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!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Springtime Splendor of the Desert

Come the Spring
With all its Splendor.
All its Birds and All its Blossoms.
All its Flowers, and Leaves, and Grasses.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 Happy First Day of Spring, Friends!

When we lived in Minnesota, the first day of spring always seemed a little anticlimactic ... as there was still usually a few more weeks of snow and ice and cold and possibly a blizzard or two!

What the heck???
14 inches of snow in Rochester, Minnesota
on May 2, 2013

And after spending the winter in the warm desert, it seems funny to think of this as "spring" when the weather has been more like "summer". Nonetheless, we are finding that there is something special about this time of year ... and want to share with you the springtime splendor of the desert.

Southern California received an "impressive" amount of rainfall since January. As a result, the fields and mountainsides are sporting beautiful shades of green, white, yellow, pink, and purple. The desert "super-bloom" has brought out wildflowers that the locals haven't seen in a number of years.

Desert Lavender ... such a wonderful aroma!

Whether we are hiking in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains, Joshua Tree National Park, Anza Borrego State Park, Thousand Palms Oasis Reserve, or just across the road from our current "home" at Sam's Family Spa, we have enjoyed searching out, identifying and photographing the springtime splendor that surrounds us.

Purple Notch-leaved Phacelia would delight any Minnesota Vikings fan, but don't get too close as the leaf oils may cause a slight rash. I accidently tested it, and yes, they do.

The unique Joshua Trees are reaching towards the heavens as they prepare to burst open their blooms. We hope to get back to the national park this coming week to see how they progressed ... will report back!

Beavertail cactus are sporting great numbers of blooms ... each ready to burst with beauty. One winter visitor, eager to see the whole cactus in bloom before he heads back north, has been watering a particular cactus each day.

But we, like our little friend and "budding" photographer Athena, are happy to enjoy the blossoms in whatever stage they are in!

Tiny white Popcorn flowers can make the desert floor appear to sparkle as if covered with a light blanket of snowflakes.

Sometimes you have to search for the blossoms. The tiny Nipple cactus hides its blooms under the protection of a larger shrub.

The Brittlebush's sap, the source of desert chewing gum, is now hidden under a yellow canopy of flowers.

The Desert Star daisy poked its shy blossoms out from around the rocks and sand in the desert wash.

Sand Verbena may have small low lying flowers, but they show their power by transforming desolate areas into royal purple patches.

I love the way the "hairs" of the Checker Fiddleneck capture the rays of sunlight!

Desert Lupine enjoy shooting their purple blossoms high between the rocks in the surrounding mountains.

The Desert Chicory's notched petals opened to the sunlight remind me of hands raised in praise of the warmth.

Who could complain about dandelions in their yard if they were the Desert Dandelion variety? Following this wet winter, they are currently blanketing the hillsides with their bright yellow smiles.

What a treat to find these wild Canterbury Bells ringing in the arrival of spring as we walked along the canyon near our RV park!

Apricot Mallow was the only orange wildflower that we encountered, making it beautiful and unique,

... and reminding me of one of my favorite dogs who happens to have a owner who LOVES orange!

Bigelow's Monkeyflower carpeted the pathways leading to a desert oasis.

The Ocotillo cactus showed its appreciation for the extra rain by reaching its brilliant green leaves and red-orange flowers up high in praise of the Great Rain Maker.

I have always loved the smell of a lily, and the whole field filled with the fragrance of these Desert Lilies did not disappoint!

Yes, we are grateful to be here in the desert to ...

Welcome the Spring
With all its Splendor.

All its Birds

and All its Blossoms.

All its Flowers

and Leaves,

and Grasses.

Until next time ... Bloom with Happiness ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

The flowers are so bright that I have to wear shades!