We spent an entire week exploring the Coachella Valley, with our home parked in Palm Desert.
Is it my favorite place?
Nope, not even a little.
Was there cool stuff to do?
Would I go back?
Palm Desert Living
I need to back up a tiny bit here. See, our plans were to stay the whole week nestled inside Joshua Tree National Park. Unfortunately, I made a mistake and forgot to check the reviews for cell signal availability. Luckily, Doug randomly decided to check this particular thing while we were still over an hour away from the Joshua Tree campground. It turns out, there is zero cell signal and therefore is not an okay place for us to park all week. Doug cannot work without the internet. Oops.
This is relevant because this is why we ended up in Palm Desert. Specifically, we stayed at the Palm Springs Thousand Trails campground. It wasn’t the most exciting campground and we had a cranky neighbor, but we also met some really nice people too.
While eating dinner our first night there, a neighbor from a few RVs down, brought over a new, in the box, t-ball set to give to the boys. He said he saw our boys, knew they would love it, and didn’t have a use for it (he didn’t have kids). Needless to say, it was absolutely appreciated and we thanked him with a batch of homemade apple cinnamon muffins! The rest of the time the kids essentially enjoyed our sandy yard.
We also added a new member to the family: our very own traveling Little Free Library! It only made sense that we set this out each week. We already carry the basket full of books around in the truck so we have a cache of books to donate to Little Free Libraries whenever we find them. Now we can continue to do that and offer books to families at the campground we are staying in!
Exploring Coachella Valley
We didn’t do a whole lot because there were a couple days of rain and the kids were pretty content with the sand right outside our door at the RV park, but we tried to explore a little.
Living Desert Zoo
If you are looking for an easy and neat way to spend several hours outside, this is the place for you! There are so many really wonderful creatures to see and they serve beer. It was absolutely a wonderful day!
Joshua Tree National Park
Okay, this isn’t in Coachella Valley, but it is the only other hike we went on. I am sticking it here anyway.
I was beyond excited to hike Joshua Tree again. I love this national park and enjoyed our time exploring under the Joshua Trees last winter. We drove about 45 minutes to get to the trailhead of Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail and quickly discovered that the South end of the park does not actually have Joshua Trees anywhere. Darn.
The trail itself was supposed to be 1.5 miles total, but there were signs for a mine and both boys really, REALLY, wanted to see it. This morphed our hike into the Mastodon Peak Trail, which is a 2.6 mile hike and with some elevation gain. It also started sprinkling rain on us. The 6-year-old was convinced that the rain was going to cause a flash flood. Apparently he has learned quite a lot from our desert travels. Spoiler, it did not flash flood.
At the end of the hike, both kids wanted their shoes off. The 3-year-old did not complain once about his shoes. Don’t skip the photo of how much tiny gravel was in his shoe!!!!
We decided to drive the 50+ minutes to go and see this area of California. If you haven’t been and you are close by, it is probably worth the time to drive down there. We made two stops while there. The Bombay Beach Ruins and some really wonderful mud volcanoes.
Our first stop was the ruins. I did not expect the weird art and was pleasantly surprised. I also did not expect someone else’s two young children (5 and 1ish) to follow us around the entire time and try to hold our hands. Their dad was just sitting, ignoring them. They even tried to climb into our truck to keep trying to hold our children’s hands. It was weird, but so were the ruins. It is just part of the memory.
But the real gem was the mud volcanoes! They were amazing! You could hear them bubbling, see them bubbling and spurting, and even got to see the hot muddy water tracks. This was a neat place because it gave a real life visualization to what volcanoes do and how mountains are formed. See more on this below in the Roadschooling section. Doug loved them so much, he said the following:
“These are real – not manmade – geothermal vents from inside the Earth, spewing mud onto the surface. They were so powerful and visceral.”
Oh and on our way back to the highway, we saw burrowing owls hunting for food. This was a really amazing treat.
Roadschooling – Nesting Birds
Some weeks I select a general theme and then we dive in and learn a lot about it. We very loosely use Exploring Nature with Children as a nature study curriculum when it suits us. This week was nesting bird week and since we love checking out all the birds on our travels, I decided it would be fun to explore this topic in-depth this week.
What we read
During the week we read:
- An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston
- About Birds by Cathryn Sill — bonus this was a Little Free Library find
- One Hundred One Questions About Desert Life by Alice Jablonsky — bonus this was also a Little Free Library find
- Two silly Shel Silverstein poems related to eggs or birds
- An area specific poem, Joshua Tree Revisited by Dawn Huntley Spitz — I read this same poem to the boys when we visited Joshua Tree National Park last year.
What we did
Art – While I read during the week, the boys both colored a bird coloring page.
We also had an extra piece of cardboard lying around, so I cut it into bird shapes and we created yarn wrapped birds. This was actually a hit with both kids and the 3-year-old was even able to wrap them himself. I really like how this allows us to use up some of the scrap yarn we have lying around and we can pass these on as gifts too. I cannot wait to see what other yarn wrapped crafts we come up with.
Copy Work – The 6-year-old sounded out and then wrote words related to our area and the nesting bird theme.
- nest, bird, robin, wren, egg, desert, sun, cactus, sand, and rock.
Science – We dissected an egg. That’s right, we examied and learned all about a chicken egg.
- We examined the outside.
- We cracked it open gently and peeled a tiny piece of the shell away (revealing the soft inner-shell).
- We tipped the egg upside down to see if the inner-shell would protect the egg (it totally keeps everything inside)
- We peeled more of the outer shell off and then broke the inner-shell and let the egg white and yoke fall into a bowl.
- We examine the egg yoke and how the yellow yoke didn’t run all over the place. We also talked about the white spot on the egg yoke and how that is where the baby chicken would grow if the egg had been fertilized.
- We broke the yoke – talking about how it was protected a lot like the inner-shell – and examined it a bit more.
- We cooked and ate the egg.
Social Studies – We talked about the Bald Eagle and how it is a symbol of the United States. We talked about how the US flag is also a symbol of the US and compared the US flag to the California flag and looked up the state bird of California to see if it was the same or similar to the Bald Eagle. We also looked at a Bald Eagle nest.
Immersive Learning Experiences – These are the experiences we stumble on while in an area. If we have a weekly theme, they rarely align, but this week they totally did!
- We saw a Bald Eagle while exploring the Living Desert Zoo.
- A roadrunner lived near our campground and we saw the little guy several times. This prompted us to look up what a roadrunner nest looks like and where they build them.
- We saw burrowing owls near the Salton Sea and discussed how they build their homes and lay eggs in underground tunnels.
- We always play spot the US flag and the state flag of the state we are in.
- We visited mud volcanoes and were fascinated by them. This promoted us study rocks the next week. You can see how we explored rocks and geology in the Geology Unit Study I posted about the other day.
And that is a wrap for our visit to Palm Desert. Stay tuned for our adventures in the Lake Isabella region of California.
CURRENT ADVENTURE STATS:
On the road: 19 months
Miles towing our home: 17,493
Campgrounds visited: 97
Breweries visited: 39
National Parks visited: 22/62
National Monuments/Seashores/Historic Sites/etc.: 9
State Parks visited: 28