A clubby, '50s-era desert retreat opens to the public

The 400-acre cactus- and citrus tree-studded desert sanctuary atSmoke Tree Ranch, tucked at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains,has attracted such movie industry elite as Walt Disney for 50years. But until spring of 2004, the only way to score one of theranch's 56 guest cottages was to make friends with a homeowner.Today the ranch's updated cottages still evoke the samerustic-but-comfortable vibe that Disney would have known in the1950s. Guests dine together in the ranch house, where the knottedpine walls sport vintage rodeo photos, and a jackets-for-men dresscode in the evenings maintains the private, clubby character.Activities are old-school, including lawn bowling and tennis. Andjust a five-minute drive from the quiet of the ranch, you'll findthe golf courses and boutiques of the new Palm Springs ― thebest of both eras.

INFO: Smoke Tree Ranch (openOct.-Apr.; from $302 per couple, including breakfast; 1850 SmokeTree Lane, Palm Springs, CA; 800/787-3922)

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