Happy 4th July. While everyone else was no doubt partying and cooking up a storm, I took the Palm Spring Aerial Tramway to the top(ish) of Mount San Jacinto where i was told it would be much cooler due to its altitude (8516 ft).
It was a spectacular 10 minute ride in the cable car which rotated 360 degrees whilst climbing up the mountain side and is only one of three in the world that can do this, well I was impressed :) At the top the views were spectacular. Or at least they would have been if I'd have bothered to look when I first arrived rather than strike straight off on a hike, since by the time I got back from my hike there was pretty dense cloud cover over Cochella Valley below. However I could make out the lush green of Palm Springs and the impressive Wind Farm below from time to time.
After picking up a free day permit (so essentially the park rangers have an idea of who is out on the trails) I hiked a 5 mile trail (Round Valley) which was well marked and only had a few others on it, it was beautifully peaceful. Ideally I would have liked to have done the 12 mile option in preparation for Machu Picchu next month, but i was really not prepared for that distance. I realized as I hiked by myself (a first) that my worries about what happened if I got lost, or slipped, or if my leg started to play up, faded away and very soon I was extremely happy and comfortable up there alone. It was empowering and rewarding and I made a mental note that I should do more alone hikes in the future. Oh note to self one of the other hikers (Timothy, a spindly gay guy who's legs look they would give way under his heavy backpack) I met en route told me I should go to Point Lobos while in the Monterey area, I will check it out. Oh and that hat I bought yesterday for the Grand Canyon trip came in very useful today for keeping the sun off.
After finishing up the hike and looking around the visitor center, I bought a t-shirt, yippee my first tourist souvenir :) I made my way back to Chucks to shower, pick up my stuff and say goodbye. Before I left Chuck's "friend" gave me a little present of a shot glass (because the glass was blue, WTF) which seemed rather odd considering we had not even drunk together, nor did they even know if I liked shots or not, lol.
The drive out to my second desert, Joshua Tree National Park (Mojave Desert), was stunning, I've never seen scenery like it before and was very overwhelmed (or perhaps that was just the music on my playlist, lol). I contemplated that I've been very lucky in life already and seen lots of amazing places so it can be hard to impress, but this area certainly does. The drive was only just over an hour from Palm Springs and I reached my second Airbnb place (Bonita Domes) just before 6pm. As I pulled off the main highway and started an uphill drive up a dirt track I could see the small settlement in the distance and I actually started to feel emotional. I was met by Gabe (total hippy type and extremely friendly) and shown around.
I am staying in an earth pod which has been built by hand with only dirt from the area and some extra cement. The little pod keeps out the heat in the summer (I'll be testing that tonight, it's very hot here) and is furnished with a mattress on the floor and some rugs, there is a misting system at the back you can turn on as well which blows a mist through the back of the pod and out the front door and a little porch out front covered with a tarp. All very rustic and I immediately love it. There is an outside kitchen and shower house as well as a port-a-potty. I make some pasta and pesto on the camp stove, have a cup of green tea and sit and watch the sun go down, spectacular and oh so so peaceful, I'm really content right now.