Odd and Interesting California Desert Finds: Part I

I may be sounding a little overly presumptuous in naming this "Part I", but I have a long list of other odd and interesting things in the desert that I will be exploring in the near future and I will be wanting to share those things with you guys as well.

I have lived in California for almost seven years now (wow....that's crazy...), and I have been living in a desert area during the entirety of those seven years. As a teenager, I dreamed of going to California, but never did I dream of going to a desert. As an east-coaster, I always thought of California as a place with sunny beaches and big cities... but I didn't think of cacti and tumbleweeds. However, I have come to find solace and tranquility in a desert setting. I see it as a place of freedom and inspiration; a place where you can showcase any thought or idea or passion you may have, and, even if it is not popular among everyone else, it is still appreciated and respected by those around you. This post is a compilation of solo desert adventures I have had within the past year that show just a little bit of the odd and interesting things you can find in the desert.

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

Desert Hot Springs, CA

Built in 1941 to serve as a museum in addition to an actual home, Cabot’s Pueblo Museum was modeled after pueblos used by the Hopi Indian tribe. Its creator, Carbot Yerxa, built the pueblos using recycled materials from the Coachella Valley. It is rumored that he even straightened out used nails he found, only to use them again in his own creation. Cabot is not only famous for building the pueblos, but he is also known for helping to establish the town of Desert Hot Springs.

The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday (closed Monday) from 9am until 4pm during the fall, winter and spring (October-May), and is open Wednesday through Saturday (closed Sunday-Tuesday) from 9am until 1pm during the summer (June through September).

General admission and parking is free. If you are wanting to see more of the interior of the pueblo and learn about the creators of the pueblo museum, you can take a guided tour for $13 per person ($11.00 per person for Seniors, Active Military, and children ages 6-12). Check the website before you go for tour times and any unexpected closings.

Moorten Botanical Gardens

Palm Springs, CA

Chester and Patricia Moorten, a married couple who took up residence in Palm Springs in the 1930’s, created the gardens in 1938. Patricia was a botanist, and shared her love for plants with their only son, Clark, who currently manages the gardens so many years later. The gardens house over 3,000 samples of desert cacti and plants.

During the fall, winter and spring, the gardens are open from 10am until 4pm daily, except Wednesdays. From the first day of summer until the first day of fall, the gardens are open from 9am until 1pm daily, except Wednesdays.

The cost for entry is $5 per person. Children from five to fifteen are $2 per person, and children under five are free.

Salvation Mountain

Niland, CA

In the 1980s, Leonard Knight moved to Slab City and began a project now known as Salvation Mountain. The brightly colored and religiously clad mountain is made of adobe, straw, and over 500,000 gallons of paint.

General admission and parking is free. The website boasts that this attraction is open "from dawn till dusk, 365 days a year". 

Palm Springs Windmills

Palm Springs, CA - Desert Hot Springs, CA

Ahhh…the iconic windmills. You have probably seen these guys in the background of many Coachella Instagram pictures. Technically considered to be “wind turbines” instead of “windmills”, these mechanisms not only have a sleek Palm Springs modernism look to them, but also help us save money on our electricity here. 

You can take a closer look at many of the windmills for free by driving around the Desert Hot Springs area on Varner Road, or stop by the Palm Springs Amtrak Station off the I-10 freeway on exit 120 (take N Indian Canyon Dr. To Palm Springs Station Road). If you want a more in-depth look, there is a company that offers up-close windmill tours for less than $50 per person.

Guardian Lions of Route 66

Amboy, CA

Driving along Route 66, you will find many interesting quirks and oddities. One interesting find I came across on my way to Vegas was a set of two marble lions placed in the desert about 500 feet away from the road. It seems the lions are a stopping point for many visitors, as there were several beads, shot glasses, and other gifts or offerings as well as a notebook with several signatures and stories from these visitors, many of whom traveled from other countries to pass by this site.

There is no official website for the lions, but Atlas Obscura has an article on the lions and directions to their location.

These are just a few oddities found in the California desert that I have personally seen and experienced. If you know of any other quirky and interesting finds, let me know so I can check those out as well. From one adventurer to another: happy hunting!