Friday, November 27, 2015

November in Palm Springs

Julie and I were looking for something different to do around Thanksgiving, which is also Julie's birthday.  It is an awkward time here in Park City: cold and snowy, so you know fall (golfing, hiking, leaf colors, ...) is over but the real snow activities aren't here yet.  We decided to make our first trip to Palm Springs.

What I think of as Palm Springs is actually a nonstop string of towns, including Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, and La Quinta.  Here is a picture of town from a hike we took. The close stuff is Palm Springs but off in the distance you can see the next town or two.

If Mother Nature had her way, everything in Palm Springs would be brown and barren.  The hillsides certainly are. Mankind steps in though, plating palm trees everywhere and then throwing in a bunch of lush golf courses.

The palm trees are everywhere. They range from short little 3 footers to ones as tall as an oak tree.  In addition to the varieties, there seemed to be alternatives to pruning.  This one is medium height and pruned tight.

Much taller, with almost nothing up top.  Basically just a telephone pole with a little cap.

My favorites were the mid-sized trees, but with no pruning.  It looked like a palm beard and probably took decades to grow.  This one has an especially cute addition to the base.

We ended up playing two rounds of golf, both at the Tahquitz Resort course.  This was a recommendation from Steven Pierce, a Park City friend who travels south for golf fairly often.

Notice that Julie is in a skirt and short sleeves.  This was at about 9:00 in the morning.  The lows were around 55-60 and the highs were around 80.  NICE!!  This morning in Park City it was -3 when I got up.

The course was lush and beautiful.  It kind of makes me wonder how California will react when they really run short of water.  Palm Springs sucks water out of a big aquifer but their water rates are cheaper than Park City's.  Do they know they live in a desert?   They did a 36% cutback this year and if you use more than that, your rate doubles, but looking around town you would never guess.

It took me a bit to figure out why there was a motor floating around in the golf pond.  Turns out it is an air pump.  Attached to the other end is a diver grabbing thousands of golf balls, several of which were ours.

The highlight of our golfing was getting to ride the Golf Boards.  What a wonderful invention.  These beat the hell out of the normal golf cart we rode the first day out.  You could be playing a shitty round of golf and it just didn't matter!  If I lived on a golf course, I would have to have these.

By the way, the noise from the video is my golf clubs rattling.  They weren't loud but my iPhone was about 2 inches away from them.

There were lots of interesting things going on that we just stumbled into.  One was a large car auction with every sort of old, classic and exotic car or truck for sale. We didn't stay long, but it was fun to walk around. Fridays are free as long as you don't bid on anything.

On Thursdays, Palm Springs closes about 4 block of South Palm (its main street) for an arts and crafts festival.  It was well attended and within about 20 minutes walk of our hotel.

While I forgot to get a picture, we also had dinner with our Park City friends Jim and Don.  We were on the board of Friends of Animals together. They moved to Cathedral City about a year or two ago.  Their house is gorgeous and the dinner was wonderful.  It is so nice when you get to see old friends in a completely different setting.

One morning we hiked the South Lykken Trail.  With the distance too and from our hotel, it was about 7 miles.  At its start, you climb 900 feet in 1.5 miles. That gets you way above the valley floor and you can see for miles.

In the entire Palm Springs area, I think this was their celebration of Fall. It stood out so much, I noticed it from about a half mile away.

This was taken from a long ways from town, but you can see some of the downside of being downwind from Los Angeles.  That's all smog down there, not fog.

My lovely hiking buddy.

The only real photography I did was on an afternoon expedition to Joshua Tree National Park.  It is about an hour drive from Palm Springs, and an ugly drive at that.  If you haven't seen them before, these are the Joshua trees.


Big ones are about 30 feet tall and they range from almost a stick to a fairly full tree like this one.

In addition to the trees, there were lots of cacti.

While many of them were pretty, none looked particularly hospitable.


This one grew close to the ground and was almost camouflaged.  That could explain why I was taking a picture of a big pretty cactus when I backed into one of these.  Fortunately I just brushed it, but I took two 1.5" barbed spikes into the calf.  If you tripped on one of these, life would suck in a bad, bad way.

When we were driving from one site to the next, I noticed movement in the brush beside the road.  As we got closer, we saw a bighorn sheep.  He took off up the hillside before I could get out and grab his photo.  When we first saw him, he was only about 50 feet away.  There are bighorn sheep all through this area, but you don't tend to see them very often.

I always like to try and catch some photos at either sunrise or sunset.  Sunrise was out of the question to get to the right place, over an hour from our hotel, by 6:00am.  A 4:37pm sunset was a lot easier to arrange for.


A lot of the prettier pictures I saw of Joshua were the trees silhouetted against the sky.  The interesting shapes make a nice foreground. The challenge is to get the right sky.

There were some interesting clouds and I was hoping for a lot of color as the sun went down.  Unfortunately, the sun dropped below the horizon and there wasn't much of anything.

Then, right behind me, the full moon popped up.  Wasn't even looking for that one.

I tried numerous combinations of the Joshua trees and the moon, but I couldn't find anything that worked. I needed to find a distant tree, small enough to be in proportion with the moon, but that just wasn't possible with the landscape.

I gave up and got back into the car.


We were just about to leave when this happened!  I jumped out and shot as quickly as I could.  This kind of "very, very last light" tends to last about 2-3 minutes.

I wish I had known this was coming.  I think I could have lined up a few better shots, but I can't complain.

All variation of the same tree.

This shot was a little soft because it was actually too dark to see anything and I was shooting handheld.  Quite the sight to see though.

The next day we had breakfast and headed to the airport to come home, where it was snowing. That just didn't seem like a great idea at the time, or now for that matter.

Things to for me to remember:
  • The Hotel California was a great place to stay.  The owners were as nice as anyone could possibly be.  It was in decent walking distance to downtown and the room was very comfortable.
  • Elmer's was nice for breakfast.
  • Lulu's was a must do for lunch and/or dinner.  We did both.  In the same day.
  • Smokin' Burgers was good for sitting outside and watching football
  • Tropicale was an eclectic restaurant for dinner and drinks. 

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