Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Palm Springs and Palm Springs

After 5 days in the natural beauty of Joshua Tree National Park, we decided to fully immerse ourselves in the opposite extreme of desert life: we headed into Palm Springs, CA. We passed giant fields of windmills which provide some electricity to Palm Springs and surrounding desert cities.

Cities require both energy and water, and Palm Springs uses copious amounts of H2O to transform the desert into a verdant valley. There are green golf courses (one after another) and fountains and pools everywhere in this urban oasis. The streets are lined with bright green grass and beautiful flowers.

The valley which cradles Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and other towns is also home to (and created by) the San Andreas Fault. This fact, coupled with the high water demand in the middle of the desert, makes this area seem very precarious to me. Nonetheless, we indulged in a night at the Spa Casino Resort.

We didn't do any gambling during our brief stay, but we did enjoy a nice soak in their huge hot tubs, which are fed by natural underground hot springs.

The next morning, we headed to the botanical garden and "cactarium" that was down the road. This place was really neat, and we all had a great time finding spiny surprises around each bend. It reminded me of a desert version of "Mountain Gardens" in Celo, or the "Gulf Specimen Marine Lab" in Panacea, FL that we visited last spring. It was not real fancy, but it had a huge variety of life that you could get up close to and touch - if you dare!

This cactus "touched" Adalaya back!

The botanical garden was arranged around a winding pathway, and exhibited various desert ecosystems from around the world.

There were all kinds of desert treats to behold.
The world's first cactarium . . .

desert tortises . . .

and even a fossilized dinosaur footprint?

We continued south for a few more miles and entered the Agua Caliente Reservation, home to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. They are named after the hot springs which are now located under the Spa Casino Resort, whereas the city of Palm Springs is named after the several palm-oases that are now contained in the reservation. At the heart of the reservation is the largest "California-Palm" oasis on earth, appropriately named Palm Canyon Oasis. This is not the best photo, but it will give you an idea of the size of this oasis.

We spent most of our time exploring another canyon oasis which has a more consistent flow of water from the mountains during this time of year. Andreas Canyon Oasis is a palm-lined stream located behind an uplifted wall of red rock.

It felt amazing to be walking along a cold, clear, bubbling mountain stream, surrounded by massive palm trees, in the midst of the desert. It made Adalaya and me feel quite energetic and bubbly too!

Here are some neat stone houses built above this "Palm Spring", as seen from the farthest point we were allowed to venture on the trail.

There is also a huge slab of rock at the base of the trail, and scattered on its surface are many ancient mortars for pounding grain.

What an extraordinary and magical place!

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