Desert Hot Springs is one of those places most people tell you really isn’t worth going to. Once a promising vacation spot for non-sulphuric therapeutic hot springs, it certainly has that “past-it’s-hay-day” feel that a lot of resort towns give off. When compared to Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, or even Yucca Valley (gasp!), Desert Hot Springs doesn’t seem to offer a lot (just being honest). It’s kinda unimpressive. However, when we stumbled upon a pueblo home now turned museum that was built by one of the town’s original homesteaders, well, there was no way you could keep us away! Simply put, Cabot got it. This guy figured out life in a way that most people then (and now) just don’t have the bandwidth to do. As a result, hidden amongst the urban decay is a true gem…a monument to following your dreams, leaving your comfort zone behind, and immersing yourself in cultures far different than your own.
In 1913, Cabot Yerxa (1883 – 1965), a desert pioneer, step foot in what is now known as Desert Hot Springs, CA and setup his homestead. His original homestead (later named Miracle Hill) found just down the street is where he first discovered both hot mineral water that reached temperatures of 180 degrees and the cold water of Mission Springs Aquifer a few hundred meters away from his front door. This discovery was truly epic for the area, however, Miracle Hill isn’t the settlement that most people tour today. In fact, it wasn’t until 1941 that Cabot actually started to work on what is now the Hopi-inspired-homemade-built-of-#alltherecycledmaterials pueblo pictured above. From the very beginning, the intent of the building was a museum, as well as a home for both Cabot himself and his bride, Portia Yerxa.
If you’re tight on funds, the grounds of Cabot’s home as well as three display rooms are free to enter and explore. However, being history nuts + travel enthusiasts we couldn’t resist paying for the actual tour, and, spoiler alert… it was worth every penny!
If you join in on the tour (which we highly recommend obviously) you’ll follow a guide through a portion of Cabot’s own masterpiece, an incomplete 4-story, 35-room, 5,000 square foot home which he built himself. You’ll spend 55 minutes viewing pieces of Native American history, artifacts that Cabot himself collected, as well as hear stories of his travels around the world and how he made it all work. Y’all, this guy travelled like crazy…headed to Alaska for the gold rush, then onto Cuba, painted his way through Europe, South America… Did we mention he also put together a giant list of words of the Inuit language which he then translated? Yup, the Smithsonian Institute quickly purchased it!
You might currently be thinking that that all these adventures sound sweet, but how did this do-it-all man fund this craziness? The short answer is by doing #allthethings. Stand in line for people in Alaska to make a little extra cash? Check. Tract housing? Check. Citrus orchards? Check…well, until the freeze of 1913 took them all out that is.
Y’all, we love this guy!
Tickets are available online (you’ll need to book at least an hour before the tour if you choose this option) or you can pop into the visitor’s center and pick them up. We chose to pick up our tickets day of and then spent the 20 minutes before the tour exploring the grounds of Cabot’s home.
There are quite a few cool things to check out including a massive “Waokiye” which translates to “traditional helper” in the Lakota language. Standing 40 feet tall and weighing 20 tons you can’t really miss it. The sculpture by artist, Peter Wolf Toth, is #27 in a series of 70 called “Trail of Whispering Giants.” The base is carved from a 750 year old, 45 ton sequoia which was given to the museum and the 15 foot tall feather is crafted from Incense Cedar from the Idyllwild area. A beautiful and creative way to help remember the repression and injustice that many groups have (and continue) to face throughout history.
When it’s time, the tour will meet directly in front of the home and your guide will give you a brief schpeal on how the next ~hour will roll. If your over there thinking a 1 hour tour with kids sounds insane we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised! Our oldest kiddo (6yo) was captivated by the stories our guide told so much so that he literally went ahead of us on the tour and our daughter (3yo) well,…the ground floor is dirt, so yup, she loved it, too.
After the tour (if time permits in your schedule) take a few minutes and tour the rest of the grounds! Pop into the three rooms that are free to enter regardless of whether you opted to purchase tickets for the tour and read about Cabot and the Desert Hot Springs area. Also don’t forget to walk up behind the house not only for the beautiful view, but also to see Portia Yerxa’s alien landing pad for yourself!
Bottom line: We fell in love with this man! He’s awesome. His passion and his sense for just “going for it” absolutely captivated us and if you’re an adventurer at heart and swoon over the idea of thinking outside the box we think you’ll really dig this stop!
- October – May:
- Tuesday – Sunday (closed Monday), 0900 – 1600
- Tours: 0930, 1030, 1130, 1330, 1430
- June – September:
- Tuesday – Saturday (closed Sunday – Monday), 0900 – 1300
- Tours: 0930., 1030, 1130
- October – May:
- Admission: $13.00/Adult, $11.00/Seniors, Active Military, and children 6 – 12yo
- Parking: Free
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