The Best Things to do in Palm Desert in August (Stop 4)
You cannot beat the desert sunset
Early morning golfing
Driving through the security gates and into the compound of our new gated community home exchange felt like entering a deserted film set. There was no one here. If it wasn’t for the high fences I’d expect to see giant tumbleweeds rolling down the empty streets. Maybe this is why they call it the desert. But of course it was going to be lonely. Only crazy people and golfers go near Palm Springs, California in August.
Our temporary home was literally on a golf course. Lord knows there are plenty of them round here. Where normally you’d find the street, here you’ll find a putting green. In the early morning we were woken to the thwack of balls being launched from the end of our patio. Any thoughts we may have had of trying our hand at a round were obliterated when we realised the very real danger of putting a golf ball through someone’s living room window. This place is not for amateurs.
Fore! CRASH as it goes through a house window!
Sundowners at the country club
Our first evening we were invited for a drink at the neighbouring country club by a friend of the property owners. (Some days our life takes on a fairly surreal quality). The dress code had caused us some problems, but luckily the powers that be relax the strict collars, long pants and ballgowns rule (ok, I made that one up) when the place is quiet enough to hear a pin drop.
On arrival in the formal entrance hall I was reminded of my days working for the Ministry of Defence; there was a distinct ‘officers mess’ vibe to the place. Of the few stragglers around the bar there seemed to be a disproportionate number of people recovering from hip and knee replacements. If that’s what golf does to you I’m glad I don’t play. Although to be fair I have yet to see anyone actually walk the course. Funny kind of sport, up there with darts and snooker for likelihood of actually breaking a sweat.
The Living Desert Park
In August a lot of Palm Springs/ Palm Desert are closed due to the high risk of melting. When we did manage to prise ourselves away from the AC there were a few attractions to explore. The Living Desert Park, in more forgiving temperatures, would be lovely. But in August, there wasn’t much evidence of anything living. We were amused by the distant giraffes loitering behind foliage on a hill. They seemed to be deliberately doing that comedy ‘Look I’m on an escalator!’ trick as their heads descended lower and lower on their long necks before they disappeared behind the horizon completely. They would then bob back up to repeat the joke going the other way. Shifty looking ostriches fixed you with a disconcertingly sinister gaze from their spot in a gulley. A desultory meercat collapsed with his chin in the dust. The liveliest creature was a tortoise who was introduced at an informative and interesting talk on desert creatures. At over 100 years old the tortoise was one of the younger residents of Palm Desert.
‘Spot the giraffe’ is a great game!
The Palm Springs Ariel Tramway
We spotted a ‘beer appreciation night’ at a local grill where soft mist was sprayed onto the outside tables. They may have had the water/air ration a little high; I could barely make Chris out on the other side of the table as the fog rolled in. The best way to guarantee some respite from the heat is to head up the Palm Springs tramway to the deliciously cool mountain forest. The strange thing about this trip is that in just 15 minutes or so find yourself a million miles away from the desert landscape and delivered into a new world of crisp mountain air, chubby squirrels and trees that smell like caramel. Give them a sniff if you don’t believe me. There are plenty of trails to wander, impressive boulders to scramble over and panoramic views. It’s an oasis completely different from the lush palm clusters of the valley floor but magnificent just the same.
Boulder lifting at 8500 feet above the desert
Night time desert adventure tour
A trip to the desert at night is a must. There is something magical about the colours at sunset and the bare rusty plains which stretch for miles. Its beauty is wild and captivating. Even at night there is something arresting about this landscape. With Red Jeep Adventure tours we clambered precariously along the clay of a steep and narrow fault line at dusk and peered for snakes in the deep shadows of the moonlit palms. We learnt that a bush of dry twigs could actually produce a range of natural remedies and vital water supply such as you’d find in an everyday pharmacy. I’ve no doubt that it is possible to feast like a king on the bountiful goodies the desert is hiding, but hope I never have cause to regret forgetting all the intriguing facts shared by our knowledgeable guide.
Hiding in the San Andreas fault
At any time of year the desert in the valley around Palm Springs is stunning. The light at sunset, the explosion of palm trees, the moonscape mountains dwarfing civilisation as far as the eye can see. It’s a majestic part of the world.
But staying entertained in temperatures well in excess of 100 degrees is a challenge. I’d wait a couple of months if I were you.
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