Our five days in Palm Springs was a mishmash of varying activities. We did a lot of shopping, and in the process, saw a lot of the area. Palm Springs is actually a diagonal string of towns – Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Thousand Palms, Palm Desert, La Quinta, segueing into Indio and Coachella. All of them seem to have countless “gated communities” that have long, adobe walls around them. Some of them are lushly landscaped that abruptly stops, surrounded by undeveloped scrub land. Every time I see long strips of grass along the street or golf course after golf course, I think about what the California Aqueduct is watering down here. I don’t begrudge residential use of water, but I object to wasting it on grass in the desert.
After the camera replacement, our Sirius radio went haywire and we went looking for a new one, but the stores didn’t have the model we wanted.We checked out a Radio Shack that was in a mall and found a “ghost” mall where not only the anchor stores (Gottschalks and Von’s Supermarket) were closed, but almost every other store, except Radio Shack and a store that sold muu-muus. The former food court had a non-franchise pizza place open and that was it. There were a couple of people sitting there, two of whom were playing chess. It had a wierd deadly atmosphere. Amazingly, there was a movie theater across from the mall and it was playing independent films, including “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, a film we’ve been wanting to see. There was also a nice little cafe attached to the theater and they let you bring coffee into the film. Heaven! After the movie, we drove down Dinah Shore Road or Bob Hope Drive, Gene Autrey Avenue, Gerald Ford Boulevard (or Fred Waring (who’s he?), going to what we hoped was an Amici Pizza Restaurant. Instead, it turned out to be a nice little Italian trattoria, where we lounged around outside in balmy night air and had very good calimari, eggplant parmesan and chicken cacciatore.
Palm Springs is located at the entrance to valley with a lot of wind, so the pass is filled with wind turbines. Dave is interested in photographing them for his new project. These are accessible; some are right by the highway and you can get close to them. Never having stood next to one of the giant turbines, I was curious to hear what it sounds like. They definitely make a noise – I wouldn’t want one in my back yard, but it’s not as bad as I expected. We also walked around our RV resort to check out the neighborhood. People decorate their double-wides and rocky yards to differing degrees. This place has the nicest library room I’ve ever seen, with lots of books, a couple of couches and a table dedicated to jigsaw puzzles. (Oh joy!) But I don’t think we’re ready for this lifestyle for a decade or two (or ever).
We also went to Indian Canyons, an area on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. You know you’re there when all the walled and gated communities disappear. These are canyons leading into the high San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains. The trails are quite nice, with rushing spring streams, palm oases and lots of wildflowers. We walked one short trail, then went to another, but crossing and recrossing a lively stream over slippery rocks with my new camera in hand was making me nervous. When a lady in front of us slipped off a rock and and got her feet wet, I was ready to turn back. But I saw some wildflowers I’d never seen before, including the elusive Indigo Bush, which an Indian guide later told me was used to make dye: brownish-yellow dye. Why a deep blue flower doesn’t make blue dye, I don’t know. We also saw our first tanager, a bright little bird with a red head and a vibrant yellow breast. The next day we visited Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, but as Dave notes, preserves are not usually very attractive places to humans, and this one wasn’t very attractive to us. They did have a very old, wrecked car that looked like it had been driven hard right into the trail. The weather keeps getting hotter, so we visited the Palm Springs air-conditioned Art Museum. It is a nicely laid-out building with some nice exhibits. There is quite a bit of Western and Indian art and an interesting glass art gallery. There’s the requisite huge, vaguely threatening glass art piece by Dale Chihuly in an outdoor area. Why is this guy so popular? The pieces are intricate, but not that engaging to me.
We finally decamped from Palm Springs to Joshua Tree and the weather is hot. Our campground, Indian Cove, is a place that is remote from the main road through the Park. Like the rest of the Park, it has great rock jumbles. We got up at 5:30 yesterday morning and did the hike to the 49 Palms Oasis. This is one of our favorite hikes, climbing up a hill and then winding down into the canyon with the oasis. The wildflowers were great, big spreads of yellow Brittlebush, lots of Phacelia, Globemallow, Canterbury Bells, Fremont’s Pincushion and many blooming cacti. There were also leafy clumps with lots of small, pale-greenish white flowers that were wide open at 6:30 a.m. but closed up into little pink balls when we returned around in full sun at 9:30 a.m. It was a good hike, so we rewarded ourselves by lounging around the rest of day with Mojitos and snacks at Happy Hour. The moon is almost full right now, so though the stars are mostly obliterated, the rocks are clearly revealed in the moonlight. We went out to do some night photography and had fun with moonlight, flashlights and the deliciously balmy night air.
As we were wandering around the campsite this morning, we got a special treat. Dave spotted a desert tortoise barreling across the road. This guy was not shy, so we got some good shots.