Feeling inescapably escapist this week, join me on a quick southern hop back on down to Palm Springs, where I began this new year, hiding out in the sun-drenched Coachella Valley. The town sits on the floor of the valley, and, geographically, is very similar to Reno, in that it sits closely framed by formidable mountains. The San Jacinto Range looms above, topped by mighty San Jacinto Peak, which is almost 11,000 feet. Just south of town, in the canyons of these mountains, lie natural wonders that were awaiting discovery.
It’s certainly no surprise to learn that these wonders are still intact and pristine mainly because they sit on Indian land. In the case of the Coachella region, the tribe of natives is known as the Cahuilla (ka-WE-ah), and they protect the canyons of the San Jacintos as the Paiutes up here protect Pyramid Lake.
About a mile outside P.S.’s southern city limits, you’re at the gate of Cahuilla property, where they hit you up for nine bucks a car. As you drive to the parking lot for the largest of the canyons, Palm, you get right next to the rushing, gushing little creek streaming down from the high country above. And then you get what makes this place special, at least to a northern visitor like me. Instead of the creek being lined with pine trees and aspens and the typical shrubbery we’re used to, Palm Creek is lined with—duh!—palm trees. Tall, thick, sturdy, California Fan Palms, shaggy with a lifetime of fronds hanging down in full beards. If they were in a Tolkien book, they’d be The Old Ones. Not an evergreen in sight. Interesting. Fascinating. Enchanting. A gorgeous mountain stream, lined with giant palm trees.
The hiking was easy heading up. It was a warm day, but the palms shaded the trail. Those folks who had recommended this field trip were right—it was nice up here. You know how it is when you’re pleasantly surprised by a new place, so much so that it physically boosts your entire mood? Palm Canyon had that power in spades.
Especially when I found The Beach. There was a bend in the creek, and there, in full sun, being shaded by one enormous palm tree, was a handsome little slice of white sandy beach. Empty. Fantastic. What else could I do but pick a spot in the perfect sun, ease my buns into the sand, lean up against a big flat warm rock, and declare lunch? I felt like a happy hobo straight out of a Ray Davies song. While savoring my luck and this divine little patch of pleasantness, I thought of the late Warren Zevon’s parting advice before he checked out: Enjoy every sandwich. I raised my tuna and avo on wheat to the sky in salute. If this day, this moment, didn’t constitute the Good Life, what does?