Saturday, January 15, 2011

Living Desert Zoo and Botanical Gardens~ Palm Desert, CA

The Living Desert in Palm Desert, CA was established in 1970 by some of the trustees of the Palm Springs Desert Museum. They had the foresight to understand the impact that resort development would have on the desert ecosystem and set out to preserve, conserve and interpret the desert with all its’ varied plants and animal life.  The Living Desert represents North America as well as Africa with their zoo and botanical gardens from deserts all over the world. There are over 1200 protected acres and 450 wild animals.

The entrance of the Living Desert in Palm Desert, CA

In 1989 the Living Desert was accepted as a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and has added many attractions since that time. One of those new additions is the Tennity Wildlife Hospital and Conservation Center opened in Jan, 2002.  The hospital offers the highest quality of care and the public is invited to view medical procedures and examinations that are carried out behind glass walls. They also offer programs for the rehabilitating of local native wildlife and they accept the orphaned and injured.

One of many botonical gardens in Living Desert

There are many different botanical gardens with a wide variety of plants from the many different deserts. 1080 of the 1200 Acres are undisturbed Sonoran Desert that offers a series of nature trails.  There is a choice between three different trails depending on the hikers experience.

Miniature train travels through the adobe village
The model train in the Living Desert was first displayed at the Wildlights holiday program in 1998.  It began as an evening display on a part time basis but due to the popularity of the display, it now runs all year during park hours. 

The miniature train travels thru the Old West town
The display is built in “G” scale (1/2”=12”), the most popular “large scale” train and has a redwood trestle that is 201’8” in length with a 2’ elevation change. The volunteer-run train expands and improves yearly and now passes ghost towns of the Old West, through Main St., USA, and travels through the Napa Valley Vineyards as well as adobe villages, too.  The workmanship is amazing and for anyone who enjoys miniature train displays, this one will captivate and keep your attention.

The Cheetah in the Living Desert Zoo
Some cheetah populations have become extinct, and the remaining are endangered of becoming that.  With their canine teeth, they hunt in the morning or early afternoon to avoid the competition of the lions and hyenas, who, along with leopards and wild hogs also prey upon the cheetah and their cubs.  Cheetah usually have 3-5 cubs who are weaned at 6 months but remain with their mother till they’re 13-20 months while learning survival skills.

The Mexican Wolf in the Living Desert Zoo

The Mexican wolf or ‘lobo’ is the smallest of all North American wolves. Due to the overhunting by man of the wolves natural prey, they began preying on domestic cattle and sheep. There was an extermination campaign in the sixties that eliminated them all.  In 1976, the Mexican wolf became an endangered and protected species by the US and Mexican governments and a captive breeding program was created so that now there are over 170 animals.

The African Spurred Tortoise soaks up the sun
The African Spurred Tortoise is a vulnerable species from the Sahara Desert and northern Africa and are the largest mainland tortoise.  They are inactive during very hot or cold weather but run around quite well, especially just before it rains.  They will drink water when it is available but they can also get enough moisture from their diet of grass and shrubs, especially succulents.  Females will lay and bury up to 33 eggs that will take 80-136 days to incubate, depending on the temperature. 

The Meercat watches closely from his pen
The Meercat from the African Kalahari Desert survive by their strength in numbers.  They rotate guard duty while the group forages for food.  The males and females share babysitting duties as there is no social dominance, they are all equal to one another.  They share their food and shelter, play together and snuggle and cuddle one another.  They are 30 cm (12”) when full grown and live underground but are daytime creatures.
The Striped Hyena at nap time in Living Desert Zoo
The striped Hyena is a true desert dweller who lives in waterless areas.  They mainly live in arid areas of scrub woodland and brush so rely on their food for moisture.

The dromedary camel see something of interest
The dromedary camel has one single hump, which consists of fat that stores food for times of need. Their thickened lips are to allow eating of thorny plants, their splayed feet are callused for walking on hot sand, and long eyelashes, bushy eyebrows, sealing nostrils and fur-lined ears all protect them against sandstorms. Now we know why a camel is so darn cute!
The camel are capable of drinking up to 114 litres (30 gal.) of water in a short time, but can survive 10 months without water and will have water loss exceeding 40% of their bodyweight. The fat reserve stored in the hump serves as energy when they need to go long periods without food. They are amazing animals.

The Grevy's Zebra stand in the shade.
The Living Desert is part of a Species Survival Plan for them after the population of the Grevy’s zebra in the northern parts of Africa drastically declined due to the competition for water with the other animals there.  Grevy’s, the tallest of all zebras are 5’ high at the shoulder.  Their stripes surprisingly offer good camouflage that makes them almost invisible at dawn and dusk.  The stripes also make it difficult for their prey to single one of them out when running as a group.  Each zebra’s stripes are unique as our fingerprints are.  Foals are born brown and white, with a mane reaching from tip to tail, all down their back.  By the time they are 4 months old, the extra mane falls off and the brown turns black.  They are independent of their mother by the time they are 7 months old.

The Giraffe family in Living Desert
The giraffe is the tallest of all 4 legged animals with the males standing up to almost 6 meters (19’) and weighing in at 1.5 ton.  Like all mammals, they only have 7 vertebrae in their neck.  The baby is just under 2 meters (6’) tall at birth and doubles their height by one year.  In spite of their size and height, they walk with grace; here the parents and young one were not coming too close to our viewpoint.

The Living Desert sits at the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains just off Highway #74 in Palm Desert, CA.  It is a non-profit organization that is one of the top tourist attractions in the Coachella Valley.  They are open daily from 9am to 5pm but have shorter hours during the summer months.  Arrive early to allow yourself the time it will take to enjoy this beautiful zoo and the botanical gardens and be prepared to spend most of the day. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Elvis ~ Birthday ~ Honeymoon House ~ Palm Springs, CA

Today is Elvis’ 76th birthday.  The fact is that he was born 76 years ago today but he isn’t here to celebrate that so we won’t think of him as 76 years old. We remember him as the beautiful Elvis in his prime years before his untimely death. 
Front entrance to Elvis' Honeymoon House
The classic modern architecture house was built by the Alexander Construction Company, and is one of 2200 homes built by that company in the Palm Springs area.  The Alexanders lived in it in the early ‘60’s before Colonel Tom Parker, a neighbor, arranged to rent it for $21,000 a year for Elvis to use as a retreat from the L.A. media during his movie making days.

Elvis memorabilia greets you at the door
The rooms have been returned to the mid ‘60’s decor and shows the era and the style of those years with a lot of Elvis memorabilia showcased.  Elvis’ Honeymoon House is one of the top tourist attractions in Palm Springs.

The famous 64 ft. semi-circular couch
The Elvis Honeymoon House, as this one in Palm Springs is known, was where Elvis and Priscilla spent their honeymoon and it is open for tours, held annually for the weekend of the May 1, 1967 anniversary. The house is also available for private party bookings and offers tours. We were there for a tour for Elvis’ birthday celebration a few years ago.

                                The master bedroom in Elvis' Honeymoon House

The circular windows are a signature of the architecture of this house.  The semi-circular theme was carried out throughout the home and the master bedroom windows are seen from the front street.

Pool in backyard of Elvis' Honeymoon House
Elvis and Priscilla planned on getting married by the pool but the news leaked out so they had to sneak out to a waiting limo in the back alley in the dark of night to fly in Frank Sinatra’s jet and elope to Las Vegas. They returned to this house the next day.
We remember Elvis on his 76th birthday, there has never been another like him.

Monday, January 3, 2011

La Quinta ~ Coachella Valley ~ California

We love rv’ing and it gives us many opportunities to see so many wonderful places and adventures that we might not otherwise have.  Sometimes it is just great to park in one place for awhile and enjoy those places that you might not even know about by just passing by.  The Coachella Valley is one of those wonderful places full of treasures.

The sign to welcome us to La Quinta, California
La Quinta is a name I love and had wanted to see more of the ‘Gem of the Desert’.  A Cahuilla Indian historian said they believe that La Quinta was the original Garden of Eden.  “We believe La Quinta was the cradle of civilization where human life began on earth”.  The La Quinta Hotel was built in 1926, so it’s possible this is when it became known by that name.  The resort was a secluded hideaway for the Hollywood celebrities and socialites and had the first golf course in the Coachella Valley, now there are more than twenty golf courses.

Downtown Old La Quinta in sunny California
La Quinta is considered a mythical fountain of youth by many. Their beautiful city backdrop is the spiritual Santa Rosa mountains with their curative powers of desert sun and silence.
The word ‘la quinta’ means ‘the fifth’. The history says the area was established by Spanish conquistadors in the eighteenth century as the fifth resting spot for travelers between present day Mexico to San Gabriel Mission of Los Angeles at San Bernadino, CA, thus giving it this name.  Then there is the loose translation, the word ‘quinta’ means country home or hacienda. La Quinta was originally called Marshall’s Cove after an early day rancher but it is not clear when the name officially became La Quinta.

 Don the Conquistador at La Quinta, Ca.
Don is the name given this artwork by the designer Bill Ware. This conquistador is made of brass, bronze and copper and the horse is solid aluminum. This is one piece of artwork among many in the city of La Quinta, who pride themselves on their wonderful displays of public art.
The fountain in Old La Quinta, California
La Quinta Old Town has a charm that cannot be missed.  It is a small area at the core of the town but has much to draw us in.  The buildings have been kept pristine and with all the bougainvillea in bloom, it was wonderful to just wander down the street and enjoy the colors and Spanish architecture of old.   La Quinta covers a total of 32 square miles and the elevation is 20 M (56 ft) above sea level.  The population has been growing steadily.  In 1980 there were 4200 residents and is now about 45,000.  Once you spend any time in this small city, you will understand the growth.  It is a very special area of the Coachella Valley.

Devane's in Old Town La Quinta, California
There are several eating establishments to visit in this small but trendy area.  We didn’t time our visit for eating but we had eaten at Devane’s in the past when they were located elsewhere and always enjoyed it. William Devane is the actor who owns and operates Devane’s and was the main reason we originally went there but we always enjoyed our meal.

Triptych of Old Town La Quinta, Ca

The Triptych Old Town La Quinta was created by local artists Nancy and Larry Cush.  This creation, beautifully framed by blooming bougainvillea is located on the Carmel building in Old Town. It is three different murals portraying a mountain scene, a Spanish style fountain like we’d seen in the courtyard and a sunset.
La Quinta Civic Center Campus, Calif.
We spent some time at the La Quinta Civic Center Campus at the corner of Washington and Calle Tampico, not far from Old Town, although it seemed a world away. There is a lake with a water feature and koi fish and ducks, there are walking paths that will lead you to benches and picnic areas as well as public art to enjoy.  

My mystery flower in La Quinta, Calif.
I found this mystery flower (to me) on our walk and got this picture of three stages of blooming. It was so pretty and one I hadn’t seen before, another reason that makes this city a gem.  The fragrance from the spring blossoming is wonderful.

Bougainvillea vine of La Quinta, Calif.
The Bougainvillea is a vine that can be seen growing all over this area as it enjoys the warm weather and full sunlight. They do bloom all year but the flowers are more plentiful once winter ends and offers these beautiful displays of color as we wandered around the town.

There are several opportunities to participate or enjoy the many charms of La Quinta, whether it is climbing, biking, the world of arts and theater, and we can’t forget golfing.
To see the events planned for 2011, check this webpage

If you would like to see more of the Coachella Valley, follow these links:

And there is so much more to share with you.


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