I was born and bred in New England before moving to NYC, and though I love the traditions and sights of a New England Fall, I decided to head West Thanksgiving weekend to trade in the crisp air for a post-Thanksgiving dinner fire pit session. My friend rented a house in La Jolla for the long-weekend and took me and a few other stragglers in!
I woke up Friday following our Thanksliving feast and ran 5 miles along the La Jolla coast.
We later headed to Liberty Public Market, where army barracks have been converted to galleries and shops. There is an outdoor ice skating rink, Stone Brewery, and a food court that is a smaller, quainter version of Chelsea Market in NYC. A few places had vegan options, but Fully Loaded Juice was the only fully vegan option. I got gluten-free avocado toast with wakame that was supposed to come with raw cashew cheese, but they were out of the cheese. The toast was still on point though!
I ran again Saturday morning towards La Jolla Cove, where you are almost guaranteed to see seals sunbathing on the rocks.
Post-run, I packed up my rental and ate breakfast at Trilogy Sanctuary in La Jolla. The sanctuary is a beautiful space with a bright, cozy rooftop vegan cafe and outdoor rooftop space for aerial yoga. I ordered the Superfoods Acai bowl blended with almond milk, blueberry, banana, goji berries, spinach and coconut butter and topped with hemp seeds, chia seeds, almonds, coconut flakes, strawberries and bananas. The presentation was beautiful, and it was hearty and so delicious.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DESERT
After breakfast I drove Southeast about 3 hours to Salvation Mountain in the Colorado Desert. Leonard Knight was a visionary artist who created the ‘mountain’ from adobe, straw and thousands of gallons of lead-free paint. It encompasses numerous murals painted with Christian sayings and Bible Verses, although most people seem to view it as a work of art amidst the barren desert surroundings, rather than as a place of religious worship. A ‘yellow brick road’ leads you to the top of the mountain.
The Folk Art Society of America declared it “a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection” in the year 2000. The site requires constant maintenance due to the harsh surrounding environment. Many visitors bring paint to donate to the project, and a group of volunteers work every first Saturday of the month to protect and maintain the site. It was so strange to see this in the middle of the desert, but it’s free and definitely worth a visit if you happen to find yourself in the Colorado desert.
My drive continued North along the Salton Sea, which is the largest lake in California. The lake is surrounded by mountains and palms and was so beautiful from afar, but I noticed that many of the buildings on the Eastern side were abandoned. Lured by the eeriness of my surroundings, I followed signs to Bombay Beach, which led me to a desolate beach littered with dead fish. Shocked by what I saw, I did more research and found this short documentary video.
Resort towns surrounded the lake in the 1950’s. Many of the settlements substantially shrank in size since then, or have been abandoned, mostly due to the increasing salinity and pollution of the lake over the years from agricultural runoff and other sources. Many of the species of fish that lived in the sea have been killed off by the combination of pollutants, salt levels, and algal blooms. The smell of the lake, combined with the stench of the decaying fish, also contributed to the decline of the tourist industry around the Salton Sea.
Many people now visit the Salton Sea and the surrounding settlements to explore the abandoned structures, but the decaying Salton Sea poses a serious health risk for everyone that lives around it. The declining air quality has led children living in proximity to have the highest asthma hospitalization rates in the state, and that is just one of the many health threats. California has been working on a restoration project, although it is moving far too slowly. I couldn’t find sites suggesting how non-California residents can help (if you have any ideas let me know). California residents can educate themselves on the issues and contact local and state representatives to express concern.
JOSHUA TREE, CALIFORNIA
After recovering from what I saw at Salton Sea, I made it to my final destination: Joshua Tree! It was dark and rainy when I arrived, so I checked into The High Desert Motel and grabbed dinner at The Natural Sisters Cafe. It is an organic, vegetarian restaurant in town (which I frequented over the next few days) where you order at the counter and staff delivers food to your table. I kicked it off the first night by creating my own avocado and veggie sangy with sprouts, spinach, hummus and Veganaise. They also serve kombucha on tap, wheatgrass shots and deliciously moist vegan, gluten free muffins (I tried the pumpkin and apple).
Crossroads Cafe is the other spot in town with a few vegan options. The service here is some of the friendliest I have EVER received. My favorite dish there between the two I sampled was the Parson’s Polenta with sautéed vegetables and black beans served with grilled-herbed polenta and ranchero sauce.
The Joshua Tree Coffee Company on the ‘main strip’ has lots of non-dairy milk options, an outdoor space and the coffee is amazingly fresh.
A trip to JT wouldn’t be complete without time in the National Park, where the Colorado and Mojave Deserts meet! Although there were wind gusts up to 4o mph and it was raining (bonus: rainbows!), my friend and I spent the day hiking and exploring the park. I hope to go back and camp in the park under the stars. As a poster in the Visitor Center proclaimed “half the park is after dark”.
I flew home to NYC on a red eye my final day in SoCal, so packed in a full day. First stop, The Integraton in Landers, CA about 20 miles north of JT. I booked a Sound Bath, which you typically have to book online a few weeks in advance. The structure is beautifully built and the acoustics are unbelievable. You can stand on a square in the middle of the floor, look up and shout. The sound is amplified in your ears and sounds liked you’re on surround sound, but no one else in the room can hear it. It’s incredible. The Sound Bath ‘musician’ provided a quick history of the building (which is pretty fascinating). The sound of quartz crystal bowls then soothe you into a deep relaxation. The experience was meditative, relaxing and rejuvenating; like a massage for all of your senses. Because of the way the acoustics in the structure travel and because sound travels faster through water than air (and our bodies are mostly water), you feel the sound vibrations flowing through your body. I know the experience sounds (no pun intended) pretty out there, but it was incredibly unique and definitely worth the 25 bucks.
My flight took off from L.A., so following my bath I drove Northwest to finish my trip with a snack at Moon Juice, which only seemed fitting after my Integration experience.