Hidden in the desert surrounding Joshua Tree National Park are lodgings as unique as the Joshua trees themselves, those shaggy, spike-leafed yuccas. California’s Mojave Desert attracted homesteaders in the 1930s with the promise of almost-free land — all they had to do was build a small house and the plot was theirs. Today the abandoned cabins have not only been reclaimed, they’ve been transformed into artful lodgings around the park that draw climbers, hikers, bird watchers and stargazers from around the world. “Spin and Margie’s Desert Hide-a-Way,” ten minutes from the park’s west entrance, is one of the most unique of these inns. After a day of scrambling over boulders in the park, my brother and I were anxious to get to our weekend home. Just off the 29 Palms Highway in an oasis of desert willows, the inn’s jewel-colored buildings were nestled inside an adobe wall. We entered the courtyard through a gate below a sign reading Paseo de las Delicias — stroll of delights. Pots of cactus and patio chairs ringed an open-air fireplace in a courtyard, and at the periphery, doors led to four suites. Three of the four, including ours, had a private patio.
Ours, called the “Sonoran Traveler,” was a kaleidoscope of colors and comforts. The living room walls were forest green and deep mustard yellow, while red-striped pillows marched across the sofa bed. The bedroom walls were deep turquoise and tomato, and the kitchen was, appropriately, hot-chile red. Innkeepers Mindy Kaufman and Drew Reese had painstakingly transformed every inch of the inn into a colorful oasis, with down quilts, fluffy towels, music CDs and videos. The well-equipped kitchen had a cook top and small refrigerator, pots, pans, and plates — plus a mini pantry with all the necessities.
We had picked up sandwiches in town, so we gathered plates, glasses and a bottle of wine, and headed out into the gathering dusk to light the already laid fire in the courtyard. The light from our fire threw shadows across the cactus garden and lit up the handmade tiles that rimmed each door of the inn, all under a stargazer’s sky.
We awoke the next morning to find the cool blue San Gorgonio Mountains filling our west-facing window. After coffee, we explored the inn and peeked into the other suites before the rest of the weekend guests arrived. “The Desert Rambler,” the “Mojave Wanderer” and the “Western Nomad” were variations on our room, each with a unique color palette.
The grounds around the inn were part botanical garden, part artist’s playground. The fun was in the discovery. Like toys left by a giant, barbed wire in string-like balls surrounded a playfully tilted water tank. Chaise longues were tucked here and there beneath trees and behind cacti. A handmade bench was inscribed with: “Cut your own wood, it will warm you twice.”
In the evening, we enjoyed watching purple shadows seep across the valley. We had picked up supplies for dinner at a gourmet food shop in the nearby town of Joshua Tree. We cooked up a little dinner, chose Best in Show (2000), a comedy about the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show from the video collection, and settled in for the evening. Spin and Margie’s would be a great place to bring friends, but it also seemed perfect for, well, hiding from them.
The next morning when we said goodbye to innkeeper Mindy, she said, “We always want our guests to feel as if we had thought of everything.” They had. And we did.
If You Go
Joshua Tree is an hour’s drive from Palm Springs, California. Major airlines serve Palm Springs International Airport, many with connecting flights from Los Angeles, less than an hour’s flight away. Spring and fall are the best times to visit the desert.
Spin and Margie’s Desert Hide-a-Way
P.O. Box 1092
Joshua Tree , CA 92252
Suites range from US$ 115 – US$ 150 with a two-night minimum stay.
Joshua Tree National Park
World famous for rock climbing, the unique desert environment also draws hikers, bird-watchers, photographers and stargazers.
The town of Joshua Tree maintains a Web page that lists music festivals, art shows and activities in the park.
Joshua Tree Chamber of Commerce joshuatreechamber.org/events.htm