Desert Mini-Vacation

December 17-21, 2001

random trip report
Note: some photos (those with borders) can be clicked on to get a hi-res 1600x1200 version.

This year, Ron Kuivila and I finally succeed in rendezvousing over Xmas break. Lynne and I fly into Ontario (L.A.) late Monday night, Ron and Bobbi arrive soon thereafter, and we pile into a minivan and drive to Lynne's parents' retreat in a gated golf community in Palm Desert.

We sleep in Tuesday, make coffee, and do some yoga poses on the fairway-quality grass out back. Then we visit The Living Desert, a great botanical garden and zoo featuring desert life from around the world (largely Africa).

The model train at the Living Desert

The model train, 2nd view

Two high points: the black hornbill offering us a rock (in exchange for its freedom?) and a leopard frantically trying to claw its way through a bulletproof glass barrier and maul a noxious two-year-old in a pink jumper.

Ron and I excuse ourselves and head out the back gate, towards Eisenhower Mountain (1,952'). The trail wanders up a dry riverbed and up a hillside, 800 vertical feet, to a 'picnic ramada' (the latter word doesn't seem to exist). Above this looms the mountain proper, steep and rocky. It looks nearly vertical, but we start up just for fun. It's boulder scrambling over mostly stable rocks, and Ron is very speedy at that sort of thing, so we just kept going and reach the summit around 2:30 PM. The view from the top spans the entire Coachella valley - quite spectacular.

Ron dreams of the golf lifestyle

We hurry down, and it's getting dark as we reach our golf cart in the parking lot around 4:30. The hardest part of the day is finding our way back to the condo, in a sprawl of identical tan-colored golfing communities.

Bobbi cooks a great meal - barbecued pork and butternut squash soufflee We do some hot-tubbing and retire early.

The next day we drive to Mt. San Jacinto, stopping to buy some hiking boots for Ron. The weather is great, and the tram ride is spectacular. There are a few inches of snow at the top of the tram. Ron and I decide not to hike to the summit after learning that it's 6.3 miles each way. We walk around a 1-mile 'nature trail' and lounge in the sun a bit.

Ron and I strike noble poses

Then we visit the cafeteria; the other three all have the Kielbasa Special, and have little interest in food the rest of the day.

We stop at a consignment store on the way back - a somewhat depressing experience.

Eisenhower Mt. at sunset

We head to the mall to see Lord of the Rings, which is pretty much panned by all.

Back at the condo, Lynne attempts to start a fire in the gas-log fireplace, releasing a fair amount of gas. Ron takes over, and as he lights the fire a large fireball erupts from the fireplace, singeing his facial hair and spreading soot over the off-white carpet and upholstery. Much of the remaining time is spent experimenting with carpet cleaners, washing sofa covers etc.

On Thursday (yikes, this is going by much too fast!) we get up early and drive to Joshua Tree. The local climbing store advises us to go to Indian Cove since it's a cool, windy day. We do so, and it is tremendous. We set a rope on Short Wall and take turns on a 5.3 crack route; Ron and Bobbi haven't climbed much before, but they make good progress.

Ron busts a move

Lynne makes a forearm-jam move and is quite proud. I climb a face route just to the right with a difficult start.

Butt-shot of me

Bobbi takes a well-earned break

Nice boulders, eh?

We drive out the long way, through the park, as the sun is going down, and it's incredibly beautiful. We pass through areas of dense Joshua trees, and then Cholla cacti. The sunset seems to go on forever.

Then we have dinner at La Pinata, a 'muy festivo' Mexican restaurant in Indian Wells. The high point is a sedate rendition of Cielito Lindo by the 1-man-band vibes player. Back at the condo, in the hot tub, a stiff wind picks up and the palm trees sway ominously.

On Friday none of us want to leave, but there is little choice. A major storm had passed through, and palm debris is everywhere. Driving up through the pass, a segment of rainbow lingers and, as we approached it, spreads out into a full arc; a magical ending to a great week.

Lynne and I cut it too close and miss our flight out of Ontario. Fortunately the next flight arrives in Oakland slighly before Dave Weinberg's arrival there, so we don't lose out. The only bummer is that my old Ecuadorian wool bag is mangled by the baggage handlers. However, they give me $100, so even that cloud has a silver lining.

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