Sunday, May 16, 2010

Deserts, Mojave and Palm

We decided to spend a couple days visiting the Mojave Desert before it gets too hot. Actually, most years it's already too hot by mid-May, but this year we're enjoying an unusually cool spring/beginning of summer around these parts. The drive through the Mojave National Preserve was wonderful: spectacular desert scenery via a bumpy two-lane road, full of roller-coaster rises and dips. The road would be annoying if there were traffic, but we saw maybe a dozen other cars the whole time.

I'll get to the scenery and some photos, but we stayed overnight and spent a delightful day in Palm Desert before we headed home, and I have to exclaim over how incredibly friendly the people were. They were super-friendly, Midwestern-level friendly. We felt like much-loved regulars as we enjoyed fish tacos, queso fundido and entertaining conversation at the bar at Armando's on Friday night. It was like being at a great dinner party. Not only do we feel like we now have friends in Palm Desert, we also have a bouquet of California-related vacation suggestions for future trips. We had similarly convivial experiences with everyone we encountered on Saturday. What's this about? Southern California has in the past struck us as much more...well, let's say standoffish.

The journey from Las Vegas to Palm Desert through the Mojave Preserve swings back and forth between elevations barely 600 feet above sea level to nearly 5000 feet up. At the low point are the salt flats near Amboy, CA, and they are about as cool as scenery gets. Check this out:

Looks like snow, doesn't it? But no, it's salt. Here's another flat, this one less liquid:

And here are some snaps of the crazy rock mountains*, scrub and Joshua trees in the Mojave Preserve:

*I've written about these crazy formations before, in the second paragraph here and the ninth paragraph here. They are outlandish; it's hard to believe they're a naturally occurring phenomenon.