The Mount San Jacinto escarpment upsurges 8000 plus feet from Palm Springs to an aerie cantilevered high above the valley floor. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway delivers sky bound thrill seekers to the top in ten jaw dropping minutes. Here restaurants, a bar, shops and a mini museum are relished annually by thousands of visitors and residents that collectively agree that this is California’s E Ride attraction. The views of the Coachella Valley, past the Salton Sea and to what seems infinity, are breathtaking. Here most perch, munch, sip and idle away a few hours in the cool air far above the desert heat. Not us. Not this time. Backpacked and provisioned Reba and I joined a group of friends and Living Desert Naturalist Jennifer Purcell for the trek to Idyllwild. This 10 mile hike isn’t hard, but for city-slickers on the soft side, it’s a serious outing.
Jennifer registered us at the Rangers Station and then with boyfriend Rob at the back of the pack and Jennifer leading the charge our gang of nine headed out. The temp in the mid 60’s, crystal clear cobalt vaulted over head. A perfect picture postcard day. Indian file we snaked up a gradual incline and soon were overlooking what seemed to be the entire western world. Stately Jeffery Pines framed the vistas. In happy groupings we posed for snaps. Then the tramp began in earnest through stands of White Fir, Pinyon Pine, Big Cone Pine and the magnificent and ubiquities Jeffrey’s. Jennifer had us stop and stand quietly for a minute, eyes closed to listen to the wind whistle through the tops of the trees. Then at her urging we sniffed the sun-lit trunk of a Jeffrey taking in the unmistakable scent of butterscotch. It was a Sunday and we were in paradise.
Steller Jay’s squalled over-head, Ravens road the airstreams, a Western Grey Squirrel scampered up a Jeffrey and scolded us as we pushed through a vast meadow of ferns just touched with a frosts first bite. Munching peanut butter sandwiches beside a gurgling brook of icy water we pondered this rivulet hurtling towards the valley and within minutes merging with the mysterious aquifer slumbering deep below the desert floor.
Descending to Idyllwild on the precipitous Devils Slide we tightened our laces and braved our yelping feet. To the left Tahquitz Peak domed 8828 feet above the tree tops. Here, it is said the God of the same name resides and dispenses his wrath on wayward mortals. Could our aching toes be a minor curse? A rattler slipped across the path and feet forgotten we hustled to the parking lot at Humber Park where a luxury coach awaited to swift us to cold beers and sandwiches at a popular and packed Idyllwild watering hole. Others at nearby tables munched on their lunches oblivious that our capable crew had conquered the mountain while they had just barely dragged their bones to brunch.