Gale force winds woke us early on February 10, 2020. Driving during a wind warning is not our idea of fun, but it was moving day. We had reservations at Rancho Jurupa Regional Park and Campground for four nights, so we packed up and headed out.
We were glad we tried this park. The spaces were wide, surrounded by green grass, and quiet. Instead of a noisy freeway like we had in San Diego, we heard birds singing in the trees and small aircraft flying overhead. I think this park is going to become our place to stay when visiting the Inland Empire in the future.
The park includes two fishing lakes, cabins, and unobstructed views of the sunset and Mt. Rubidoux each evening. And the gnarly tree limbs were perfect subjects to photograph.
Our friends Suzie and Dan Bloomer came to visit one day, so we drove over to Mt. Rubidoux to get a good view of the valley from the top of the mountain. There is an easy trail and a steeper trail. We chose the easy trail up and came down the steeper trail.
The Peace Tower and Friendship Bridge is a popular landmark built in 1925 to honor Frank A. Miller for his vision of the mountain and his ideals of International Friendship and World Peace.
The cross and tablet at the summit was erected in 1907 to honor Father Junipero Serra who is thought to have traveled through the valley and rested at Rubidoux Rancho. Americans United for Separation of Church and State objected to the cross on city property and threatened a lawsuit to have it removed. To avoid the legal tussle, a group formed to raise money to purchase the top of the mountain and the .43 acres beneath it. They raised enough money to purchase the land and provide an endowment, the interest from which is used to manage and maintain the property.
Sunrise services have been held on Easter at the top of the mountain since 1909. However, due to the California and local COVID-19 restrictions in place, the service has been canceled for April 12, 2020. The top of the mountain is also used for July 4 fireworks. Let’s hope and pray for lifted restrictions by then.
The trek up and down Mt. Rubidoux triggered hunger in our bellies so off to Tio’s Tacos for lunch. Opened in 1990, Tio’s has become another landmark in Riverside.
The owner, Martin Sanchez, is the creator of the funky art pieces that populate the half-acre of unique gardens. All of the pieces were created from recycled objects once relegated to the fate of landfills.
We definitely want to come back and explore Riverside in more depth. We hear the Mission Inn went through a recent renovation, and I’d like to check out the mission-style architecture in the area.
Next up is Pismo Beach which was the last stop on our Winter 2020 tour.
Wishing everyone health and well being in these trying times as we hunker down the best we can and avoid traveling too far afield.
Today is Saturday, March 21, 2020, as I write this. We here in the San Francisco Bay Area have been sheltering in place since Monday, and so far we are safe from the COVID-19 virus. I worry about the homeless, the migrant workers, and the 60 some odd million people that live paycheck to paycheck. I hope congress considers them when passing bail-out legislation. Jon and I wish everyone good health and hope you are safe wherever you have selected to shelter in place.
If boredom has set in from staring at the same walls for days, enjoy this tour of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Who can resist looking at a few photos of animals? We visited on February 8, 2020, way before the world closed for business.
Our memories of the Wild Animal Park, as the Safari Park was once called, included wide open spaces, few trees or vegetation, no shade, and a monorail that circled the African plains where the animals lived. Later they added a walk to the elephants and a bird show. Our last visit was sometime in the 1980s.
The 1,800-acre park now includes many miles of trails through various lands, some of which allow getting up-close with the animals, but no touching or harassing, please. Rangers are on hand to eject anyone intent on harming the animals.
We started our tour in the Wings of the World, an aviary housing a host of beautiful birds, the names of which I have no idea.
At the Animal Ambassador Stage, we were introduced to a Pygmy Falcon. These falcons are found in eastern and southern Africa. They are the smallest raptor on the continent at only 19 to 20 cm (7.5 to 8 inches) long.
Next, we took the Kangaroo Walk where we followed a path through their enclosure.
The Bonsai Pavilion includes around 60 trees some of which are at least 400 years old. The members of the San Diego Bonsai Club volunteer to maintain the trees.
Take a walk through the World Gardens to see several species of cacti and other plants.
Then off to the Tiger Trail and the Sambutan Longhouse to watch the tigers eat their lunch.
The African Tram has taken the place of the monorail that once ran. There is plenty of shade for visitors waiting their turn to hop on as the line zig-zags between rails. The following photos are views from the tram overlooking the African Plains and Asian Savanna.
Once our tram tour concluded, we continued our exploration along the pathways. The lemurs were fun to watch. They played on logs for a bit and then walked around, delighting those of us walking through the enclosure.
The Gorilla Trail was a great place to stop. Do we watch them, or do they watch us?
The slow-moving elephants reminded us that we should slow down too. What was our hurry?
And here is one last photo to entice readers to visit the San Diego Safari Park after it reopens once the virus danger subsides.
We didn’t do much else while in San Diego other than watch the Super Bowl Game, go out to eat a couple of times, walk around Lake Murray, worked out at the gym, and relaxed at the trailer. It was nice to take it easy. We needed a breather after the whirlwind of activity during the past two weeks.
We turned the truck toward home on Monday, February 10, 2020, but we aren’t done yet. Next stop was Rancho Jurupa Park in Rubidoux for four nights.
We continue our adventure in Palm Desert by exploring a few of the many trails located on the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ land, then end with a stroll through the College of the Desert Street Fair.
Tahquitz (pronounced taw—kwish) Canyon is a culturally sensitive area preserved and opened to visitors. Along the trail hikers can see ancient irrigation systems, rock art, plants, and a 60-foot waterfall. Artifacts are on display in the visitor center.
We stepped up to pay our money, and the ranger said, “You should watch the Legend of Tahquitz first. You might not want to take the trail once you do.” We heeded her advice even though we didn’t believe we’d be scared. The legend says the great shaman Tahquitz used his power for selfish reasons and turned on his people. So the Agua Caliente banished him to the canyon. Some people believe his evil spirit lives there still.
As we thought, the legend was not scary. Who knows, maybe the ranger was just monitoring the number of people.
A promotional card gives visitors a $2.50 discount off the regular adult fee of $12.50 for up to 10 people. Children under thirteen years of age and U.S. Military with an ID are free. We picked up the card from our RV park. I’m sure they have them at the visitor information center in town or in hotel lobbies.
This canyon was not always so beautiful or accessible. In 1969 tribal leaders were forced to close the culturally sensitive area after a Canned Heat rock concert drew more than 1,000 people. Many of the people stayed for days and trashed the mountains. Spring break revelers showed up each year bringing guns and drugs. Squatters lugged in bags of cement to make “home” improvements. Trespassers trampled wild grapevines and polluted the freshwater pools. Hikers became stranded, were injured, or died.
The tribe was in a Catch 22 situation. People would continue to destroy the beautiful, magical place and use it as a dumping ground if the tribe did nothing. They didn’t want to open the canyon to the public, but had to find a way to save the canyon and still respect the culture.
In January 1998 the tribe began a cleanup effort costing more than $100,000. They removed trash, erased graffiti, and rousted homeless who had set up camp just a few blocks from Palm Canyon Drive. They installed fencing, hired security guards, improved trails, and built a museum annex.
We enjoyed the peaceful surroundings and the walk along the stream while we searched for the points of interest designated by geometric signs. It was an honor to follow the paths where ancient Agua Caliente Indians once lived, and I’m thankful the tribe restored the canyon for visitors like us to enjoy.
Indian Canyons, the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, preserves rock art, house pits, foundations, irrigation ditches, dams, reservoirs, trails, and food preparation areas for current and future generations. There are three canyons available to explore: Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Murray Canyon.
We headed for the 15-mile long Palm Canyon, the world’s largest California Fan Palm Oasis, arriving just in time for a ranger talk. The ranger took us down into the canyon, where he shared the philosophy of the Cahuilla Indians and how they dealt with hunger. He pointed out a kish replica made of reeds and brush, and a rock that was used as a mortar. He showed us how to pick out the ripest palm fruit berries that had fallen from the trees, then let us continue on the trail.
There are several trails from easy to strenuous from which to choose. We walked along the stream for a mile or so, then turned around and went back to the trading post.
Other options are to take the Victor Trail back to the parking lot or continue along the palm canyon trail. More strenuous hikes also shoot off from the trading post.
On our way out, we stopped to find out more about the mysterious gas station dating from the early to mid-1900s. Stories indicate there were gas pumps, except no one remembers gas ever being sold. The station did sell drinks and snacks to visitors. It looked like a place I might have stopped on a trip with my grandparents when I was a little girl, and I imagined Indians might have had tables set up out front to sell their jewelry, baskets, and pottery.
Andreas Canyon was our next stop. The trail was an easy one-mile loop beside a year-round flowing stream. The scenery attracts painters as well as hikers.
Tahquitz and the three Indian Canyons are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
These craggy cliffs reminded me of something one might see in Hawaii.
Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert was celebrating its 50th anniversary and their mission encompasses more than their name implies.
They preserve a portion of the Colorado Desert in a natural state, foster an awareness and appreciation for the variety of plants and animals in worldwide ecosystems, build up populations of various species of desert animals and plants that face extinction in the wild, and foster studies to protect desert species in the wild.
The nature preserve protects 1,200 acres of Sonoran desert. Trails, which are closed in the summer, consist of easy half-mile walks and more difficult 5-mile treks. There are two main sections: North America and Africa. Australia Adventures was under construction during our visit with a planned opening in spring 2020.
The following are samples of the different types of animals that live in an environment typical of what they would experience in the wild.
Even the Big Horn Sheep have a mountain and cliffs to climb on.
Several garden areas provide shade and a peaceful environment to enjoy. The 1.5-mile walkway meanders through the zoo and garden, or hop on the tram if walking is difficult.
Make time to stop by the G-scale model train that sits on 3/4 of an acre. Some of the scenes include the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, and Old Indio.
The College of the Desert Street Fair
Last on our places to explore was the College of the Desert Street Fair, which has operated year-round every weekend for over 36 years. Seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables are available along with a wide variety of vendors selling apparel, footwear, hats, handbags, and home goods, to name a few.
There is also a food court in case patrons work up an appetite from all the shopping. Parking is free, and there is plenty of shade under the solar panel shelters.
After our whirlwind in Palm Desert, we were ready for a bit of relaxation. Our next stop was San Diego and a visit to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Stay tuned.
We pulled into the Emerald Desert RV Resort on January 26, 2020, for a seven-night stay in Palm Desert, California. With the freeway and train tracks to the north and Frank Sinatra Drive to the south, we worried about how we would ever get to sleep. Luckily, the fan on our space heater provided sufficient white noise to drown out any sleep-depriving disturbance.
It had been at least 30 years since we last visited the Coachella Valley, and our mouths watered for a date shake. So, we drove to Shields Date Garden, which has sold the “World’s Finest” date shake since 1936. They also sell dates, nuts, and dried fruit—their apricots are the best I’ve ever tasted.
A twenty-five dollar purchase in the store covered our entry fee to the 17-acre date farm gardens.
We walked through the oasis in the middle of the city, following the winding path through palm trees, around a lake, and past 14 scenes with 23 statues depicting Christ’s life.
The statues once called Vancouver, Canada, home until William and Lillian Vanderzalm sold their biblical garden in 2011 to Shields.
Be sure to catch the movie The Romance & Sex Life of the Date produced by Mr. Shields. It describes the labor-intensive production process of dates from pollination (done by hand) to picking and distribution.
Cabot’s Pueblo Museum
One day we drove to Desert Hot Springs, California. The Desert Hot Springs Spa and Hotel was a place we went during the 1970s to soak in the hot mineral waters, roast in the sun on lounges, and cool off in the swimming pool. We were pleased to see that it was still in business, even though sunbathing is no longer one of our pastimes.
During the drive there, we ran across Cabot’s Pueblo Museum. When we saw the building from the road, we had to stop and take a look. Lucky for us, we arrived just as a tour of the inside had begun. Due to close quarters and the number of people on the tour, photos of the inside could not be taken.
Cabot Yerxa (1883 – 1965) began construction on his cabin in 1914 on homesteaded land using reclaimed and found materials from around the Coachella Valley.
In 1941 he used supplies from the cabin to build the Pueblo Museum in its current location, making the adobe style bricks in the courtyard. He was an early adopter of the reuse, renew, and recycle movement, by incorporating old telephone poles, broken pieces of glass, and even a buckboard as a door. He also purchased abandoned cabins, dismantled them, and reused the wood and nails.
Construction of the museum was completed in 1949 and officially opened in 1950. The four-story structure consists of 5,000 square feet, 35 rooms, 150 windows, 30 rooflines, and 65 doors. Sensitive to Native American sensibilities, the living room, or parlor, has a dirt floor.
What I thought was ingenious was the air conditioning system he designed. The walls include upper and lower cutouts so air flows through the museum to regulate the temperature whether it is blazing hot in the summer or cool in the winter. Desert Hot Springs is known for its wind, evidenced by the numerous windmills in the valley, so it was good to see he took advantage of the natural surroundings.
Cabot Yerxa was known not only as an architect and builder; he was also an adventurer, artist, collector, entrepreneur, explorer, idealist, visionary, and writer.
Below is a photo of Peter “Wolf” Toth’s carving Waokiye (Y-oh-kee-ay) “Traditional Helper” dated 1978. Toth used a single 45-ton Sequoia redwood log carving. Waokiye’s face stands at 22 feet tall. The feather is 15 feet tall and was carved from an incense cedar from Idyllwild, California. The total height of the statue stands at 40 feet tall, weighs over 20 tons, and overlooks the museum and the City of Desert Hot Springs. The statue is part of the Trail of the Whispering Giants created by Toth throughout the United States and Canada. Waokiye is the 27th Giant in the series.
Slow down while speeding along Interstate 10 through the Coachella Valley Desert, turn off at the Desert Hot Springs exit, and take a tour of this unique museum to learn more about the man who helped found the town.
We couldn’t pass up cruising down Palm Canyon Drive while in the lower desert. Jon and I had one of our first dates at the Plaza Theatre in Palm Springs. The name of the movie is hiding somewhere in my memory. What I do remember is riding down the freeway in a rattle trap that was more like a go-kart than a car and standing in line roasting in my sweater and long pants. We had left the Inland Empire under “late night and early morning low clouds along the coast and inland” conditions only to arrive in Palm Springs where the temperature approached 90 degrees.
This trip, we enjoyed a wonderful early dinner and Mai Tais at Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar.
I’m usually not a fan of toffee because it is too hard to bite. Brandini Toffee changed my mind. The chocolate-covered pieces melted in my mouth. My mouth is watering as I type this. Maybe I’ll order some online.
Next up in Part Two: The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Tahquitz and Indian Canyons, and a street fair.