space—just us. It's like our own personal bubble, taking us to some place new, safe, comfortable, or better. Onto the next adventure.
Like I'd mentioned previously, this was going to be Jason's first time in Palm Springs, and only my second but my first time going as an adult. We were only going to stop by for 2 things, since we decided to take the long and scenic way home: breakfast and cacti!
First stop: Elmer's Restaurant. A highly-touted breakfast spot, that (I actually just found out) originated from the Pacific Northwest ... I swear I had no idea. We just chose a place that had a ton of reviews on Yelp, and this place had amazing ones. Well, there's another sign telling us to head up north haha! Anyway, they're known for their German pancake, which our server also recommended, so I ordered that as a combo which came with eggs and thick cut bacon cooked just the way we cook it up at home (nice and extra crispy) while Jason went with a scramble... which he said might be the best scramble he's ever had—better than the Flappy Jack's in Orange which was his more recent "best".
I'd never had a Dutch/German pancake before so that was my first. It was interesting, and I must say I prefer American-style pancakes in general, but it was definitely refreshing for a hot day outdoors in the desert and the light texture was greatly appreciated! The best way I could think of describing it was an eggier version of a crepe. So a thicker-battered crepe, but not a fluffier one.. just doughier? But the use of lemon and powdered sugar as opposed to a thick sweet syrup or sauce was a welcomed new introduction to my palate... especially since I'm usually the kind to shy away from squeezing lemon/lime onto my food (yes, even fish tacos and pho!).
Oh, and I also indulged in a mimosa, because, *vacation* for a day (technically) and I wasn't driving :)
And because we left Joshua Tree so early, we also made it to breakfast ahead of a large majority of the crowd so we didn't have to wait to be seated! Off we went to cross the last and final thing off my bucket list for the weekend!
The Moorten Botanical Garden
Calling all lovers of succulents and cacti - I'm sure you've heard of this place, or at least have seen at least one photoshoot held on the premises here at the Moorten Botanical Garden. It's home to the only "World's First Cactarium", which I can now say, is exhaustingly hot and muggy on a mid-August morning, even at 10 AM. I really loved this botanical garden, though, and if you've been to the cactus garden at Balboa Park in San Diego, it's almost like that but 10x better, 10x more populated with cacti and succulents, the cacti are well-maintained, they aren't dead or damaged, they look amazing, and the whole garden makes for a beautiful photo-op. If ever in Palm Springs, I'd totally come back!
It's really no wonder why people travel to this place for their photoshoots - I love this space. I'm so glad we took the long way home and stopped by Palm Springs for an amazing breakfast and a pit-stop at this garden, it really was the cherry on top to our little weekend getaway!
After wandering around the garden, you can also purchase some succulents and cacti they have for sale. I didn't bring any home, however, since they didn't have anything I wanted (and I wanted something very particular).
We spent at least an hour outdoors in the hot desert air, and we were lucky enough to have much of the garden to ourselves! The best thing about heading out early is beating the crowd and also being able to catch the sunrise while you're at it. The thing about the desert/mountains is, I think it's the only time I'm willing to be up before the sun is.
We've caught so many sunsets but it's so rare for us to catch sunrises together, but this trip was all about taking the same time we normally have but just slowing down and doing things we typically don't do. Getting out of our comfort zone (a little), and just doing something we've been meaning to do. All I really wanted from this trip was to spend our time more intentionally, and I'm glad we had a good time.
A little #yolo never hurt, as long as you're wise enough not to be reckless.
- The Joshua Tree House (link here)
➠ Use my link to get $40 towards your next booking on Airbnb!
- Michelle's romper (similar here)
- Michelle's hats (here + here)
- Michelle's boots (similar here)
- Michelle's shorts (similar here)
- Michelle's hair (link here)
**This post is in no way sponsored, affiliated, or endorsed by any of the companies or businesses mentioned above!