Desert Beauty

By Hammers, Mary Ann; Link, Matthew | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), February 27, 2007 | Go to article overview

Desert Beauty


Hammers, Mary Ann, Link, Matthew, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


Who says you have to sacrifice luxury to have a true outdoor adventure? Join us on five spring getaways set in the deserts of North America--from zooming in a mini convertible across Baja California to trekking through the high desert of New Mexico With your own personal llama. We bookend each trip with lavish spa treatments and gay happy hours, making for the perfect yin-and-yang vacation of sweat, and serenity. Our adventure begins, of course, in the gayest spot of all.

Palm Springs

The Cahuilla Indians considered the original hot springs in the area sacred, and locals will tell you there's one swimming pool to every four residents. It's said that Marilyn Monroe's career was launched here, in mermaid fashion, when she was spotted lounging at the pool of the Hollywood-heavy Racquet Club in 1948. Palm Springs, Calif., as its name will tell you, is all about water in the desert--an opulent oasis of both healing and decadence just a two-hour drive from Los Angeles (OK, four with traffic). Sumptuous outdoor spas dot the area like blue jewels glittering in the white-hot sun, tempting wayfarers to come and abide in complete relaxation. No wonder so many burned-out celebrities end up at the nearby Betty Ford Center. Where else can merely hanging out be so natural?

Palm Springs and its sister cities, Cathedral City, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, and Rancho Mirage, lie within the Coachella Valley, bordered by the Mojave Desert and fortressed by the imposing San Jacinto Mountains. The area's natural setting is hard to overlook. About a 45-minute drive from downtown Palm Springs is the mystical and monumental Joshua Tree National Park, claiming over half a million acres. Looking like a joint venture between Dr. Seuss and a team of Martians, the park has bizarre rock sculptures rising from the desert floor, curlicue cacti, and a rich, earthy color palette of red, orange, and yellow. Among the Southwest's earliest peoples, the Pinto hunted here right after the last ice age. Today; Joshua Tree is world-renowned among rock climbers for the accessible routes it offers up its strange curved boulders.

It's this impressive geographical barrier of desert and mountains that has made Palm Springs a refuge for the frolics and follies of the rich and famous since the 1930s. At its zenith of Hollywood popularity, from the '40s to the early '60s, stars came here to let their hair down, often in depraved and wanton ways they could never get away with in Los Angeles. Palm Springs was sexually liberated years before the sexual revolution. Gay and bisexual stars flocked here to flee the Hollywood paparazzi. Here Errol Flynn built the mansion he dubbed the Normandy in 1943 and lined its pool with bronzed young men. …

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