Coyotes to Joshua trees are like squirrels to nuts...

Groped We are heading down to Palm Springs to attend another NPF guided hike at Joshua Tree National Park with Matthew, Paul & Barry who are joining us down there. It appears that our TSA luck has run out. We both get selected for the cancer machine on both legs of our trip! Thank goodness for our ever-present early arrival to the airport.

85? Really? Soon after we are done being manhandled by TSA we get an SMS from Matthew: "We are drinking alone. Where are you guys?" Well, we are still 400 miles away, but Paul & Barry are around the corner, since they went down the day before. By the time we catch up with the boys and Karen at Azul, they are quite a few drinks ahead of us, and they have befriended a jolly 85 year old named Dominic. He definitely does not look 85, and appears to be loving the attention of these three hot guys! We meet Karen, Matthew's super boss. She is a fabulous lady! All of us love her and wish we could have spent more time with her. (She bails on the last evening's dinner… probably to take a break from Matthew! :)

Ugly Palm Springs is an interesting town. It is part retro, part dated, and part party town. We happen to be in town during Dinah Shore golf weekend and there are lots of lesbians prancing around. What a stark difference between the fabulous, fit, and swanky guys, vs frumpy and out-of-shape lesbians. And why would anyone purposely get an ugly haircut, Karen and Assana wonder!

Dorky & Chubby The hike turns out to be a very different experience than what we expected. Matthew has planned for a photographer to join us and provide tips and tricks to nature photography. Sounds great, no? Except that the dude is full of himself, and as most full-of-themselves people, he is not that good. Forget about tips and tricks! First he wastes time by showing us a 10-minute slideshow of his mediocre work before we can even head to the trail. On the trail he hauls this big ass tripod on his shoulder, like a dork. Then a few minutes into the hike he pulls out a harmonica and subjects the captive audience to his self-promotion!! WTF, dude?!

And then there is George, everything a ranger should NOT be: out of shape, ignorant and disrespectful! At one point he is giving such bullshit answers to questions that we decide to chime in with our own version: we told a woman the reason that portion of the park doesn't have any Joshua trees is that coyotes dig them up and stash them away in other parts of the park! You know, like squirrels do to nuts! Between the two of them they manage to kidnap and ruin the hike. Poor Matthew! Thankfully we have our own car. When, for the second time and barely into the trail, George turns the crowd back to the parking lot, we split from the group and finish the loop. Poor Matthew and Karen are stuck with fat ol' George and his photographer sidekick. Thank goodness for drinks and dinner that awaits us back in town.

Great Picks Talking of dinner, Matthew is in charge of where we eat! He picks and reserves all our dinners a few weeks before the trip. He even picks our last morning's breakfast place, Rick's, even though he, himself, heads to the airport. Thanx Matthew! The first night we eat at a hip new restaurant called Lulu. The food is just ok, but the atmosphere is very lively. The second night's dinner is at a much more authentic and retro restaurant called The Tropicale. We love our table on the patio, and Barry picks a great bottle of Pinot to go with our great food.

Butterscotch At 8500 feet, Mount San Jacinto State Park is a few minutes away via the tram. Even though they already did this exact hike a couple of days earlier, Paul & Barry are kind enough to join us for a day hike. We bundle up in our warmest clothes, which isn't much, and head up the mountain. Temperature in the visitor center: 53°F. Temperature on the top of the mountain: 27°F. Burr.

Lack of warm clothes doesn't stop us from having an ambitious hike in mind. Thank goodness for the friendly visitor center gal who takes one look at us and talks us out of the long hike! It is cold, but the views are spectacular. We learn that Paul and Dan are part mountain goat, Barry & Assana are wimps, there are pine trees that smell like butterscotch, tangerine, caramel (or laxative if you are unlucky), and though Paul is not much, he's all Barry has! (It turns out that the same goes for Dan & Assana!).

We have a fabulous time with the boys, and definitely look forward to traveling with them again. We know for sure of one trip: Paul & Assana are going to join Matthew on a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. Will Barry & Dan stop whining about camping and join them? Hopefully!!

References & Links