Malibu to Desert Hot Springs, CA Feb. 23 - March 7, 2013

Published: March 8th 2013
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We had a lovely time near the coast and now we have had a lovely time inland. The weather has been gorgeous, sunny, flirting with 80's but breezy enough to be delicious. Our new pocket pedometer is working well for us and we do aspire to get to 10,000 steps a day. Here in the Palm Springs area there are so many interesting things to do and see that we will consider returning someday.


California is in the national news a lot - we will henceforth notice that more. e.g., one evening we were headed out to eat and we saw a dark cloud in the distance which continued, and turned out to be smoke from a wildfire. When we got home, we found the NBC Nightly News pre-empted by live coverage of the fire. It was amazing to us to see that people in the neighborhood of the fire just calmly stood and watched it, rather than heading for the hills! And the next morning, the fire was the second feature story on CBS Morning News and the Pope's departure was the third.

A minor earthquake was reported not far from where we were, but it didn't even fluster these folks. The cop-killer-cop hunt was of course big national news. There was a high speed car chase in L.A. which riveted TV cameras. A young intern at a wildlife sanctuary near Fresno was just killed by a lion. The winds can be ferocious out here; it was just a small news item that a couple of people were killed by a truck blown out of its lane by the wind. Tonight there is a prediction of several inches of snow in the mountains which loom above us.

We have to admit that we have spent a substantial amount of time recently sunning next to pools. Lovely. Our current spot has several pools and hot springs; we originally booked four nights, but have kept extending it daily.

We spent a day in the northern part of Joshua Tree National Park. There are joshua trees in this part of the park, not in the southern part. They supposedly were so named by Mormons because they look like two arms outstretched heavenward. It is a wonderful park, with so very much to see and great roads and signs. We took several short hikes that day. One was to a hidden valley which made a great place for rustlers to hide stolen livestock. Another meandered through the desert terrain and educated us with signs about every kind of plant growing there. We drove to a high point overlooking the valley as far south as the Salton Sea. We walked a short way to a former oasis - a clump of the huge fan palms which are the natives of this area. Their lower parts are covered with fronds which face downward close to the trunk and provide refuge for many desert animals. We have seen few of those animals; John is constantly nervous about spotting snakes, but so far, so good.

En route back from Joshua Tree, we drove many miles north to visit Gruber's Orchid Farms. John has considered that when we are finally unable to travel as much, he would like to grow orchids. The Grubers immigrated from Switzerland and, after several attempts, found this spot which seems to be in the middle of nowhere, with perfect conditions for raising orchids. Their business has grown so that they supply Home Depot, Lowe's, Trader Joe's, etc. We wondered about the delivery trucks driving so far to pick up the orchids for shipping! We had a nice tour and saw lots of colorful plants.

Perhaps the most fascinating stories we have heard so far are about Cabot Yerxa, whose parents came from the Netherlands to an Indian reservation in South Dakota. He lived there and in Cuba with them, and then at age 16 made the first of his two trips to Alaska during the Gold Rush. He was a successful entrepreneur. He studied art for a few years in Paris. He had developed a fascination with the desert and finally settled here near what would become Desert Hot Springs - because he discovered the hot water beneath the desert floor. After growing weary of traveling 14 miles round trip every fourth day or so to get water, he tried to drill into the ground to find water. He succeeded. In fact, he found cold water and then drilled in another spot not so far away and found boiling hot water. It seems he had happened upon a spot exactly where the Pacific and North American tectonic plates meet in one of the branches of the San Andreas Fault. On one plate the water was cool and on the other plate it was hot. Anyway, at age 55, he embarked on building a 35 room adobe dwelling and artist colony which we visited. He scavenged all the materials in the desert so that no two doors or windows are alike. He made bricks. He simply used everything he could find, somehow. And he ordered a pale blue bathtub from a Sears catalog for his wife. What a place!

It is a bit concerning to be on the San Andreas fault, when it is considered to be overdue for a quake...

We spent a long morning at the Living Desert Museum which sets out sections devoted to different deserts, containing plants grown in each. John even mustered courage to attend a snake exhibit, but he would not touch a snake when it was carried around for us. The museum has a very large outdoor model railroad layout, run by the usual sort of model railroad afficionados.

We went to the Indian Canyons and hiked a few miles at the Palm Canyon. It was so neat to see the extensive stand of palm trees which grow near a stream; no wonder people would enjoy being there!

We also took a short hike in a wildlife sanctuary in the Indio Hills. The weather has been so hospitable; quite warm but with a gentle cooling breeze.

We continue to travel with our heads scanning the terrain back and forth. We don't chat much on the road, and we rarely turn on the radio. We simply immerse ourselves in being where we are and seeing what we can see. I found a quote in a newspaper which expresses the feeling far better than I have: "Travel is like a good, challenging book: it demands presentness - the ability to live completely in the moment, absorbed in the words or vision of reality before you." Yes. Resist distractions.

We are staying about 12 miles out of Palm Springs, mostly north. When we drive into town, our view is of the hundreds of windmills in the valley. Last night, driving back after dark, the valley was polka dotted with the red warning lights on the giant structures. The mountains which rise steeply just at the edge of town make a dramatic backdrop. We tried to relocate closer to town, but places are full - so many events occur here, e.g. golf and tennis tournaments, fashion week, fundraisers (a polo party is scheduled soon). We have enjoyed strolling in Palm Springs and have even eaten there several times, sitting at outside tables figuring out who are the tourists and who are the natives of this elegant town.

On a Sunday morning we went to a "street fair" which is held every Saturday and Sunday at a college here. Food, produce, jewelry, clothing, etc. etc. I only bought one thing, a bag of raisins. I had never before seen raisins that were labeled with their origins, but these are "red flame raisins." They are very plump and sweet, and I get such a kick out of the fact that my Uncle John invented red flames when he was at the USDA startion in Fresno.

After the Fair, we enjoyed a visit with Mary and Cliff Merklee from Durham. They have a "double-wide" in Cathedral City next to Palm Springs, and thrive in the desert sun for several months each year.

Thursday nights several blocks of downtown Palm Springs are closed off for a street fair, somewhat like the one on Sunday, though with many more food stands. We strolled (actually manoeuvred our way through the crowds) through that affair. We also took advantage of the free admission 4 - 8 PM Thursdays to the Palm Springs Art Museum. It is a beautiful museum, with a preponderance of modern American art.

We are looking forward to visiting my brother and his wife in Phoenix, but we might delay our trip for another day because it is raining. (The mountains are now white-capped. Beautiful!!!) That is certainly a bigger deal out here than it is at home, because rain and wind can cause big driving problems. After that, John anticipates one of the highlights of the whole trip for him: sitting outside in the sun at a bar in Flagstaff, sipping a Guinness, watching the trains pass about 200 feet away - and the lovely coeds from Northern Arizona University...


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