Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Lorraine and I met up with my sister and her partner to spend the day hiking Mount San Jacinto State Park. If you are ever in the Palm Springs area, I highly recommend the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It will take you up to the State Park in style.

The tramway features the world’s largest rotating tram car. The tram car is quite large and can hold about 80 people.

We paid $8 USD to park our car and $26 USD per person for the tram car ride.

The ride to the top of the mountain takes about ten minutes or so. You will travel about two and a half miles up the cliffs of the Chino Canyon. Once you ascend to the station, you will find over 50 miles of hiking.

A few tips if you decide to experience the tramway.

Expect crowds, especially if you go during peak times, between 11am and 3pm. It took us almost 40 minutes from the time we left our car in the parking lot to the time we boarded the tram car. We went on a Friday morning and the place was packed. I suspect it would be much worse on a Saturday or Sunday.

What I noticed on the way down is that the park emptied out by around 4pm. You might find fewer crowds during the week if you go later in the day. Last tram up at 8pm and last tram down at 9:45pm.

Be prepared. The Mountain Station sits at an elevation of 8,516 feet.

That means two things.

One, it will be much colder at the top, perhaps as much as 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit colder, than at the base of the tramway. Dress appropriately. And make sure you bring along some basic hiking supplies, especially water and good hiking shoes.

Two, and this doesn’t get mentioned on their website, you might get sick. I did. The altitude sickness hit me quite hard soon after we left the park. Severe headache, nausea. It passed after a day. Altitude sickness may become an issue especially if you are not acclimated to higher altitudes and/or you exert yourself too hard at higher altitudes.

When we were there, the trails were snow covered. The weather was beautiful though. No wind. And even though the temperature was in the low 40s Fahrenheit — around 6 Celsius — we did not feel the cold. We had our hiking gear. In my case I had a base layer for warmth and two layers of outerwear along with waterproof hiking boots, a backpack with the usual supplies for hiking and, of course, one of my cameras.

Along the way, we met a family from Saskatchewan, Canada. Mom and daughter were out hiking in open-toed Birkenstocks. They seemed surprised by all of the snow and the difficult hiking conditions despite this sign that greeted visitors on the way into the park.

In just a few hours we went from the heat of the Coachella Valley to a snow-covered mountain.

My poor left foot. I could barely walk on it after the hiking. I might have to get this foot looked at once we return to Canada. Nonetheless, just another one of those perfect days. I so enjoyed the time with my sister and her partner. Such a wonderful couple.

A few more shots from Mount San Jacinto. A stunning place to visit.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

“Are you here for the wildflowers?” the nice lady behind the counter at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park asked. We were. Along with what seemed to be Disney-sized crowds at the visitor’s center.

We expect hiking in the desert to be a bit of an isolated experience. The wildflowers clearly draw in much larger crowds.

We bravely faced the mob and raced them out to Hellhole Canyon Trail. Lost them in our dust the poor things.

I pressed a bit too hard today. I have been battling a bad left foot. And, after a pretty ambitious hike, my foot not only lost the battle, but lost the war. I am in a lot of pain as I write this post.

However, I did limp out with some wonderful shots of the Anza-Borrego Desert.

Wildflowers are the big draw. And they were impressive.

Yes, there were a few cacti here and there. I was not attached to any. Thankfully.

Some areas of the desert showed a bit of yellow.

Other areas had a carpet of yellow.

We took the trail most of the way to Maidenhair Falls. Roughly 5 miles with an elevation gain of 970 feet. Towards the end of the trail, we were literally clambering on and over boulders through a very narrow crevice in the canyon.

It was as advertised: a hellhole.

It did not look that way as we started the hike. Indeed, it seemed very friendly and inviting.

We came across several buried bodies on our way. Good thing we had brought along enough water.

Then came another, rather ominous sign.

I will spare you the gory details of what happened next. Too unpleasant to mention.

Back to wildflowers. Bright, beautiful and happy wildflowers.

The wildflowers really did blanket the desert floor creating a sharp counterpoint to the mountains in the background.

The temperatures in Southern California are still on the cool side. The relatively moderate weather coupled with the recent rains really made for some impressive desert blooms.

Look at all those wildflowers! In a desert setting no less.

Joshua Tree National Park

Warren Peak. Elevation? 5,103 feet. It is the most western peak to exceed 5,000 feet in Joshua Tree National Park. Our hike was about 6 miles and we had over 1,000 feet of gain, most of it as we ascended the mountain.

This was our first visit to Joshua Tree National Park. There are several entrances into this park and, given that it spans over 790,000 acres, it does require a bit of planning before you go.

We had decided that we wanted to hike to Warren Peak and we entered through the western side of the park.

Joshua trees dominated the landscape for most of the hike. The name of the Joshua tree is said to have been given by the Mormons as they were crossing the Mojave desert. In the bible, there is a story about Joshua keeping his hands reached out for long periods of time to guide the Israelites. The Joshua tree has a very unique shape.

Most of the Joshua trees were flowering. You can see the light coloured panicles at the end of the branches.

Here, Lorraine stands in the middle of a forest of Joshua trees. This was about as dense a forest as we found on our hike.

There were cacti and, fortunately, we did not stick to any as we walked about the area. They were always nearby. I remained cautious as I wandered about taking pictures.

After a few hours on the trail, we came to a fork in the road. One arrow pointed to Warren’s Vista and the other to the peak.

Lorraine asked me if we were going to be ascending to the very peak of the mountain. My response was no way. It would not be safe.

We decided on the path to the peak. How far would the trail go? How far would we go? To the very top of course.

We began our ascent. And, as we increased our elevation, we began to see the vast expanse of mountains at eye level.

The ascent at this point in the hike does get challenging. The path becomes steeper and narrower and we took a number of breaks before reaching the very top of this mountain.

My favourite shot of the day shows Lorraine posting our successful ascent on Facebook. Yes, even here, we could connect to social media. When I joined Lorraine at the peak, my daughter called to wish me a happy birthday. We sent her some photos directly from the peak.

What does the view look like from up here? Absolutely stunning. Here are a few shots from the peak.

We enjoyed our lunch on top of the world and, reluctantly, made our way back to the trailhead.

Another perfect day.

Randall Henderson Trail

There are several national and state parks that we are going to hike while we are in this part of California. I mean, what better way to spend a day in the hot, dry desert then hiking in the hot, dry desert?

We decided to get our feet wet, sandy actually, as there was no water, hiking the Randall Henderson Trail in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains. A relatively easy hike with just a hint of elevation. 1,000 feet to start with a top elevation of 1,425 feet. We spent about an hour and a half walking the trail.

We head out to Joshua Tree National Park for the day today. Moderate temps and light winds. Should be a perfect day for hiking and photography. And I think Lorraine and I are more than ready for a longer day of hiking in this type of climate.

Here is the trailhead for Randall Henderson. There are three trail loops, Wash, Cholla and Canyon. We went on one of them. I have no idea which one of the three but we certainly walked through a wash, passed numerous chollas, and climbed up through a canyon.

In the distance, you can see the Coachella Valley. There you will find the city of Palm Desert. Civilization is only thirty minutes away. By car.

The desert wildflowers were starting to bloom. During this time of year, there are people chasing after wildflowers in the desert. Shooting them. With cameras.

For our hike, I decided to take out my prized Leica M10 with a Summicron 35mm F2 lens. That camera system is magical even when shooting in the early afternoon sun.

There were many wildflowers present throughout most of our hike.

Amazing how these flowers blossom in such a harsh environment.

And it is a harsh environment. Our trail was covered with Cylindropuntia Bigelovii, the teddy bear cholla. The teddy bear cholla is a cactus species native to this area of California.

Don’t they look cute?

Everywhere we looked, we found more teddy bear chollas.

Be very, very careful around this cholla, even if it is named after a teddy bear. There is nothing even remotely cuddly about the teddy bear cholla.

In case you need further proof about a close encounter with a cholla. All I can say is ouch!

We eventually found our way back to the visitor’s centre. Beautifully landscaped with some really cool palm trees.


Desert Shores

We made it. 2,500 miles. 11 days. 55 hours behind the wheel including fuel stops. And now we are in beautiful southern California at the stunning Desert Shores Motorcoach Resort.

This is our site for the next two months.

You can just make out the back of our coach on the side of our coach house.

A better view of the back of the coach.

Lots of space on the pad. We could easily fit four vehicles along with the coach in this driveway.

We do not have the use of the coach house during our stay. This site is for sale and the coach house does not have any furnishings.

It is a good size though, easily 1,000 square feet or more.

The front of the site includes a private pool and spa. I know, I know. We are living the tough life in retirement.

Each site is secluded. The landscaping provides isolation from the neighbouring sites.

And the views! We have water, palm trees and beautiful landscapes nestled amongst the mountains.

Getting ourselves settled in and looking forward to spending a few months here before making the long drive back to Canada in April.

Last driving video from The Motorcoach Resort in Chandler, Arizona to Desert Shores.

In the video, if you wonder what happened to all of the fruit that we removed from our coach, we gave it away to another family. It did not go to waste. And the state of California can breathe a little easier knowing that we did not illegally transport any restricted fruits.