Breaking Quarantine

California Fan Palms Growing from Sulfurous Ponds

This last weekend, I spent a long weekend with my brother and sister-in-law in Palm Desert. Atypically, the weather was perfect. Dan mentioned that until I arrived, the temperature had risen to over 100° Fahrenheit (38° Celsius) for over 100 days in a row. While I was there, the high was closer to 80° (27° Celsius).

It felt good to see my brother again after 7 months of close quarters in West Los Angeles. We went swimming three days in a row, and even re-visited a couple of local sites.

These included the lovely Thousand Palms oasis and the Sunnylands park on the Annenberg Estate in Rancho Mirage.

One of the Cactus Gardens on the Annenberg Estate

Not all the facilities at both locations were open due to the coronavirus outbreak, but seeing anything beautiful these days is a rare pleasure—especially during a particularly ugly election year.

Desert Oasis

My Brother Dan at Simone Pond in the McCallum Grove

A couple of years back, I did a posting about Thousand Palms, where I took a hike with my brother Dan and Martine. On Sunday, Dan and I hiked farther, to the McCallum Grove, where there was a beautiful pond called Simone Pond. The stunning oasis is a few miles from Palm Desert, just north of Interstate-10 off Ramon Road.

All the palms at this oasis are native California Fan Palms (Washingtonia filifera), unlike the Arabian palms which are now all over Southern California—except at Thousand Palms. The palm groves here are both beautiful and eerie. There is not only a noticeable temperature drop amid these palms, but also a stillness seems to reign. And, at Simone Pond, there is a large body of water in which the trees across the water are perfectly reflected.

I would have to say that this is my favorite place in the whole Coachella Valley. (Second place goes to the Palm Springs Air Museum) at the airport.

Reflected Palms at Simone Pond

The oasis is part of the Coachella Valley Preserve and is managed by the Center for Natural Lands Management. Currently, there are no fees to visit this desert gem. It is well taken care of, as the only trash I saw was a single empty water bottle.

Thousand Palms

At the Thousand Palms Oasis

At the Thousand Palms Oasis

There are strange and beautiful corners of this country that take one by surprise. One such was the Thousand Palms Oasis, to which my brother introduced Martine and me last Friday. Not far from the usual desolation of the Coachella Valley was a large concentration of California Fan Palms, the Washingtonia filifera. Most of the palms in the California desert are Arabian imports, such as the date palms of Indio; but the California Fan Palms are native to the state.

As we walked into the oasis, the temperature dropped by several degrees; and there was a whiff of sulfur in the air from springs that bubbled up from the ground.

Natural Spring in the Oasis

Natural Spring in the Oasis

The oasis was not very large, and there was even a subsidiary oasis about a quarter of a mile farther on. But while we were in the shadow of the palms, we were transported far from the barren rocks, dirt and succulents of the desert floor. The effect was magical.