Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 18

We awoke bright and early with optimism in our hearts. The weather network said that our destination for the day, Joshua Tree Park, was 3C with a windchill factor of -6C. But, the sun was shining and the sky was a clear blue and we were certain that the wind would die down by the time we got there. We packed multiple layers of clothing and headed out. The greenhouse effect of the sun shining in the windows of the car was deluding us. As we climbed in elevation, the temperature dropped, but we do not have a thermometer in our car so we were unaware.
We arrived at the first of many destinations in the fabulous park and as soon as we opened the car door, we knew we were going to have to make a decision as the wind was strong and very, very cold.  An hour's drive and $30 in park entrance fees swayed our decision. Nathan and Chad were going to freeze so I gave Nathan my hoodie and wore only my fleece lined wind breaker. Andrew gave Chad his fleece vest to put under his hoodie and we were off to the Hidden Valley, where the above photo was taken. It was taken before our eyes and ears and mouths became encrusted with ice. The smiles, however, are frozen.

This little valley among the giant rocks has a very narrow and secret opening where cattle rustlers would drive their stolen cows and hide out from the 'law'. There is a trail around the perimeter but it is really all accessible to the hiker and climber. Look closely at the center of the photo and you will see Ron and Andrew, two of the braver ones of our little group risking their lives for a photo op. The rock they are on resembles a bull from certain angles, watching over the herd in Hidden Valley  

This is a barren and rocky land. How these plants live is truly amazing. They have ways of conserving moisture and are themselves, full of succulent juices despite the 120F temperatures of summer. On this cold day, it looked hot, but our blue skin told us otherwise.

Is my sister Carla tidying up, or just showing off her strength? So many of these huge boulders looked like they were precariously balanced, but their massive weight made them immovable.

This formation was called "The Teardrop".

Here we have California's version of Stone Henge. It was disconcerting standing under this huge boulder and looking up, realising we were only a few miles away from the San Andreas Fault and maybe only minutes away from the next big earthquake.

Chad found shelter from the bitterly cold wind, a perfect fit.

Here is Andrew showing off again. He always wanted to be Superman. Don't try this at home, at least not without ropes. Or a parachute.

Our last stop was the Cholla Cactus (pronounced Choy-ya) gardens. Acres and acres of this unusual plant that you do not want to tangle with. The little birds nest in these plants, and I assure you, they are safe.
 It was indeed cold, but we all thought it was worth it. In the bubbles and steam of the hot tub that night, the cold was soon forgotten and the recollections of the unusual beauty and fun we had climbing the rocks was what we talked about the most.
A late night movie and a hot drink ended an almost perfect day.  

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Day 17

Every creature here in the desert is a master of disguise. Can you spot the lizard? I caught movement in my peripheral vision and sensed that it stopped under this little bush. I looked for some time before I finally spotted it.

I forgot to post a photo of the exterior of our house so here it is. It looks deceptively small from the outside. It is long and quite large on the inside, something we are really appreciating with eight of us here now.
Today was low key for us. We walked with Liam to the Albertson's store for a few groceries. It was a warm morning in spite of a nasty weather forecast. We got home just in time because it rained for the next few hours. We now have another storm system over us and with it comes some arctic air. It will not be warm for the next week, but still warmer than at home.
We just got home from an Imax 3D movie, Tron. Visually stunning alright, but the plot eludes me. The technology for these types of movies keeps getting better and on the huge Imax screen it is so much like being in the scene that when there is a lot of movement one actually gets a bit queasy.
Tomorrow it is off to Joshua Tree Park. The last time I was there I was recovering from kidney surgery and was bleeding. It still impressed me so I am thinking that tomorrow I will appreciate it anew. And, of course, photos to come.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 16

Today our family split up and went their separate ways. Some went shopping, some went hiking at the Indian Canyons, and busylizzy and I took the two oldest grandsons hiking in the desert. After studying hiking trail guides, we decided on one that was a moderate hike and about 3 miles in length, with a 700 ft. gain in elevation.

The Randall Henderson Trail is off of Highway 74 and 6 miles due south of where we are staying. The morning was cool so we dressed in layers and it was not long before we started stripping off some of the layers. The sun was hot and the air cool, very nice for hiking.   

We went through this little canyon and it was like walking into a refrigerator where there was continual shade. The hike was interesting, so different from what we have on the west coast. We were told to watch for rattle snakes sunning themselves on the rocks and to watch for Jumping Cholla Cactus which can almost jump out at you if you only brush by them. They recommend taking a comb with you so you can remove the balls of thorns in case you have an encounter with one of these prickers.

Our destination was the ridge that would allow us to peer down onto the Coachella Valley and see from Palm Springs to Indio in one big panoramic view. We were about 100 yards from the ridge when we came to this sign. Apparently the Mountain Sheep are having their young at this time of year and they are susceptible to great harm if disturbed, so the trail was closed. Chad was happy because he was ready to head back down. He was ready for a swim. Nathan was disappointed as were the rest of us. If we had stepped even a few feet beyond the sign, and got caught, there would have been jail time to pay. At least that is what the sign said.
It was a great time, among the cactus and lizards, but I would not want to be there on a hot summer day.
Tonight we were treated to a wonderful dinner at the Cheesecake Factory at 'The River'. My Chicken Madeira was about the best thing I have ever eaten. If that was not enough, I shared a piece of Caramel Pecan Turtle Cheesecake with Chocolate. This place is known for its vast menu, delicious food, and the most awesome cheesecake. Keith and Rachel picked up the tab which helped make it a most enjoyable evening. 
We have some Blue Ray DVD's here at our disposal so we will stay up late tonight and watch one of them. Decisions, decisions.  

Monday, December 27, 2010

Day 15

As promised, here are a few more scenes from the Living Desert. There was so much to see and do that it kept us busy all day. We brought a picnic lunch along and ate among the animals. Or were those my kids?  

If this fellow had a cigar hanging from his lip, he wold look very much like someone I know.

This ram was watching very closely over his bevy of females, but it was curious that they seemed to be leading all the time and he would follow. Mmm.

This most beautiful creature is a Mexican wolf. Very large, very colourful, and very smelly, but no sombrero.

There were quite a number of enclosed areas with double doors. When going through, one had to be cautious to make sure that both doors were not open at the same time. When inside, there were no cages, but the whole enclosure was a cage. Great for taking photos as there was no wire in the way. These doves were comical the way they were lined up on a limb and each facing a different direction.

We stalked these beautiful Egrets at the Salton Sea, but here they were up close and personal. They are gorgeous birds, all snowy white and so elegant and graceful. That long neck is folded about three times to get it in that position.

What a beautiful angel! That little statue is not too shabby either.

It is a 'down day' for us today. A walk to the shopping mall and Liam walked all the way! What a little trooper. We had the stroller along but he insisted. Reminded us of Nathan when he was at that age.
After lunch we soaked up the sun by the pool and read and talked. I think this is the warmest day so far. I had to seek the shade a few times to cool down. The rest of the gang will not be back until late. It is at least a two hour drive to Carlsbad. We will go for another walk with Liam before dinner and then the evening will unfold as it should, with no plans. 
We are really unwinding here. Not thinking about going back yet. We have a long way to go.  

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day 14

The plan for today was to take in the "Living Desert". You can get a good description of what it is if you 'google' it. Desert Flora and fauna at its very best is the shortest description.

As we entered, we were informed that the Giraffe feeding was about to get under way so we raced to the compound where it was taking place. It was worth the run.

Liam found a warthog just his size.  

We took in a great animal show which included a raptor show and a few predator mammals of the desert. Very educational and entertaining. This is one of only two parrots species native to the USA. The other one is extinct.

They have an incredible model train display, all outdoors and several acres in size. Liam was in his glory.

The butterfly and humming bird enclosure was a high light.

As Andrew was photographing humming birds, this butterfly landed on his camera!
I took several hundred photos and chose only sixteen to put on this blog. Tomorrow I will show you the others. (of the 16, that is) The gang is going to Lego Land and busyzizzy and I will be lying low and keeping Liam entertained and doing some grocery shopping. It was mostly overcast today and just a wee bit cool but comfortable for being outdoors all day. The hot tub tonight felt good and now it is time to 'crash'. We are lovin' the desert more each day.  

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 13

Our little Christmas tree and stockings are not what they are at home, but a much smaller version. It works the same, however.

Nathan and Chad created a little masterpiece ginger bread house.

The gifts were smaller and simpler than usual, but there were some surprises that did not fit into the stockings, such as a trip to Lego Land and a day at the Living Desert Zoo. Liam was totally mesmerized by his little Thomas the Train engine.

And two tractors! Give this boy trains and tractors and he is good to go.

Ron, Carla, and Kristin came for turkey at midday and the weather was so great we ate beside the pool. There was a very light cloud cover and it was a good thing because the sun was quite intense. We are all a little 'pink' tonight.

The boys could not wait to get their dinner and desert (chocolate cake with egg nog ice cream) down so they could jump into the pool. They were in there for at least three hours. Later we said goodbye to our guests and found a Lord of the Rings movie on an HD channel. The gang is still watching it.
A very wonderful day indeed. I called the rellies in Victoria and was sad to hear of all the rain. 

On this Christmas day we are reminded of why God sent his son to earth as little human baby. It was not only to fulfill his plan of redemption for mankind, but was a way of revealing himself to us. As Moses was made aware in the wilderness, no one can see God face to face or they will surely die. God had to reveal himself in human form so we could handle it. Jesus himself said that "you have seen me, you have seen the Father" Everything we learn from Jesus, we know reveals the Father. God wants us to know him and to love him as He has loved us and that is fulfilled in us getting to know Jesus.
 I hope the Christmas story was more than just a story for you this year but was the blessed event it was meant to be, for all people, for all time.  

Day 12

Christmas Eve here in Palm Desert is busy like a
Christmas Eve anywhere. The traffic and the people indicate plenty of last minute preparations and shopping. Some of our gang did some of that by going to the market at the Desert College this morning. They all came back with purchases. The afternoon was spent in and beside the pool and hot tub. The sun is so warm and our yard is sheltered so the cool air is hardly a factor. We cleaned up and went to the Christmas Eve Service at the Southwest Community Church. They must be the largest evangelical church in the area with four services and capacity of 2500+. It was a great service with lots of good music and a short but effective sermon. Then home and some tasty night snack food. The guys are all getting into 'Eight ball' and we had a few few rousing games on the very nice table they have here. 
Day 13 is well under way and the gang is coming over for turkey in a few minutes so more blogging later.   

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 11

Today the sun was shining brilliantly when we got out of bed. What an incredible change in just 24 hours. Here, Liam is checking out "Palm pings". (Translation: Palm Springs)

The night before, we all enjoyed the hot tub but the evening was very cool and we got a fog bank happening over the hot water.

I think Liam enjoyed it more than anyone.

We hit the road early in the morning and ventured out to the Salton Sea. This below sea level salt water lake was formed many years ago when the diking project around Yuma Arizona failed and the Colorado River diverted itself into this depression in the valley and filled it in for a year or more. It is now 40 miles long and 10 wide even years after the breach in the dikes were repaired.

The entire surface of the beach is not sand, but barnacle shells. It is littered with literally millions of  dead fish like the one above. Apparently these fish thrive in the ideal conditions and over populate. There is a big die off every so often. The smell was not pleasant.

It is also a migrating bird reserve. Pelicans, herons, egrets, and seagulls proliferate here and there is no shortage of food for them.

These beautiful tree roosting egrets knew exactly what my camera range was and made sure they were just out of it.

The Pelicans here are the large variety. They are very shy. We hiked through the muddy desert for a mile to sneak up on these and even then did not get close.

When we got back home, the boys hit the pool and the adults lounged by the pool, book and/or camera in hand. It was warm enough for shorts and T-shirts today.

Nate, just into one of his famous 'Cannon Balls'.

Coming up for air.

We hit the Old Palm Springs street market again in the evening. After a long day and a short nap, Liam preferred the back pack.

Liam and his mom checking out "Hamburger Mary" in front of the famous burger and beer joint in downtown Palm Springs. We stuffed ourselves on the most awesome Kettle Corn I have ever tasted. After a cool and tiring evening, we found our parked cars and made our way home once again. I will sleep well tonight. No time for the hot tub tonight, I am afraid.