Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 17-18 Escondido CA
Monday we stayed close to “home” and explored this area in our own way. This resort has 77 different lodging buildings. Our building is one of the newest. The total complex has close to 700 units with five recreation centers. Monday morning we checked out the swimming pools and chose our afternoon location to use the hot tub and pool.
After wandering around here, we headed out to Pala CA. Pala is home to a small mission church founded in 1816. It is the only mission continuously serving the original Native American population it was established to serve. It is not fancy but well maintained although it endured many rocky times over the years.
The Indians here also run a casino and hotel nearby where we had lunch. I do not know the economics but the reservation appears well maintained with numerous public service buildings of recent vintage. One is led to conclude that the casino is doing well and the profits being used to further the reservation and its citizens.
We drove back into the mountains and valleys of the area. Our drive led us to the Wilderness Gardens Preserve. This is a San Diego County open space preserve along the San Luis Rey River, although the river was dry today. The preserve runs along the flatlands by the river and up the nearby bluffs. Our footwear was only sandals so we limited ourselves to the shorter nature trail along the flatlands.
After the hike, we came back to the resort and relaxed by the pool. In the late afternoon, we visited the farmers market held each Monday at the resort. Nothing caught our fancy except for dinner; rotisserie chicken with rosemary roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables and fresh baked goods which we brought back to our unit.
Tuesday was much busier. Our destination was Palm Springs, 100 miles away. Our route there was along much of the Palms to Pines scenic byway through the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. Given the twisty, turny nature of the roads, it took us a while to get to Palm Springs.
Our journey cut off the northernmost part of the byway which may have had more pines. We came into the mountains from the west. The SR-SJ Mountains can reach as high as 10,800 feet, our portion went up over 8,000 feet. As for beauty, well, it is in the eye of the beholder. The rocks are not as colorful as Utah and the trees are not as green as the Rockies. But the combination and the transition from rock to vegetation is interesting. The Mountains’ hills and valleys are more visible due to fewer trees, so one observes the contours of the land more readily. The one walk we had time for allowed us to view the shrub/cacti combination on the hillside.
Descending into the Coachella Valley where Palm Springs is located, we first entered the town of Palm Desert. The contrast is striking. Tall palm trees grace smooth, wide roads with flowers and grass along the boulevard. Housing communities, whether mobile homes or fancy estates, lie behind stucco or adobe looking walls. The shopping district has upscale stores. The traffic signal lights on the main streets are timed to keep vehicles moving. The National Monument Visitor Center was closed on Monday and Tuesday, no chance to check it out for info or souvenirs.
Fifteen miles from Palm Desert was the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway which was our destination, not the fancy stores. The Tramway is an engineering feat. The tramway people, of course, call themselves an “Eighth Wonder of the World”. But it is pretty remarkable. The tram is only one of three rotating trams in the world, the only one is the Western Hemisphere. The tram makes two full rotations on its 11 minute journey. The tram’s base station is reached by driving up a two mile road that takes you from the elevation of 477 feet in Palm Springs to 2,643 feet. The tram then brings you to the mountain station at 8,516 feet, traveling over 12,000 feet cable length, over two miles. There are five towers supporting the cables. Each cable car holds 80 people.
Once we were at the mountain station, we spent some time at the observation decks prior to spending 90 minutes hiking up at the top. The trails took us into a valley area as well as desert overlooks that present the Coachella Valley. The tram actually drops you into San Jacinto State Park, so your hikes are in the park. Sort of a win-win situation; the tram owners get a gorgeous destination; the state park gets lots of visitors without paying for a road.
We did not descend until after sunset. We were not sure we would see any sunset color because clouds had started rolling in around 3 pm. But enough clearance developed to allow for some sunset “back” color to shine on the mountains to the east of the tramway-the actual sunset was blocked by the mountains.
The drive home was in the dark, half along freeways and half along back roads. Our Hertz rental has “Never-Lost” directional assistance which was helpful in the dark.
Chris and Ed Wednesday Nov. 19 for Nov. 17-18.