By Jackie Burrell
Sunday, February 17th, 2008 at 6:00 am in Family Travel.
The desert is not exactly a desirable vacation spot in the summertime, but in the winter and early spring, the air is crisp, the temperature comfortable and places like Joshua Tree National Park come to vivid life. One of our favorite Times writers, Laura Casey, who writes about everything from slot car races to a blog on edgy art exhibits, visited over winter break. Read all the details about Laura’s rock climbing foray in the Times’ travel section, but here’s a quick hit for families contemplating a similar adventure with their teens.
THE TREK IN A SEC: Known for its Dr. Seuss-esque plants with spiny tops, this California national park draws bird watchers, wildflower lovers, happy hikers and folks like Laura, who spent a week scaling the massive rocks.
BEST LODGING: Die-hard rock climbers head for Hidden Valley, or one of the first-come, first-served campgrounds in Joshua Tree ($10-$15). Call 877-444-6777 to reserve a site in Hidden Valley or nearby Black Rock. If you’re looking for a fun and edgy hotel, try the Joshua Tree Inn ($85 a night) or the plusher and decidedly eccentric Oasis of Eden, where you can sleep in the Jungle & Cave room or snooze in a safari setting ($130).
GREAT EATS: The Crossroads Cafe and Tavern (61715 29 Palms Highway, Joshua Tree) offers games and books to keep you occupied while you wait for your salad or burger.
COOL SIGHTSEEING: Rock climbing is a prime draw for adults as well as families with teens. Haven’t climbed in a while? Or ever? Take a guided rock-climbing class. Or check in at one of the park’s four visitor centers and see if there’s a bird-watching tour or class on wildflowers or the night sky.
Also fun: The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway are about an hour away in Palm Springs. The rotating tram cars are an engineering marvel and the views of Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness are spectacular.
TRAVEL TIP: Use common sense and watch out for deyhdration in the desert. Carry at least a gallon of water per person per day.