Celebrating Thanksgiving in Jo Tree

I am back in Jo Tree (the high desert communities of Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree and 29 Palms) for Thanksgiving at my brother’s house.  I collected my auntie J on the way to San Francisco Airport and flew into Palm Springs via Alaska Airlines. (Shout out to Alaska Air for the most complete boarding pass ever:  includes destination weather, points of interest, Sodoku, crossword puzzles and a packing list.)  We had the best kind of flight: uneventful. We checked out our rental car from Enterprise where the young man attending was very pleasant and thorough–and gave us a free upgrade.

My brother lives at the Yucca Valley Airport.
My brother lives at the Yucca Valley Airport.

Jo Tree is about a 30 minute drive from Palm Springs airport up into the mountains. We are at about 3,000 elevation and, like the Spring,s the climate is very dry. Yucca Valley is the first of the three communities that string like beads on the 29 Palms Highway.  Yucca Valley is the practical town of the the three with the most restaurants, grocery stores and such. Joshua Tree boasts the National Park, and then 29 Palms hosts the US Marine Corp base with about 19,000 soldiers training for desert fighting.

Our hotel, the Best Western Joshua Tree (in Yucca Valley) is very pleasant and affordable.  It does have the weirdest plumbing in the bathroom with jet streams that attacked us the first morning. You know the plumbing is overly complicated when they leave a diagram of how to use.  The hotel provides a free hot breakfast, which provides some relief to both guests and hosts over a long holiday weekend. At least my brother and his lovely wife do not have to cook us breakfast.

Our Best Western guest binder in our room says this for points of interest: “Here in the heart of our downtown business district, National Park Drive leads visitors South to the park Headquarters and main Visitor Center of this magnificent National Park, where golden eagles soar above massive heaps of boulders and groves of Joshua Trees reach towards the blue vastness above with arms clothed in clusters of dagger shaped green leaves.” Wow. I guess it is not just sports writers who get carried away with hyperbole.

Desert tortoises are struggling to survive in diminishing habitat. This little guy was adopted through a rescue org.
Desert tortoises are struggling to survive in diminishing habitat. This little guy was adopted through a rescue org.

Joshua Tree National Park is 794,000 acres in two large ecosystems depending on elevation:  the Colorado and the Mojave Desert.  The Mojave section is slightly higher, cooler and wetter (all relative) and is the home of the Joshua Tree, so named by Mormon visitors to whom the groves of immature two-armed plants reminded them of the biblical Joshua reaching up to God.

There is an attraction called Pioneertown nearby. Founded in 1946 to film “B” western movies featuring Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Cisco Kid.  We will have to check it out on our next visit. Apparently there is a fun bar and restaurant, Pappy and Harriet’s.

Tomorrow we are going to spend time in Joshua Tree National Park. It is definitely the main attraction in this part of the high desert. Yet, we are also only 30 minutes from Palm Springs. We are also going to take a break from leftovers and eat at Las Palmas Mexican Restaurant in Yucca Valley. (Yum.)

Pack layers if you do visit the desert in the winter. The temp in the afternoon may be in the 70’s but as soon as the sun goes down, so does the temperature. It is really great to spend a holiday with family in a place that is so different from home with lots of interesting things to do besides shopping. It is a major bonus when your sister-in-law is also a fabulous cook!

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