Palm Springs

Jan. 2000

random trip report

Rich Kraft suggested a spur-of-the-moment trip to Palm Springs because he needed sunshine and warmth. Lynne's parents have a house there, and she was eager to visit them, so we all decided to go.

We flew to Ontario (CA, not Canada), rented a Mustang convertible, and drove east on I10, through horrible billboard-infested valleys, over a pass with thousands of windmill generators (like Altamont) and down into the Coachella valley. The valley has its own subterranean-lake water supply (which of course L.A. steals a lot of) so it is able to support lots of lawns, golf courses, and palm trees. The main industry seems to be retirement. There are numerous consignment stores selling the belongings of the deceased.

The Rutters' place is in a gated community in Palm Desert. We greeted them, then headed up highway 74 (which winds through mountains all the way to San Diego) and turned off at a trailhead. The path went up a long, winding, sandy wash. It was marked as Closed because of bighorn sheep 'lambing' season. After a half mile we headed up a hill, which was covered with many types of cactus and aloes, and a fascinating assortment of rocks. We reached a rocky knoll with a nice view, including a small oasis farther up the wash. I scrambled down via a steep gully, losing my footing several times on the steep, crumbling rock. We all got cactus-needle scratches.

The next day (Sunday) dawned overcast, to Richard's immense chagrin. we drove to Palm Springs and ascended a gondola up Mt. San Jacinto. This 10,000' mountain, rising from an 800' plain, is (by some measure) the steepest in North America. The gondola ride is incredible (and scary), passing directly in front of giant cliffs of multicolored rock with fantastic inclusion patterns.

The upper terminus is about 2000' below the peak. It was foggy and raining, so I elected not to do the peak. I did, however, do a bit of scrambling on the granite cliffs below the terminus. The traction was great and there were some scary but fun bits. I fetched Richard and Lynne, who were inside having drinks. We walked around a bit, and Lynne and I did some more climbing.

That evening we saw 'Galaxy Quest' and a more entertaining broomball game in the shopping-mall skating rink.

On Monday, Richard and I drove 4-wheel ATVs around the dunes west of Palm Springs. $30 for a half-hour, which was about all I cared for. The ATVs are noisy, smelly little buggers. I'd rather walk and climb.

Dropping Richard off at his resort, I returned to Palm Desert, picking up a hideous birdbath at a roadside statuary as a gift for the Rutters. Lynne and I then headed up highway 74 again, farther up this time, almost to the Vista Point, and stopped at a dirt-road turnoff. This led to another wash, even more spectacular, with caves along the cliffs. We scrambled up a steep hillside and climbed two moderate tors.

Lynne noted that while from a distance the landscape looked like a barren rockpile, from up close it resembled an expensively landscaped dry garden, which regularly-spaced rocks and plants. The view, unfortunately, included some 'dream home' developments farther up the hill.

We left that evening. The whole area is a driving nightmare; getting between any two points takes an enormous amount of time. On our next visit we'll try to spend more time in unpopulated outlying regions like Joshua Tree.

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