Mar 08 2012
Our family recently returned from a fun-packed vacation to southern California. In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing about our experiences at the varied places we visited. Today’s post is about Cabot’s Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs, California, which was one of the most unique stops on our trip.
You’ve heard of tall tales, right? Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill were larger than life, imaginary characters whose experiences were perfect for a story but hardly realistic.
If you like tall tales, you’ll want to find your way to Cabot’s Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs, California, to learn about Cabot Yerxa. As our tour guide told us about Yerxa’s life, it sounded more and more like a tall tale, yet the museum includes artifacts showing proof of these things really happening. Cabot Yerxa was born in 1883 and during his life met the Mexican president, joined the Alaskan gold rush, where he opened a cigar store and lived with an Inuit family, was appointed the youngest postmaster in U.S. history by his personal friend Theodore Roosevelt, lived in Cuba, served in the U.S. Army, and studied art in France. Buffalo Bill had a standing invitation to stay at Cabot’s home when he was in town, and Yerxa used rattlesnakes as a secondary security system when he was away.
Oh, yeah, and he was the one who found both the hot desert springs and the excellent cold drinking water in Desert Hot Springs, based on a tip from a Native American friend. And that water just happened to be on the land he had homesteaded, saving him from a 7-mile walk for fresh water.
Throughout his life, Cabot Yerxa collected things with the intention of creating a museum to honor and educate about the Native American people who were many of his friends. He began building his house in 1940 from reclaimed materials. He made the windows to fit scraps of glass he found, and used innovative methods to reuse and recycle everything he could, including several uses of precious water before it was finally dumped out.
In some ways, Cabot’s home reminded me of The House on the Rock but with a lot less show and a much better story behind it.
Cabot’s home/museum itself was saved from the wrecking ball by a friend who knew it was too good to let it be destroyed, and today hourly guided tours of this unique home and museum are offered. Some come to hear Cabot’s story, some to see the Hopi-style home and museum, and some because they heard it was a little-known treasure in Desert Hot Springs and wanted to see what it was all about.
Desert Hot Springs is just across the San Andreas Fault from Palm Springs. (If you take the tour, you’ll learn what importance the faultline has on the water in the area.) If you’re in the Palm Springs area, be sure to put Cabot’s Pueblo Museum on your must-see list. You won’t find anything like it anywhere.
Tips for Visiting Cabot’s Pueblo Museum:
- Tours are given six times a day and are limited to twelve people on a tour. See the museum website for tour times. The museum is closed on Mondays, so plan your time accordingly.
- This is a “no-touching” museum, but the tour moves through the house and is interesting enough that kids over the age of five should be fine with it.
- At $11 for adults and $9 for seniors/kids, the one-hour tour isn’t a bargain, but it’s worth it to hear the almost unbelievable story of Yerxa and to see his unique dwelling.
- Photography is not allowed inside the museum.
- At the end of the tour, you’ll get a bottle of water from Desert Hot Springs. It’s really good water and the bottle is unique as well.
- Visitors on the first tour of the day have the best chance of seeing Cabot’s “angel” in the mountains.
- Before or after the tour, be sure to go up to the desert gardens that are part of the property.
- If you don’t like the desert heat, winter might be your best bet for visiting.
- The gift shop also sells locally made handiwork and serves as a visitor center for the Desert Hot Springs area.
- If you take the first tour of the day, you’ll have time to drive out to Joshua Tree National Park, and then back to Palm Springs to ride the Aerial Tramway for a very interesting day trip. Palm Springs is just 90 minutes from Anaheim.
Have you been somewhere as unique as Cabot’s Pueblo Museum? Please share in the comments. I love finding interesting places to visit.