Let me first start by stating that I know the photos in this post are weak. For whatever reason, the Ansel Adams God of Outdoor Photography turned his back on me. But, they’re all I have, so just try to conjure up the feeling I’m trying to impart.
We rolled into Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, hoping to snag a campsite for three nights. Nope. The busy ML King three-day weekend meant that we could get a spot for Friday night only. Okay. But, there was no way we were going to leave without at least a brief exploratory hike in the morning before our departure. The Palm Canyon Hike promised a grove of palm trees in an oasis. We set off, through the hardscrabble desert, doubting every moment that the promised oasis would show itself.
But all of the sudden – there it was! We could first see a green cloud of palm tree tops in the distance. As we got closer, the sound of running water! Lush green vegetation springing up alongside the trail. It was outlandish and ridiculous. You’ll have to believe me, because the photos don’t capture the amazement of this spot. It was cool and dim, compared to the harsh light of the desert. The floor beneath the tree canopy was smooth. Ahhhh, so this is what an oasis is all about! It truly was unbelievable, made even better by the fact that we were the only ones there. OUR oasis.
What could make this hike better? John needed a boot adjustment about halfway back, and I took a good look around while we were stopped . Big horned sheep peering down at us from the ridge!! Can it get any better? One big one who stared us down for a long time, and a smaller one who flitted in and out of view. We stayed there for quite a long time. You’d think I could have gotten a decent photo, but the distance was a bit overwhelming for my camera.
We finally got on the road, and traveled through some remarkable territory. It seems that most of the huge Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is available for any type of two or four-wheeled motorized activity. Dozens (maybe hundreds) of dust-raising, noisy vehicles screaming alongside the road kick up dust storms that make breathing and driving miserable. Encampments of RVs, each with trailers full of ORVs are everywhere. If you love motorized sports, this is the place for you. Honestly, I can see how this might be fun. But…..what a mess. The land is a huge scar from geologic episodes, erosion, and (most recently) motorsports. We were happy to move on.
Lake Cahuilla Regional Park, near La Quinta was our home for the next two nights. For $15/night, we occupied a lakeside site in a huge gravel parking lot, with our own picnic table and firepit. The Lake is actually part of the regional irrigation system, and is a cement pond, with pumps and irrigation ditches leading away from it. What appears to be a swimming area flanks one side, and families fishing for carp ring the rest of the area. Sounds odd, but it really was a nice spot to camp. Our enjoyment was marred by the fact that our nearest neighbors, who were camping in a Dodge Caravan which had seen its best days years ago, ran their tin-can generator for hours every day. Ringing the Lake was a 7′ chain link fence, separating us from the fabulous Jack Nicklaus private golf course next door. While walking Jezzy, we could peer through the fence at the gorgeous emerald fairways, lined with bunkers and ponds. It was quite a contrast from the view on our own side of the fence.
If you are a fan of the game of golf, La Quinta is Mecca. There are signature courses by Greg Norman, Nicklaus, Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, in addition to the PGA West and TPC Stadium Courses. Everything revolves around golf. But, as I cycled around on a brilliantly sunny afternoon, all I was able to see were cement walls. All the communities, and all the golf courses are walled off. Bah! I did see these date palms, loaded with dates.In the Village of La Quinta, there was a Sunday Farmer’s Market, and a lively street scene. Lots of bikes at the coffee shop and tap room. Got an idea for how John and I can support ourselves in the coming years – a mobile bike repair truck (John), complete with coffee and/or a beer tap on the side (Judy). Tomorrow we move on to Joshua Tree National Park for five days. Monday is a free day at all the National Parks, one of 16 this year to celebrate their 100 year anniversary. It will probably be a circus for one day, but what a great way to say Happy Birthday.