See Windmills (Really) Close Up
Not long after the dinosaurs “welcome” you to the Coachella Valley along Interstate 10, another landmark signals your arrival in Greater Palm Springs. You are soon greeted by the more than 2,000 towering “ambassadors” that make up the wind-powered energy farms of the region. Even if you’ve never been to the area, you’ve probably seen these whirling giants in movies, most recently in the newest “A Star is Born.” Much better than marveling at the fascinating windmills as you pass at 70 mph is taking a Palm Springs Windmill Tour, the only tour with exclusive behind-the-gates access to the mysterious turbines. In fact, the two-hour tour includes extensive knowledge about the wind energy industry that dates back more than 130 years.
Tour-goers are oriented with interesting movies that show the daring technicians who maintain the windmills, scaling to heights of more than 350 feet and dangling on the edge of propellers. The in-room information continues outside with walks among the giants for up- close views, followed by an expertly guided bus trip that also includes visits to solar and natural gas facilities, high-up vistas of the wind farms and a stop at the famous Windmill Market for date shakes and samplings.
Mine History in Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree National Park is filled with natural wonders and beauty, but its historical treasures are equally fascinating–especially when you can take an exclusive tour of one of the park’s most storied landmarks. In the late 1800s explorers, cattlemen and miners began venturing into the desert. The Desert Queen Mine, rich in gold and ore, was discovered near a working cow camp, but the mine’s riches diminished, and its owner died. Ownership of the mine passed on to mine worker Bill Keys in exchange for back wages. Keys, who had collaborated on several “deals” with dubious miner “Death Valley Scotty,” also filed a homestead on 160 acres of land that included the old Queen Mill, an ore processing site. Keys and his new wife, Frances, built a home, the Desert Queen Ranch, on the isolated homestead on the southern edge of the Mojave (just north of the Hidden Valley campground) and raised a large family. By the 1930s when the Depression hit the nation, a few more families homesteaded near the Desert Queen Ranch, ending the Keys family’s isolated life, and the family constructed several guest houses for their new company. Bill Keys, who served a short jail sentence for shooting a neighbor in a gunfight, died in 1969, preceded in death by his wife six years earlier, and is buried in the family cemetery on the ranch.
Visitors to Joshua Tree can wander the ranch today only on a scheduled tour which is filled with fascinating history as well as ranch remnants. Work is ongoing to preserve the Desert Queen Ranch as long as possible as a tribute to humankind’s adaptation to the desert. As a plus, the views from this perch atop the Little San Bernardino Mountains, encompassing the entire Coachella Valley from the San Gorgonio Pass to the Salton Sea, are unsurpassed.
Off-Road into an Earthquake Zone
The “real” desert can seem like one of life’s harshest places to tour, but on closer inspection this landscape is anything but dry and colorless. A tour on Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours & Events will reveal the lush, biologically diverse and “lively” world that lies a jeep ride away. The cherry-red jeeps of the tour company are your desert “limos” into Indian canyons with palm groves, waterfalls and sparkling pools, and high mountain hiking and touring; seasonal tours might include wildflower extravaganzas and the desert by night.
For an unforgettable tour experience, venture into an “earthquake zone” on its signature tour of the San Andreas Fault Zone. Extraordinary scenery abounds as your Big Red Jeep winds its way through the labyrinth of geological cuts and canyons of the San Andreas Fault Zone while your naturalist guide entertains you with stories about the plants, animals, geology and history of the California desert. You’ll even walk between steep walls of deep canyons that have been created by the powerful forces of the plate tectonic, water, wind and time.