Palm Springs

7th July – 248 miles from Lake Havasu, Arizona, to Palm Springs, California

Setting off from Lake Havasu, we picked up highway 62, a lonely and dusty road that took us into California. The road was flat and ruler straight, flanked by unbroken desert stretching to the distant mountains.

Entering California. Photo by Spencer

Every now and then we’d see a home off to the side of the road, sometimes miles from the nearest neighbour, and often little more than a shack. It was hard to imagine who would want to live in such a remote and unforgiving landscape.

We stopped for lunch in the town of Twentynine Palms, which was distinctly uninspiring. We ate in a McDonalds and didn’t linger for long. There was clearly a large military presence in the town, with many businesses advertising discounts for service personnel and an abundance of jeeps driven by men in fatigues with buzz cut hair.

After lunch we attempted to see the Joshua Tree National Park, but at the first stop we were plagued by a storm of flies that put me off continuing. I must admit to allowing the flies to thoroughly annoy me, and we left the park in a mood, made worse by the flies that had managed to find their way into the car.

The failed attempt to explore Joshua Tree meant that we got to our destination in Palm Springs by mid afternoon. Palm Springs is primarily a resort for winter visitors escaping the cold, and in the summer the accommodation was cheap. We were able to stay in a slightly nicer hotel than usual for a bargain rate, which improved my mood somewhat.

Our Palm Springs accommodation

A pleasant wander around the town in the early evening, followed by a good meal and a few beers, further improved things. Even late into the evening it was very hot, and the bars and restaurants were all spritzing water into the air in an attempt to beat the heat. The water spritzers were the hot weather equivalent of patio heaters outside of pubs in the UK, and not very effective, but we were sufficiently acclimatised to the heat to enjoy sitting outside and people watching while we drank.

8th July – 14 miles around Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

We spent two nights in Palm Springs, and spent the day there visiting Mt. San Jacinto State Park. The park is reached by the Aerial Tramway, which rises from the desert floor to climb almost 6000 feet in two and an half miles.

The temperatures at the top were much cooler, and made hiking the trails through the alpine forest at the top a pleasant experience.

Views over Palm Springs from Mount San Jacinto

After taking the short trails to see the main viewpoints, we ate a hearty lunch in the cafe before setting off for a longer walk through the woods. Apart from passing a scout troop at one point, we had the trail pretty much to ourselves and it was wonderfully quiet and peaceful. It turned out that permits were actually required for the longer back country walks, including the trail that we were on, but we must have missed the sign going in.

Returning to the motel, we had a rest, freshened up, and repeated our bar crawl of the previous night, ending up in a fairly generic chain bar with great acoustic live music.

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