The day after I flew from San Francisco back to Long Beach, my dear friend Don and I drove to Palm Springs, a desert town renowned for its vivid gay life and beautiful location. Majestic mountains tower over this sweltering town, and if you stay here then make sure that your resort has plenty of misters. We stayed at Mirage, and their mister was on steroids, creating a small tropical forest with the odd Jacuzzi hidden in the undergrowth.
I had a fantastic time at Palm Springs, tanning by the pool by day and drinking at the many bars by night. However, this makes for a desperately boring blog post, so I will say no more about Palm Springs. (The rest would have to be censored anyway.)
Mount San Jacinto
On Sunday, Don and I looked at each other with red-shot eyes and in unison said, “I can’t drink any more.” So we decided to skip the midday BBB (Bear Beer Bust) and instead hike on Mount San Jacinto, the second largest mountain in south California.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway takes ten minutes to climb almost two kilometres to an altitude of 2,600 metres. This is the world’s largest rotating tram. Rotating tram? Yes indeed, this is the latest in fairness. Instead of people brutally jousting for the ride’s good seats, the floor of the tram rotates, ensuring equal and fair views. Naturally, this conflict-neutral tram was built in Switzerland.
On top of Mount Jacinto is a cool alpine climate. Gone are the cacti, replaced by pine trees that smell of vanilla and butterscotch. Hiking through this serene alpine forest, full of wild animals, I forgot that I was surrounded by desert. I was beautifully reminded of that fact when, after climbing to the top of a large peak, I stood on the brink of a cliff with a stunning view of the desert stretching out below to the horizon. It simply took my breath away, or perhaps it was the altitude.
Don and I sat on top of that cliff for a long time, feeling very small in a large world.
Joshua Tree National Park
On Monday, Don and I packed our stuff into the truck and checked out of the Mirage. It was time to go home, but we had one more adventure in store: the Joshua Tree National Park. The great Colorado and Mojave deserts meet and mingle in the park’s 800,000 acres of ever-changing desert wilderness. The most conspicuous inhabitant of this strange desert is the namesake Joshua tree.
This upstart plant is not really a tree but a yucca – a simple shrub. Perhaps its twisted form is a punishment from the gods for having the hubris of calling itself a tree. Whatever the explanation, seeing whole plains covered in these sometimes anthropomorphic ‘trees’ was mesmerizing.
The park is criss-crossed with fault lines (Watch your step!) and thus is a geologically very active. The most obvious sign of this is the many granitic monoliths that tower over the landscape like sentinels. If you want some privacy then climb to the top of one of these great rocks where you can sit in perfect tranquillity and reflect on the landscape below.