Last week some of our family from the East Coast came for their annual summer visit. They find our desert home with closeup mountain views and our pool, spa, palms, and other flora all rather exotic. Sunny days, along with our mister cooling system, invite them out to swim and read all day. They’re amazed that it’s sunny EVERY day, as in Steve Martin’s forecast in his film LA Story. Other years we’ve explored the Living Desert, the Palm Springs Tram, Joshua Tree National Park, and the crazy switchbacks up Hwy 74 to have a lunch in the mountains at Idyllwild. We’ve also been to Disneyland, Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier for their first view of the Pacific, and to the campus of UCLA – all two hours away. I once brought them back through downtown LA just to see and admire the impressive Disney Hall with its swooping stainless steel walls, designed by Frank Gehry.
This year we took a jeep tour of canyons near Indio where Native American peoples thrived for hundreds, if not thousands of years. These canyons offer a natural oasis, still providing sources of water, and cool shelter under Washingtonian palms (also called California Fan Palms) which grow naturally and in abundance there. The rock formations are striking, showing great upheavals and a buckling of the earth in past centuries. The day we visited, we spotted a rare white horned owl, a gila monster, a desert hare, and a smaller rabbit, along with various tiny lizards. There were snake tracks in the sand, and the possibility of spotting a wild cougar. We even visited buildings from an abandoned mining camp from a more recent period, and we panned for gold. Tiny, tiny chips of gold.
Later in the week, closer to home, we hiked on Indian lands in Andreas Canyon, right here in Palm Springs. Again, we found the great California fan palms growing wild along the banks of a stream. The trees still have their impressive “skirts” of dead palm fronds not yet detached. While hiking up the trail alongside the canyon walls, it was quite hot in the sun with temperatures hovering around 105, but when under the palms and with our feet lazily dangling in the water, we were cool and comfortable. It’s remarkable that our busy, modern communities are so very, very close to these beautiful, serene, and centuries-old sites.