A Bit of a California Hodge-Podge

This entry will finish off some notes made as we arrived in California and finish with a 6000′ climb in a gondola from the desert floor (near Palm Springs) to the top of the San Jacinto mountains. The temperature dropped about 40 degrees that afternoon and we were actually a bit chilly at the top. We walked some of the trails upon the mountain and then rode back to a warm Palm Springs and palm Desert. 

When arriving in California, you land at LAX and everything is as you expected. The descent to the airport shows a dry desert changing into a dry suburban and industrial vista that goes on for miles and miles. There is nothing nice about flying in to Los Angeles. Renting the car, bait-and-switch at its very best, is finally accomplished and the freeways are much like the aerial vista – tired, rough, dry, and crowded. The fine for traveling in the car-pool lane with less than two people in the vehicle is $341. Another nice round California number is that for littering; $142. Given the current economic state of affairs I would round them off to $350 and $150 and then enforce them. We used our GPS (named Rhoda because she knows all the roads) and headed east as quickly as conditions allowed.
We drove east on a few of the freeways and eventually reached the pleasant city of Riverside. We bought a take-out lunch and ate at a city park where watched the Acorn Woodpeckers stashing acorns in the dead pine with thousands of holes in it. From Riverside on to our immediate destination consisted small roads a continual ascent. Idyllwild is at about 5300’ and the nearby Humber park is at 6000’ and Black Mountain is even higher. We arrived at Quiet Creek where we got the key to Birdsong, our cabin home for four days. We settled in and all was well.

The pine trees are splendid here – cones that weigh 3-4 pounds or are more than a foot long are common. Limber Pine can be tied in knots and the Yellow Pines smell like vanilla. The lower two images (above) are from Black Mountain just north of Pine Cove where we visited the fire tower lady and her tower-top hummingbird feeders.

Leaving the mountains the descent to the desert is a wonderful ride and experience. If driven directly it takes only an hour; of course we took most of the day. Once in Palm Desert and after driving around for a few days it is easy to appreciate the grid of highways and streets; all roads are wide and easy to drive. As you head north from the Coachella Valley the wind forms in the narrowing valley. It is this feature that has allowed the state to develop wind farms – lots and lots of wind farms. It is almost dream-like, something from a science fiction movie, to see the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of wind towers. Some are tall and others short.

California is often the butt of jokes but it is a place of splendor and variety. The Salton Sea is in a hole well below sea level and an hour away is a tram to 8000′. There are desert bighorn sheep within the city limits here and there are life zones and habitats spread across the landscape in a manner seen only rarely around the country. Perhaps Mount Lemmon in Tucson has a similar range, but not too many other places. The air may be hot but it is dry. Mummification may be the wave of the future here if cremation gets too expensive. Anything you was at night is dry in the morning – no moisture, no dew. We are enjoying ourselves and are usually to busy or too tired to dine as well as we could.

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