We departed Anthony, NM on a beautiful sunny morning heading west on I-10, traveling through New Mexico and Arizona, stopping for the evening at an extremely noisy truck stop and enjoyed a very truck stop-like dinner of country-fried steak at Denny’s. But hey, at least it was not tacos! We awoke early and continued through the Arizona desert to the California desert. After several hours of driving we approached the top of our final mountain, and were delighted with the view of the green vistas of Coachella Valley.
As we approached the valley, signs of the desert began to appear intermingled with areas of trees and vegetation. We continued on to our home for the next several weeks, Sam’s Family Spa on the outskirts of the city of Desert Hot Springs. DHS, as it is known around here, is located in Riverside County and has a population of around 26,000 which tends to swell in the winter as the western snowbirds, both American and Canadian, swarm the area in their RV’s to enjoy both the mild temps and natural hot springs. DHS has two separate aquifers divided by the Mission Creek Fault, part of the San Andreas Fault Line. One has several natural hot springs, and the other is a cold water aquifer which provides the city and neighboring areas with their drinking water. Being located on a fault line makes the area susceptible to earthquakes, but the last serious one here was in 1948 with a magnitude of 6.3 on the Richter Scale. The shock was felt from the central coast of California to the Baja Peninsula in south. Damage was not severe, but some serious injuries did occur, there was a landslide in the nearby town of Indio, and aftershocks continued until 1957.
During our stay here we have enjoyed several hikes in the area, the most notable located in the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve. The preserve has around 20,000 acres of desert wilderness, wildlife, and trails. The San Andreas Fault runs through it, and it has a bona fide oasis with water smack in the middle of the desert wilderness. The trail system is vast and we hope to get a few more hikes in the area before we depart this desert wonderland.
Another cool spot we visited during our stay was Joshua Tree National Park. Here two desert ecosystems, the Mojave and Colorado come together. It is immense, nearly 800,000 acres. Rainfall, as in DHS, is sparse and unpredictable. (although oddly enough, it IS raining as I compose this post!). In the higher, slightly cooler, and wetter portion, the Mojave, is where the Joshua Tree grows. The lower, dry Colorado has several forms of cactus plants. There are also five fan palm oases in the park where water occurs naturally at the surfaces or close below supporting the trees and wildlife. The hike we chose on that day was deemed moderate, but I would have stated it moderate to difficult. Oddly enough, as we stopped to converse with some fellow hikers we were surprised to discover, they too were from Michigan, and a couple of them went to Western Michigan University located in our hometown of Kalamazoo. It is indeed a small world!
We have also ventured into the neighboring community of Palm Springs, a former hot spot for the Hollywood elite, and it names many of it’s roads after the likes of Bob Hope, Dinah Shore, and Kirk Douglas. Palm Springs has it’s own Walk of Stars downtown, and hosts an annual International Film Festival, but I find it’s glamour somewhat faded in contrast to the times when the Rat Pack would tear up the town.
Speaking of celebrities, I have to mention the local VFW where we often stop for refreshment. It seems the building and several of the surrounding bungalows were owned by silent film star Mary Pickford. The building housing the VFW was the gathering spot she and her cronies would gather to get their party on when away from Hollywood. History is everywhere!
One of the reasons we are here in sunny California, is the fact that our son Travis, daughter-in-law Jami, and grandson Asher are just a couple hours away over in Culver City near Los Angeles. We have traveled to their house a few times,(our NC kids came in around the holidays as well!) enjoying some good dining, bike rides, hikes, beach time, and just good old-fashioned hang with the family time. They ventured out here one weekend, and although it was chilly they managed some pool time, Travis and Bruce tore up the links, Jami and I hit a movie, then we enjoyed dinner at a great Palm Springs upscale pizza place. The next day we met up at a pub adorned in our Detroit Lions gear to watch the game and enjoy wings and beer, but alas, despite our support the Lions were defeated by Green Bay. Asher was on winter break at this time so we stole him away for a couple days in the desert where we enjoyed some pool time and a trip to the Living Desert Zoo. We met back up in San Diego on New Years Eve, and took a nice walk along the coast where we got to see some seals and sea lions. We spent the night nearby, and watched the NY Eve shows on TV. None of us stayed awake to actually see the NY in, but we had a great time.
We only have a couple weeks left here in Cali. Time for a couple more family visits, a few hikes, a baseball game with some newfound Canadian friends, and maybe a drink or two at that VFW where the ghosts of long dead Hollywood legends still roam.