The Living Desert

Mountain Lion at the Living Desert Zoo in Palm Desert

Not to worry: There was a thick layer of glass between me and that mountain lion. I took this picture ten years ago when I went with Martine to one of my favorite zoos in Southern California, the Living Desert in Palm Desert. (The other one is the small but otherwise perfect Santa Barbara Zoo in the city of the same name.)

This was before my brother and sister-in-law moved to Palm Desert. Martine and I had just done an overnighter, staying at the local Motel 6. J know it wasn’t exactly ten years ago because I can’t see myself visiting the lower desert in the Coachella Valley in the heat of July.

Martine and I will be taking something of a risk visiting the Owens Valley next week, as the daily temperatures are expected to range between 60º and 98º Fahrenheit (16º to 37º Celsius) with the humidity hovering around 20%. The only thing that will make that bearable is that, if it gets too hot, we can always drive to higher latitudes and relax. There are only a few things we want to see in the floor of the valley, but those are all things we’ve seen before.

We will have a large cooler with us filled with block ice and plenty of water, along with a few goodies in case we feel like roughing it at high altitude. After all, for most of our trip, we will be in the shadow of the highest mountain range in the contiguous forty-eight states.

 

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep at Palm Desert’s Living Desert

Bighorn Sheep at Palm Desert’s Living Desert

Christmas weekend was our third or fourth visit to the Living Desert in Palm Desert, California, but it was the first time I actually saw any bighorn sheep close enough to photograph. Bighorn sheep are famously shy with regards to human contact—for good reason. Every once in a while, one could see them at a great distance wending their way across some remote crags.

Once, at Capital Reef National Park in Utah, we saw a group of them close up. But this is the first time we saw any of them in California, though I’ve looked at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley, and other places over the last thirty years.