Monday, March 27, 2017

In Search of "Cool" Places in the Coachella Valley

For our friends who are looking outside and still seeing some piles of snow, be reassured that warm weather is coming! During the past few weeks at Sam's Family Spa Hot Springs Resort, the sun has been shining, and the mercury climbing daily into the 90s. The locals have been telling us that this is unseasonably warm for March in the California Desert.

While the fields of wildflowers are rejoicing in the midday heat, we have found it a bit challenging ... especially when hiking along the lower elevations of the Coachella Valley that surrounds us. 

"Oh, how I miss the snow ... NOT!"

We could hang out in the air-conditioned comfort of the Wildebeest (Doug's suggestion), but we don't want to miss out on any of the FUN (Chris' philosophy).

We are surrounded by spectacular landscape ... snow-topped mountains ... fields of wildflowers ... oasis in the midst of a desert. Time to search out some "cool" places.

Search #1 ... The Palm Springs Aerial Tram

San Jacinto Peak rises to a height of 10,834 feet and towers over the city of Palm Springs. For a ticket price of $26, the Tram transported us up the side of the massive mountain to the hiking trails that surround Mount San Jacinto State Park.

Arriving at the top with our friends Jean and Steve, we were greeted with snow-covered hiking trails and temps in the 60s.

Because deep snow and avalanche conditions were still present on the trails that lead to the very top of the mountain, we limited our hike to the 1.5 mile Desert View Trail.

Search #1 was successful as we found many "cool" views!

Search #2 ... Idyllwild

I haven't let Doug buy his convertible yet, so he doesn't look quite as "cool" as many of the other SoCal drivers. Opening our sunroof will have to do as we headed up the San Jacinto mountains on another warm day. Following the narrow twisting roads up a few thousand feet, we came to the "mile high" town of Idyllwild

While Idyllwild is famous for its arts, crafts and music, we were in search of the other "cool" activity ... hiking. We parked at the Idyllwild Nature Center and enjoyed a picnic lunch under the pines before exploring the area.

The trail around the nature center was lined with some (new to us) trees like the red-barked Manzanita tree.

We also had an encounter with one of the park volunteers and her (non-poisonous) snake. He was "too cool" and needed some warm sunshine. 

Across the road from the Nature Center we found the Deer Springs Trail.

 A few years ago I read the book, Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, that details the author's 1100 mile trek along Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from California to Washington. After that, I put "hike a portion of the PCT" on my bucket list. While studying the trail maps, we saw that eventually, the Deer Springs Trail intersects with the PCT. So off we set in hopes of achieving that bucket list item.

Search #2 was mostly successful as we found "coolness" in the form of a mountain stream, magnificent views, piles of snow and a squirrel trying to find the acorns that he buried ... but determined that we did not have enough daylight or provisions to reach the intersection of the PCT. That will be left for another day. 

Search #3 ... Redlands Brewery Tour

Now I know what you are thinking ... we are near the wine country of California. But on a 90 degree day, there is still nothing better (according to Doug) than a cold glass of beer. Since the Coachella Valley area has only three breweries, and Doug has tried them already, we drove an hour west to Redlands, California to sample a few new brews.

Doug had found Hangar 24's IPA in area stores and was interested in visiting its home brewery. Unfortunately, they did not have many other brews that interested him, but we thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the "cool" shade on their patio while visiting with some of the locals who suggested that we also try Ritual Brewing.

We are glad that we did, because true to their motto, their Beer is Good! Doug's reviews here.

Afterwards, we walked around town and happened upon a Baskin-Robbins. The jury is divided as to what made our "cool" search #3 most successful ... the IPA or the Jamoca Almond Fudge ice cream! 

Search #4 ... Indoor Pickleball

We added pickleball rackets to our prized possessions, but with no pickleball court at our current "home", we had to search out courts in order to try them out. Playing at the outdoor community parks wasn't pleasant in the heat, so I am happy that Doug found an indoor pickleball court. We enjoyed the weekly pickup games that Coachella Valley Recreation offers. 

The fact that I have been able to win a few games with my new paddle makes our search #4 another "cool" success!

Search #5 ... Living Desert Loop Trail

So maybe we should have started our hike at 0700 like our friend Steve does, because the midday sun got a little warm. Nonetheless, we enjoyed "cool" views as we hiked the Living Desert Loop Trail.

Equipped with the flower identification guide, we found a few new wildflowers including:

Blazing Star

Indigo Bush

Desert Tobacco

Always "cool" to find new wildflowers ... Search #5 is a success!

Search #6 ... Joshua Tree National Park

Located about an hour from our current "home" and nestled among six different mountain ranges, Joshua Tree National Park has proved to be a unique place to escape the heat.

Many of the trails are at 4000 feet elevation or higher, but it still was a tad warm as the scrawny looking trees don't provide much shade ... but every so often we did come upon a very "cool" tree!

From the trees,

... to the mountain views,

...to the rock formations, Joshua Tree National Park definitely delivered the "coolness" that we were searching for!

Search #7 ... Oasis in the Desert

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.

Isaiah 35: 6-7

From the first time I set eyes on it, the desert oasis has become my ultimate "cool" experience. The desert oasis is a refuge ... a haven ... a shelter from the heat ... a refreshing sign of how our God cares for us. 

The isolated green areas in the desert that make up an oasis are formed as a result of an underground water source. Around here, the California Fan Palms often grow up aided by the water that accumulates along the San Andreas fault lines.  In the midst of the hot desert, the palms reach high to provide a cool respite from the heat.

And the water, so necessary for the growth of the oasis, reaches out to welcome the weary hiker. We came upon many spectacular oasis during our hikes in the area. 

Coachella Valley Preserve

Art Smith Trail

Anza Borrego Desert State Park

When hiking back along the trail at Anza Borrego, we spotted this majestic creature, the Desert Bighorn Sheep also taking advantage of the water that the oasis promises.

He, like us, is grateful for all the "cool" opportunities in the hot desert.

Hold on to your hat! Strong winds are bringing a "cool" front back into the desert. It is also stirring up lots of pollen ... and bringing back my allergies ... not so "cool" ... cough, cough, sneeze, sneeze!

Until next time ... Hug your favorite "cool" tree or your favorite "warm" friend ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

PS ... Can I ask a favor?? Doug was helping me format this blog site a few weeks ago, and we think maybe he did something to deactivate the comments section. It wasn't working for a friend, and we are not sure if it is a problem on her side or ours.

Would love to hear about your current "cool" activities. Could you try to leave a comment?  Thanks in advance!
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  1. Good thing we hooked you up with Jean and Steve! You have had lots of fun together!

    1. What a gift to run into you and Mitch! And I love that "it's a small world" moment when you introduced us to Steve and Jean! We enjoyed hiking and playing pickleball with them. Looks like you got back home ... hoping that it isn't "too cool" for biking!

  2. will give the comments a go. LOVED the Joshua tree photos. I also read Strayed (but did not vow to hike part of the PCT). Wow. I remember how she talked about those trees early in her walk. Love it Chris and Doug! Will enjoy seeing you both this May HERE.

  3. I know how much you love flowers, and how you are looking forward to getting your hands in the wonderful dirt of your garden ... soon, very soon! Look forward to seeing you too! Thanks for following along!

  4. I loved Strayed's Wild, too! I doubt I could do the grueling hike she did, but how wonderful that you walked in her footsteps on the PCT, checked another wish off your bucket list AND took me along vicariously. Gorgeous photos! I'm looking forward to finding out where you'll hike and camp next.

    1. Haven't actually done any part of the PCT yet, but hope to get to a section of it near us next week. So much spectacular hiking around here! We are here for another 10 days and then start our trek up to Minnesota via Nevada and Utah. Planning to be in Las Vegas for Doug's birthday weekend, so hopefully we will be able to find a new brewery or two to try out :-)