Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Palm Springs - Last Day

How to spend my last day? Well yesterday was pretty lazy and tomorrow will be dominated by sitting and standing in line: at the airport, on the plane, at the airport. I decided to go for another hike so I drove, again, out to the Coachella Valley Preserve. This time I added a bit of the Moon Country Trail to the McCallum Trail. I was there about an hour earlier than last time and found it to be even busier (smart people hike in the morning here).
I started out through the oasis and up the wash and then branched out on to a different wash, up the canyon to the South of the trail I took last time. There was nobody on this trail and I felt as if I really was hiking in the high desert.
The footing in the wash is pretty loose and gravely, makes for slow going.
I hiked up the wash and then followed the next loop of the trail up to Vista Point. There were panoramic views up there and nobody else. There was also a lovely breeze. It almost lured me in to climbing up higher but from there I could see how far I had to go to get back to the oasis so decided that was enough for the day. Besides they state a half way rule here; if you are half way through your water supply (and I was), you turn back.

I walked down to McCallum Pond Oasis because I wanted some shade before I started back.
It was lovely, cool and quiet, with just the sound of birds rustling in the palm skirts.
In total I probably walked about 3 and a half miles but the footing was rougher than last time and part of it was up hill so I felt like I had had a pretty good workout.
I picked up a sandwich to eat on the plane home and came home to pack and swim (not necessarily in that order).
You have to know your palms around here. On Monday I drove out on 1000 Palms Canyon Drive and came home on Date Palm Drive. There is also East Palm Canyon Drive and South Palm Canyon Drive (they are not the same road) as well as a city called Palm Springs, one called Palm Desert and one called Thousand Palms. You also have to know your celebrities. Today I drove on Dean Martin Drive, Dinah Shore Drive and Frank Sinatra Drive. On the way I crossed Gerald Ford Drive and Bob Hope Drive.
This has been a lovely respite from the cold, snowy and windy winter we have had in Ontario and I can't thank Eve enough for the invitation and hospitality.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Palm Springs - Lazy Day

I just have one more day before I have to come home so decided to dedicate today to relaxing in the sun. I did go to an hour and a half yoga class this morning but then came home and lazed. I planned on doing a little watercolour painting (something I am trying to get comfortable with). I did sketch a little but could not motivate myself to paint so my watercolours will make the trip back again, unused.
As todays schedule did not lend itself to picture taking I will just post some random shots from previous days.
Taken yesterday from the McCallum Pond towards the Chocolate Mountains.
I can't stop taking pictures of the mountains. I wish the camera did a better job of capturing the
colours. They are browns (from beige through to a rich cocoa), greens (from moss to a yellow)
 and mauves. That's in full afternoon sunlight, they of course change when its a hazy day and
at sunrise and sunset.
This is a kind of yucca.
This little hummingbird likes to hang out on the cactus in the front yard. He's there when we drive
in the driveway or open the front door. He's there so much there is a worn area on the cactus. I
think he is a young male ruby throated. He's our "greeter"

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Palm Springs - Coachella Valley Preserve

Last night the sunset looked like the mountain was on fire. I noticed as I was sitting outside reading and by the time I had retrieved my camera from inside, it was starting to fade.

Today I went for a hike at the Coachella Valley Preserve. As I was hiking alone I thought it best to go on a day that there were likely to be a lot of people around. The opposite of my usual preference. Because I didn't know exactly how far it was or what to expect I over prepared for what was actually a pretty short hike - I gassed up the car, sunscreened myself, packed water, an apple, a granola bar, my phone, my hat, my sketch book and pen and a hiking stick. All for what turned out to be, a 2.5 mile hike.
The preserve is North of Palm Springs, on the other side of the highway and driving out I went from the lush residential areas into the sparse desert and foothills in about 20 minutes. There is a little visitors centre at Thousand Palms Oasis where I got a trail map and was advised, as it was my first time, to take the McCallum Trail that went from one oasis to another, was well marked and travelled and had some information signage along the way.
The trail followed along one of the faults that contributes to the San Andreas fault. These faults create areas where water is forced up to the surface and lush vegetation grows around the seeps and ponds created.
Thousand Palm Oasis, start of the trail. These are California Fan Palms, native to California,
found all over the valley but they usually have their "skirts" trimmed to tidy them up in the
residential areas. These are left natural to provide habitat. The biggest ones are about 150 years old.
Wooden boardwalks are provided on the trail, over the ponds and marshy parts of the oases
but there is till running water over the trail at times.
This is a Creosote Bush, part of the sparse and scrubby vegetation in the desert area between
the two oases. These grow wherever the land is not yet developed in the Palm Springs area.

The trail goes through a desert "wash" where flash floods have created a dry river bed. This
area sustains slightly different vegetation.
Nearly at the McCallum Pond Oasis
This oasis had more open water though still an abundance of reeds and bull rushes.
There were picnic tables and some nice shady places to sit.
It was about 80 degrees today and I got to the Preserve at about 11:30, so was walking the trail in the heat of the day. It wasn't uncomfortable but I was glad to have the hat and the water. It was dramatic, how much cooler it was in the shade of the palms, next to the water, almost chilly.
An Ocotillo shrub. We saw these in the Joshua Tree Park, last year. They look like sticks until it
rains. Then they flower and leaf briefly before returning to their stick state until the next rain.
We haven't had any rain but this Ocotillo bush was starting to flower. I suppose it is
because it is early spring here and there is water seeping up from the fault line.
Returning to the Thousand Palms Oasis
The hike took about an hour and a quarter but I stopped frequently to take pictures and try and see the birds that I could hear.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Palm Springs - the neighbourhood and Eve flies home.

Eve left today, to be home in time for Anna`s funeral. We spent the morning tidying and making sure the house is ready for the next people to stay here. Even though I am going to be here for another few days there were some logistics to be thought out. We also took Bentley for a last walk around the neighbourhood.
Rick and Eve`s place is in a gated community, around 10 years old. The houses, like most in the Palm Springs area, are all single story. Some back on to a man made lake. They are all required to have a consistent look, in keeping with the community.
Eve and Bentley in the foreground. The San Jacinto mountains in the background, that we can see from
their backyard. It is a great neighbourhood to walk around.
There are common areas where anyone can sit and enjoy the view of the lake and the mountains.
Some people have small boats, pedal boats and kayaks to use on the lake.
Each of these areas has a waterfall going into the lake, some grass, a place to sit,
 trees, shrubs and some flowerbeds. At this point they are planted with poppies,
pansies, snap dragons and other annuals.
After a quick lunch I drove Eve and Bentley to the airport. My first time driving her car which made me a little nervous. After dropping them off I negotiated a grocery store for some supplies to last me `til I leave and went in search of a fan for one of the bedrooms. Well its not the season for fans. I tried 3 stores. I figured Walmart would be the best bet but they had a huge display of heaters and another full row of fireplace logs. Even though it is in the 70s and 80s here, its still winter, and fans wont come in until April. I`ll keep looking, it gives me an excuse to  go into stores, but I am not particularly optimistic at this point.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Palm Springs - Two Bunch Palms Spa, Desert Hot Springs

We went to the Thursday night market in downtown Palm Springs, again, last night. This time with intention. I was returning to buy some ear rings that I had seen last week. Eve wanted a scarf that, when soaked in water, keeps you cool for hours. We both were in search of some good guacamole. Eve's last before flying home on Saturday.
Eve's marguerita, my red wine and great guacamole, at Casuelas Nuevo. I have to
confess that with a plate of refried beans, this was dinner.
Today we got up early and were at Two Bunch Palms Spa, in Desert Hot Springs by 8:45. We purchased a day pass which included the days scheduled events, lunch and a treatment. We were just in time for an hour long yoga class in the yoga dome, a circular thatched building. From that we went up to the bar for the juicing class, where a nutritionist discussed the healing benefits of various ingredients to juice. We also had a delicious juice she had made from beets, carrots, celery, lemon and parsley. After that we changed into our bathing suits and went to the grotto.
The grotto is central to the spa as it is where the hot mineral water is pumped into a free form pool. One pool is hotter than the other. Both are divine.
The grotto. This part of the pool is about 99 degrees, the one round the corner is about 102.
This is the view as you float in the warm mineral water, pool noodles provided. I don't
need a noodle to float, something about my fat content.
With my ears under water, floating restfully, I could only hear the tinkling of the waterfalls trickling into the pool and the in and out of my breath. It was so relaxing. We spent about an hour and a half in and out of the water and lounging.
Next we went for lunch in the newly renovated restaurant with a fabulous view across the valley. I had an avocado and asparagus salad and Eve a lentil and beet burger with a side of sweet potato fries. I was too distracted by the food to take pictures except for the bread and oil and vinegar which looked like a work of art.
It not only looks good, it was good!
Following lunch we went down to the spa for the treatment we had chosen. We were met by 2 women who took us to the mud bath area. We stepped into the hut and recoiled in disgust. In front of us were 2 cement baths full of the most disgusting looking, and smelling, hot peat moss. We alternated between laughing and gagging as we were taught how to get in and cover ourselves with this disgusting concoction. The muck felt like being supported in warm jello. The consistency however was rough, more like manure (and smelled like that too). The front wall of the hut was opened up so we had a lovely view of the trees and to let some fresh air in! We were disgusted again as we maneuvered ourselves out of the slop, half an hour later, and showered off in the next room. Note: there are no pictures of this. We tried but I think the camera refused, and I don't blame it (the shutter wouldn't work while it was holding its nose).
Next we were taken into another hut, laid on a nice bed, rubbed with Arnica oil, wrapped in warm blankets and given a bit of a neck and foot massage. It made up for the mud. We felt relaxed and our skin smooth as we spent another hour or so at the grotto and wandering the grounds.
Two Bunch Palms is one of the older spas and has lovely mature grounds with large palm and tamarisk trees, ponds and waterfalls, hammocks by the pond and a labyrinth.
Rumour has it this is where Al Capone hid out.
Late in the afternoon we left and returned home for Eve to complete her packing.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Palm Springs - Goodbye Anna Suddaby

Today, just as we reached the dog park, Eve received a phone call that Rick's mother, Anna, had passed away. This was a call that we had expected but it makes inconsequential blogging about my experiences in California.
I have known Anna as long as I have known Rick, more than 30 years. I would meet her at parties hosted by her and Ed, or at Rick and Eve's or at the Suddaby cottage. She was unfailingly cheerful and welcoming. She was the life and soul of the party but in quieter way than her more boisterous husband. Eddie died about 3 years ago. She was very family oriented, close to her children and grandchildren and all their friends. Although her last few years have been marred by confusion and forgetfulness, Eve reports that she continued to be a basically happy person who enjoyed her life.
She passed away surrounded by her children and grandchildren and from all reports was warm, comfortable, peaceful and aware at the end.
My condolences to all who knew Anna, it is always sad. She was well loved and will be well missed.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Palm Springs - Goodbye Anita

Anita flew home today and we had to make the most of her remaining morning. After I did some yoga on the patio and Eve walked Bentley, we had breakfast at a large deli called Shermans. The servings were huge and Anita ended up taking half her sandwich on the plane with her. Sorry, no picture of my meal because I didn't think a chicken liver omelette would be that photogenic. On the way to the airport we had to do some more last minute shopping and then were able to drop Anita right at the door.
From there it was up the valley to a huge outlet mall for Eve to return something and just a little more shopping. It was very windy up in the San Gorgonio pass. This is where the cool, damp air from the coast rises up, through the pass, to the hot dry air of the desert. This often results in big winds. According to Wiki this is one of the windiest places in California. Currently there is a high wind warning, more than 50 miles an hour. The pass is therefore a perfect location for windmills and there are thousands of them ( more than 3 thousand), of all shapes and sizes.

From Hwy 10, that goes through the pass and down to Los Angeles.
Row on row
We decided we really didn't need to shop any more and went and had a manicure and pedicure. So relaxing. I love the massage component of this service as much as I love the painted nails. So now my toe nails match my wine. How colour co-ordinated can I get.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Palm Springs - Cabot's Pueblo Museum

We had our usual slow start, which for me was a couple of cups of coffee, a run in the neighbourhood, a swim, hot tub, walk Bentley then breakfast.
Breakfast was a culmination of more than a weeks planning. Eve and Anita bought a crepe cookbook
and a crepe pan before I arrived. We have perused the cookbook a number of times. Bought the
ingredients a few days ago but have been too tired in the evening to make them. So Eve decided
this morning to "get off the pot" and we had wonderful fruit filled crepes topped with honeyed Greek
yoghurt and grated chocolate.
Today's agenda included a visit to Cabot's Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs, on the other side of the valley. The museum is in a pueblo styled house that was built from 1940 to 1965 by  Cabot Yerxa. The story of his life is quite amazing as he travelled extensively in the early 1900s, was in the first world war, married twice, made and lost his fortune a number of times, studied art in Paris and painted extensively and built this museum from found materials (all the doors and windows are different. He embedded jars and cans into the walls to serve as safes) to house the artifacts from his travels.
The main building is situated on about 5 acres with odd little out buildings and desert landscaping.
We had a tour of the main building and learned about his life, how he built the museum, accommodating his 2nd wife, kept the building cool, and viewed the artifacts. He was also the man who discovered the mineral hot springs at Desert Hot Springs and helped facilitate it becoming the spa city that it is today.
The main museum building, on the National Register of Historic Places
In the gardens there was a huge wooden carved Indian head. It was carved by Peter "Wolf" Toth who carved 67 of these giant heads in the US and Canada to honour Native Americans. It is a "Waokiye" or "Traditional Helper" and part of the Trail of the Whispering Giants. The paperwork indicated that there is one in North Bay.

We were there from about 2pm until the facility closed at about 4:30pm. We then popped into Two Bunch Palms to book a spa day for Friday. They let us tour the facility and we then had a drink and appetizers on the patio. I am really looking forward to Friday.

It was a great last day for Anita, who leaves tomorrow.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Palm Springs - President's Day

Family Day back home, in Ontario, here it is President's Day and coincidently the President left today. Mr. Obama had spent the weekend in Palm Springs at an estate just around the corner from us. There was a "no fly" zone over us. From the news reports we gather that he played a few rounds of golf with some old friends, caught up on some TV shows and conducted some political business. Michelle and the kids were skiing elsewhere.
On the way to yoga this morning Anita and I jumped out of the car, went around the perimeter fence of the airport and walked down a closed road to take pictures of Air Force One. Our only defence is that lots of people were doing it. Eve drove the getaway car!
Air Force One at Palm Springs Airport
After our yoga class we went for brunch at an organic restaurant. Then we slipped into a some home d├ęcor shops and a consignment shop looking for a couple of additional pieces for Eve's home here. Then we drove out to the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation to check out the hiking trails. It was too late in the day (too hot) to hike today but we got the lay of the land and saw a fleeting road runner (he looked very similar to the cartoon version).
A potential future hike location

We spent the rest of the day lazing by the pool, reading, swimming and were surprised when the sun went down and we realized the day was gone.
Patio decoration with the evening sky behind
Finally, Heather sent me this reality check:

Barker's Bush snow angel.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Palm Springs - Architecture and Dates

Last night after a lovely dinner at Thai Smile we did the  Mid Century Modern self driving tour. This is an event of the Modernism  Week 2014 Festival which involves tours, lectures etc. However many of the events are sold out or not convenient for our laid back style (in short they are too early in the morning for us!). This component involved downloading a map from the website and driving around after 5pm on a couple of designated nights. That seemed like a good fit.

The buildings, all on the same street, were all commercial. On the side of each one was an illuminated projection of the architects name and date it was completed. The oldest was built in 1925 and the newest in 1964. There was also a new building that followed the architectural style. Mid Century modernism refers largely to the post war buildings that utilized the technology of the time, cement, iron beams, large expanses of glass to provide large open spaces, bringing the outside in, embracing nature and natural flow. Think of the curvy, retro chairs that are so in demand now.
This was formerly a U.S.Post Office. Built in 1950.

The buildings tend to have lots of glass and beams that extend from the large inside spaces to the extensive patio roofs. There seems to be a substyle of desert mid century architecture that has even more emphasis on the outside space. Palm Springs, as it developed, for the wealthy, in the post war years has a large number of these buildings and kept prominent architects of the time busy.

We were unusually late last night as not only did we do some shopping downtown, ate dinner, drove the illuminated tour but we also managed to send Anita into a gay bar for directions and went into a nightclub at Hard Rock Hotel (wristband and everything).

This morning after taking Bentley for a walk around the neighbourhood we drove to Indio for the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival. We were in a rush to get there for the camel and ostrich races.
And their off. Number 3, Sheba, won, but she was on the inside.
After the race the camels were bought over to the stands so we could admire them, take
pictures and ask questions.
The ostriches, who had races earlier, didn't want to do anything but sit in the sand
and flick dust over themselves.
We wandered the fair amazed by the huge portions at the food booths. We looked at the exhibits of judged dates, baked goods and citrus fruit and generally enjoyed that it was not overly hot or overly crowded.
As always the palm trees and mountains for a backdrop.
After about 5 hours at the fair, where we ate a huge donut and a small salad, we stopped at Shields Date Farm on the way home. We had a date shake there and watched "The Romance and Sex of the California Date". I learned how difficult it is to grow dates; the flowers have to be pollinated by hand, and huge ladders are permanently attached to the palms to assist with this, the ongoing caring for and final picking of the dates. 95% of the dates grown in the US are grown in this valley.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Palm Springs - Polo at the Empire Club

This was a first for me. We went last night to a polo game. The Empire Polo Club in Indio, Palm Springs, has games on Sunday afternoons and one Friday evening a month. We opted for the evening figuring the day time game would be very hot.
As we arrived the sun sank on the beautiful grounds. Large fields, bordered by palm trees,
at the base of the mountains.
We drove in not really knowing what to expect. We had read that you could "tailgate"; bring your own food and drink and have a party off the back of your car, like at a football game. This is in fact what was happening as the cars parked along the edge of the field and people had chairs, BBQs, coolers etc. We were able to snag three plastic chairs and had bought some wine, water and snacks.
This goes beyond tailgating and was reserved for the family of the president of the polo club
The visiting team, Mexico, arrived and tacked up behind where we were sitting.
A game usually has 6 "chukkers" or periods, each seven and a half minutes long. Each rider can change to a fresh horse between each chukker. As there are 4 players on the team, and substitutes, that can mean a lot of horses.
A competitor and one of the two umpires (in stripes)
A young player on the Mexican team. They were playing Germany
My camera battery died after that shot so the rest of the pictures on this post are Anita's. There was an announcer who explained the game as it went along and there was also a written handout with the terminology and rules. Sundays there is a $10 fee for parking but Friday night is free. There was a bar set up to purchase beer, wine and cocktails. All very civilized.
Eve and Bentley sipping and enjoying the action
Unfortunately it was too dark to get action shots of the game. It was scarily fast with flying mallets, bumping horses going at a flat out canter and the little white ball being hit back and forth. As a spectator it was not only fast but a little confusing as the teams goal end changed after each goal was scored. We were impressed by the speed, physicality, horsemanship and aim of the competitors.
At half time we all walked on to the field to replace divots and then we wandered into the rose gardens
at one end of the field.
In the rose garden, a statue of a horse. "He gave his all"
I believe Germany won and I think the score was 7 to 4.