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California Dreaming: Anticipating a Fresh Start in 2022

The theme for 2022 was a 'Return to a New Normal' at least that what we were hoping for in our first full winter in Palm Desert since 2020. We took separate flights to CA since Dave spent a week visiting family in Florida and I stayed a little longer in NH to spend time with family.


January

Before heading to California on January 16th, I stopped at the camp in Gardner for one final check. During December and January there were a number of small snow storms so the pond was blanketed in a layer of snow. Everything was looking good.

Snow on Sanke Pond Gardner, MA

We decided that regardless of whether face masks were required on flights, we would continue wearing them for the foreseeable future. Our reasoning was why waste any time in CA being sick whether with COVID or a common cold.

Face mask on plane

Not sure if this plane, I spotted from the window, was closer than it should have been but it made a cool wake as it flew through the clouds.

jet wake in cloud

A sight for sore eyes as I approached the airport - a snow-covered Mt San Jacinto.

snow-covered Mt San Jacinto

We have our priorities. Buying mint plants to take advantage of the perfect winter growing conditions to satisfy our love for mojitos.

mint plant

Everyday in the Coachella Valley is great and there is no better way to start the day than eating breakfast on the back patio to the sound of the babbling 'Mallard Creek'. Even cool morning temperatures in the low 50°F aren't enough to keep us from eating outside.

Park Palms condo palm trees
oatmeal breakfast with fruit

Having awesome 'culinary' neighbors means getting home-made lemon marmalade as a welcome back gift. Statins be damned! This year I was going to enjoy fresh-picked pink grapefruit for breakfast every once in a while. Dave, who is statin-free, enjoys a grapefruit almost every morning until mid March when the supply runs out.

Every day starts off with a slew of text alerts from the Fam Chat group sharing their Wordle score.

On January 18th, we noticed a hummingbird frantically flying in and out of the Meyer lemon tree on the back patio. When the bird finally settled down, we noticed it was sitting in a tiny nest no more than 2 inches in diameter. We discovered that after laying two eggs the size of jellybeans, the female spends the next couple of weeks sitting on the eggs to keep them warm and protected, only leaving for a few minutes each hour to eat.

hummingbird nest

My first task for the winter was to prepare and lead the Friends of the Desert Mountains (FODM) guided hike to Hidden Palms. Ada had convinced me last October to lead this hike and a few other hikes each week during the winter. I spent a lot of time scouting out the terrain and plants as well as researching the San Andrea Fault network that runs right through the trail. Here are a few photos from the hike.

Usually winter sunsets are not as impressive as fall sunsets but this day was an exception.

sunset over mt san jacinto in california

It didn't take us long before we were off exploring. Our first big hike was Coyote Mountain in Anza Borrego State Park. It was great to return to the park after not visiting since 2019.

Jan 30th hummingbird update: We waited until the mother had left the nest and then used a ladder to look into the nest. If you look closely, you can see the tan-colored beak of one of the chicks. Hummingbird nests are built entirely by the female bird. The female will spend several hours a day for five to seven days collecting materials to build her nest. The most common nesting materials include: bits of grass, leaves or flowers, fuzz and lots of spider webs. These materials are woven together into a dense cup shape. The edge of the cup is curved slightly inward to protect the eggs from tipping out in high winds. But the secret to a successful hummingbird nest is spider silk/webs which are used to bind the nest together and to give it elasticity to enlarge as the hatchlings grow.

baby hummingbirds in nest

February

It might seem that Dave and I do everything together but that's not the case. Dave spends time volunteering at the Palm Desert library which means each week he has a new stack of books he's checked out. He also enjoys relaxing at the pool more than I do.

I spend more time volunteering with FODM. This year I started leading hikes with 3rd graders from area public schools. It's all part of the FODM educational program.

I also enjoy hiking and exploring new areas in the Coachella Valley on my own.

Feb 3rd hummingbird update: For the first time, we spotted the female feeding the chicks. She ingests food—a mixture of nectar, tiny insects, and pollen—which she regurgitates into their mouths.

baby hummingbirds in nest

Since some of our neighborhood friends are high-risk for COVID infection, we decided to host a twice monthly happy hour party on our back patio. These folks are the best.

Park Palms condo friends

Seated: Joanna & Wayne

Standing: Jim, Lyn, Charlotte, Ken, Dave & Steve


Joanna is such a bad influence. She introduced us to these two drink options.

While exploring the area surrounding Pushawalla Palms, Hidden Palms and Willis Palms, I came across a stream that flows from the Thousand Palms Oasis. It's an incredibly beautiful spot anytime of the day but especially at dusk.

stream running through desert

We weren't surprised to find numerous coyote prints in the mud. They use the stream as a source of water and hunting grounds. These desert streams attract large and small creatures and coyotes are opportunistic hunters that are willing to eat whatever food/prey is available.

coyote prints in sand

The stream supports a lush green zone. These large brittlebush plants were in full bloom.

wildflower, brittle bush with yellow blooms

I'm not sure how it took us 5 years to discover this tranquil spot. It's now on the list for places to bring visitors. It's so unique having this environment in the driest, hottest desert in North America.

dusk along trail in sonoran desert
sunset along stream in sonoran desert

February means it's time to start picking Meyer lemons. It's a task that Dave has mastered.

picking meyer lemons from tree

Dave started juicing the lemons and making ice cubes so he could use them for cooking later in the winter when the trees had been picked bare by everyone.

Feb 13th hummingbird update: The two chicks have grown considerably. Now you can see why the spider web material is the secret building material. The nest has stretched considerably since we first spotted it.

baby hummingbirds in nest

A Valentine's Day tradition—San Jacinto Cake from Sherman's Deli and Bakery This is their amazing signature cake with layers of chocolate mousse, cheesecake, chocolate cake and chocolate frosting that we share.

San Jacinto cake from Shermans Deli in Palm Springs

Through February, FODM had a banner year in terms of attendance and donations raised by the guided hikes program. To celebrate Ada treated Nancy, John, Dave, and me to drinks and appetizers at the Woodhaven clubhouse.

hiking friends

February was the start of family visits. Time to put Sam and Justien's photo in the guest bedroom nightstand frame. It's a tradition that dates back to 2018.

sam and Justein

For their short stay, we thought the Hidden Palms hike would be a good way to introduce them to the desert environment.

Hidden palms trail in Palm desert california
Sam and Justein at Hidden Palms Oasis
Hidden Palms trail in California
Dave, Justein and Sam at Hidden Palms Oasis
Save, Steve, Sam and Justein hiking Hidden Palms Oasis trail

A wind storm over the weekend but a glitch into their plans, but we still made it to Joshua Tree National Park for some iconic photo stops.

Sam and Justein under rocks at Joshua Tree National  Park
Joshua Tree National Park Cholla Forest
Joshua Tree National Park road selfie

They spent their last day on a walking tour of Palm Springs. We met up with them for lunch at Inka Peruvian Cuisine.

fuschia blooming bougainvillea

It's not as easy to take sunset photos as you might think, but Dave is the king of framing sunset pics.

sunset over san jacinto mountain california

Feb 18th hummingbird update: It looks like there is only one chick left in the nest and he's taking up a lot of room.

baby hummingbirds in nest

Back in the fall of 2021, we purchased new patio sliders and windows, but it wasn't until February that they were received and ready to be installed. We purchased replacements because the seal integrity was shot for most of the windows and the patio glass panels. We replaced the standard 3-panel sliders with 2-panel sliders. It was more expensive but the unobstructed view of the back was worth it.

I completed a hike of Garrett's Hill that runs parallel to the highway in Palm Springs. It isn't an impressive hiking area but I had read reports of some amazing street art on several of the highway underpasses. The reports were correct.

Final hummingbird update: Sometime after the February 18th photo was taken, the last hummingbird flew the coop. One morning we saw what looked like an incredibly clumsy hummingbird circling the tree. It came to rest on a branch, then seemed to compose itself and quickly darted away never to be seen again.


This month we explored for the first time the Pioneer Mountains Preserve. We hiked on the Indian Loop and Chaparrosa Peak trails that had been devastated by wildfires in 2006. It was definitely a great opportunity to check out a new area.


March

As the weather warms up, we always remind visitors to be prepared for hot days and cool nights when they come. The main reason for the temperature change is that desert air is extremely dry. Air with high humidity requires more energy to heat up, so it also takes more time for that energy to dissipate and for the surroundings to cool down. Conversely, a lack of humidity in the desert causes them to quickly heat up but also rapidly cool. In other words be prepared for a 30°F difference between day and nighttime temperatures.


March 5th marked the return of the in-person Wildflower Festival organized by FODM. It's one of the organization's major spring events. As usual, the wine and beer tent was staffed by Dawn, Dave and I. Cool temperatures and wind played havoc at the start of the festival, but an army of volunteers worked to relocate the event to a more protected area of the Palm Desert Civic Park.

Friends of the Desert Mountains Wildflower Festival

March means Mecca. One of our favorite hiking locations is the Mecca Wilderness. We've documented a number of hikes in Mecca and if you haven't checked them out, then maybe a few photos from our March hike will encourage you.

Mecca Hills hiking

Every trip to Mecca requires a stop at the Shields Date Garden for a date shake. You are missing one of the best treats in the entire Coachella Valley if you've never had a Shields date shake.

On March 10th, we witnessed the first wind storm of the season. This one wasn't too bad but it left the usual mess on the patios. However, on a positive side, it produced a brilliant orange sunset. The reason why? The dust particles lifted high into the atmosphere split out the light spectrum. Blue light, which usually paints the sky, is scattered enabling more yellow and orange light to break through.

A hike on the North Lykken trail in Palm Springs was intended to focus on wildflowers, but we came upon a herd of Peninsula Bighorn Sheep grazing no more than 75 feet from the trail.

After living part time in the Sonoran Desert, populated with a variety of rattlesnakes, it took over 4 years for my first interaction with these reptiles. On March 16th, Dave was volunteering at the library so I decided to take a casual stroll at dusk on the Willis Palms Oasis trail. After snapping these twilight photos, I continue walking along the trail when I suddenly heard a loud rattle sound. There wasn't enough light to see the snake but my training kicked in. I stopped and tried to determine the snake's location. Meanwhile the rattling sound had died down significantly. I thought it was coming from my right, so I slowly moved forward hoping not to step on or further aggravate the snake. Fortunately, I chose correctly and after walking forward for another 20 feet, I stopped again to compose myself and then began a slow walk back to the trailhead. My heart was beating through my chest the entire time. According to Dave, lesson #1 is that it's not wise to go for a night time hike alone.

sunset over san jacinto mountain california
sunset over san jacinto mountain california

Since the pools are heated until the end of April, we took advantage of the 87°F pool water for nighttime swims.

pool at night

March 23rd wrapped up happy hours on our back patio. Most of our Canadian friends begin their journey home in late March. We had a winter full of good laughs, entertaining stories, and delicious Trader Joe's appetizers.

It was a larger crowd than usual since it was more of a 'going away party' than a happy hour celebration. The fact that everyone was comfortable being in a crowd this size was refreshing.

Park Palms happy hour celebration

On March 23rd, Paula and Scott arrived for their much anticipated visit. Dave was concerned that I'd pack their days with nonstop activities, and he recommended that I ask them what they wanted to do on this vacation. Their answer: a 5-day full schedule of hiking and exploring. No problem was my response.


We started off with lunch at the Desert Willows golf course and then ramped up from there. The next days included hiking in Aqua Caliente Reservation, Joshua Tree National Park, and the Mecca Wilderness; staying at a phenomenal Airbnb in the Mojave Desert; and exploring unique spots around the Salton Sea. We had such a great time that it was easier to post just a few photos here and write a separate blog detailing the weeks adventures.

This was an OK year relative to wildflowers. It didn't compared to the 2019 superbloom but that's always going to be a tough act to follow. Here are a few photos we captured this spring.

The month wrapped up with a tour of Sunnylands, the former 200-acre Annenberg Estate, located in Rancho Mirage. Walter Annenberg was a billionaire publisher and philanthropist whose net worth at the time of his death in 2002 was $4 billion. He and his wife Leonore also served as diplomats under several US Presidents. They had a deep appreciation and love for the desert and in 1963 purchased the estate grounds. Construction on the Sunnylands estate began quickly thereafter and was completed in 1966. A. Quincy Jones designed this 25,000-square-foot midcentury modern house known for its pink roof. At one time, the house was the largest in Riverside County. The property now includes the main house, guest quarters, three guest cottages, a private 9-hole golf course, and 13 man-made lakes. We've visited the estate several times of the years but were never able to snag tickets for the grounds tour until now.


April

Palm Springs is a modernism mecca for mid-century architecture and design so it's fun to spend a afternoon making the rounds of the antique shops and the monthly Palm Springs Vintage Market. We don't need anything for the house but that doesn't stop us from buying an interesting or unique find.

Guest #3 arrived in early April. Weston and Mackenzie as usual were ready for an action packed stay with some down time thrown in as well. Here are a few photos from our adventures with them. They are always up for a trip to Mecca so Dave and I scouted out a hike through the grottos/caves of the Mecca Wilderness. We knew they would love the challenge.

Our second hike was to Pushawalla Palms, since they hadn't visited a desert palm oasis during their previous stay.

Our third adventure involved a 5-mile off-trail Joshua Tree hike to Garrett's Arch. We did this hike earlier with Paula and Scott but this time we were determined to climb up to the Arch. It is a lot more steep and difficult to reach than the photos infer.

Garrett's arch hiking Joshua Tree National Park

Not surprisingly, Weston was the first one to attempt the climb. After he made it, the rest of us joined him following the path he had laid out. Once at the top, the red X marks the spot we had to reach on the climb down. The safest way through the most steep and slick part was to crab-walk down.

It was worth ever tense moment to reach Garrett's Arch.

Garrett's arch hiking Joshua Tree National Park

It's wasn't all about hiking!

The last and final adventure was hiking Murray Canyon in Aqua Caliente Reservation.

The waterfall at the end of the hike was flowing and that's what makes this hike special in the springtime. Another great visit with these two adventurers.


April marks the onset of quiet times in the neighborhood. The last of the citrus has been picked and no one is out on the back patios. In our block facing Mallard Creek, only 3 of the 8 homes are still occupied; most of the snowbirds have returned home. We are one of the last to leave in May.

Park Palms Mallard Creek

On April 11th, we were hit by a really bad wind storm. How bad was it? The top photo was taken the day after the storm. The Little San Bernardino Mountains across the Coachella Valley were barely visible. The bottom photo is the same view during a typical spring day.

The ability to wait patiently for a perfect photo is not one of my strengths but I wanted to capture a hummingbird in midflight this year. Among the biggest problems was that the sun had to be hitting the flowering plants at the right angle and the birds needed to be feeding at just that moment. But my limited patience paid off and I captured these shots.

hummingbird in mid flight
hummingbird in mid flight

With our California time coining to a close, we planned a last minute 8-night excursion to the Central California coastline. For all of our CA travels we had never visited Big Sur and the central coastline. Our itinerary included a single overnight in Morro Bay; 3 nights in Monterrey; and 4 nights in Malibu.


Morro Bay

The highlight of a trip to Morro Bay was the waterfront shops and restaurants as well as Morro Rock State Beach. Morro Rock was formed about 23 million years ago from the plug of long-extinct volcano.

Morro bay and Morro Rock in california

The weather was cool but the sunset was incredible.

sunset Morro Bay beach

Big Sur, Monterey and Watsonville

The drive from Morro Bay through the Big Sur was everything we had hoped it would be. Clear skies, cool temperatures and no traffic - who could ask for anything more. Big Sur is the most well known of all California’s scenic drives. Stretching for 90 miles along the rugged coast, Big Sur spans the area from San Simeon to Monterey and Carmel. The winding, twisting shore-hugging route offers an incredible number of awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, sometimes in the clouds 'we have to stop the car' views.

Big Sur bridge

Big Sur coastline

Monterey and Watsonville

It's no wonder that Monterey is a top travel destination. It has something for everyone: wine, food, history, nature, hiking, and beaches, just to name a few. Even if you are not a fan of aquariums, expect to blown away during a visit to Monterey Bay Aquarium.

yellow fish at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

A few hours hiking in Point Lobos State Reserve and you'll agree with those who describe Point Lobos a 'one of the greatest meeting of land and sea in the continental US'.

Hiking along coast at Point Lobos State Park

Hiking along coast at Point Lobos State Park

Malibu

What a way to end the central coastline trip―-a 4-night stay on the water in Malibu. We treated ourselves to this Airbnb where the ocean was right off the deck and at night was literally under the cottage. It's hard to describe the relaxing and calm feeling of waking up to this view every morning...I mean the beach.

Malibu beach cottage on water
Malibu beach cottage on water

But Malibu is more than just an amazing beach and coastline, there is some great hiking less than 30 minutes away. We were introduced to the beauty of the coastal mountains on our hike of Sandstone Peak and Mishe Mokwa trail in the Santa Monica Mountains.

 Sandstone Peak and Mishe Mokwa trail in the Santa Monica Mountains.

 Sandstone Peak and Mishe Mokwa trail in the Santa Monica Mountains.

After the coastal trip we only had 6 more days in California. We planned a going away dinner with Myles and Lisa at Stuft Pizza Bar & Grill. It was a great way to end our stay.

Park Palms friends

On the 25th we did one last hike of Hidden Palms. Sometime during the 26th I started to develop a cold or so I thought By the 28th, we knew it was not a cold and that was confirmed by the COVID test kit. I felt like crap, sore throat, cough, fever and headache. I wore the mask in the house since Dave was still testing negative but that changed when he tested positive on the 30th. Interestingly, the 30th had been our scheduled departure day.

Looks like we'll be staying longer than we anticipated. Fortunately, both of us had mild cases that resolved in 5 -6 days.

COVID isolation schedule

May

By the 4th I was feeling good enough to go on a simple hike to Bat Cave Buttes near the Salton Sea. Dave was a few days behind me in terms of recovering so I went alone.

By the 6th Dave was itching to get out the house so we drove to Joshua Tree and hiked the 3-mile out and back trail to the summit of Ryan Mountain. We tested how well our lungs had recovered from COVID by completing the 1,050 foot elevation gain to the summit. We were tired at the end but doing pretty well.

Our new desert dessert discovery this year was lemon bars from Sherman's Deli and Bakery . They are as good as, if not better than, San Jacinto cake. As a compromise to which is better, we decided we'd share San Jacinto cake on Valentine's Day and lemon bars when we're packing to return home.

Lemon bar from Sherman Deli in Palm Springs

On May 10th, we departed Palm Springs airport after a 115-day stay. Yes we caught COVID in April but our hope of a 'return to a new normal life in California' came true. Making memories one day at a time. See you again in September.


September

In a short 130 days we were back in California via a flight from El Paso, Texas. We went on an 11-day trip through western Texas and New Mexico and then flew on the 17th directly to Palm Springs.

Palm Springs airport welcome sign

We jumped right back into the swing of things. We volunteered for the FODM Monument Night Adventures scheduled for the night we arrived.

Monument Night Adventures, scorpions

It was a cool night and not great for scorpion hunting but the group Dave was with found a few juvenile (< 2 inches long) scorpions under some plants. The kids and some adults are given black lights that cause these creature to fluoresce. Obviously, the kids love this event but most parents are squeamish.

scorpiions under black light

With September temperatures till hovering in the low 100s, we realized that to comfortably hike in September, we needed to head to higher elevations. Few places in Southern California are better place than Big Bear at 6,720 feet above sea level for cooler summer temperatures. Travel time from Palm Desert to Big Bear was about 2 hour (105 miles).


We chose one of the most popular hikes in the Big Bear Area, the 7.7 mile Gray's Peak Trail. It was a great day hike that packed amazing scenic views into just 1,200 feet of elevation gain.

Over the last few years we have really grown to appreciate the lizards that call these desert home. Rattlesnake photos are exciting but rather easy to take; however a good photo of a lizard is much more difficult to take. Not only do the blend into the background but that are sensitive to vibrations and typically run for cover before you can focus a camera. Here are a few of the interesting photos of these scaly-skinned reptiles that we've captured recently.

Chuckwalla

Chuckwalla lizard

Desert Spiny Lizard

Desert Spiny Lizard

Desert Iguana

Desert Iguana

Zebra-tailed Lizard

Zebra-tailed Lizard

Common side-blotched Lizard

Common side-blotched Lizard

2022 was the year of 'palm oasis hikes' which by the fall now included the 7 mile Lost Palms hike in Joshua Tree National Park.

October was our travel month. Early in the month, I returned to NH for a week so I could attend Meg's baby shower. Her due date is sometime after Christmas.

Meg and Brads baby shower

Nothing like a little excitement while I was gone. Dave experienced our first ever haboob. Haboobs are giant walls of dust created from high winds rushing out of a collapsing thunderstorm. Cold air in front of the storm rushes down at an incredible rate, picking up massive amounts of dust and sand and blowing them into the air.


As the dust storm builds, it can completely block out the sun, making it nearly impossible to see just a few feet in front of you. Excuse the poor quality of this video taken by a neighbor when the haboob hit the neighborhood. Dave said that the sky went from blue to brown in a matter of minutes.

To show how dramatically conditions change as a haboob approaches, here is a tweet posted by the Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center and an image from The Desert Sun Newspaper Online, taken just north of Palm Springs looking south. The haboob was described as a 3000-foot-high wall of dust.

Haboob dust cloud sonoran desert califonia
haboob dust cloud approaching wind turbines Palm Springs

After returning to California, it was a quick turnaround before we left to visit Weston and Mackenzie in Washington.

San Jacinto mountain from plane

We spent a few hours walking around Tacoma and then packed up the car for two days in Olympic National Park located in western Washington. We spent a gorgeous day hiking in the Hoh Rainforest followed the next day by a hike to the summit of Mount Storm King.


As the wettest destination in the Lower 48, the Hoh Rain Forest receives an average of 12-14 feet of rainfall each year. With this generous supply of precipitation, combined with its mild temperate climate influenced by the Pacific Ocean, the Hoh Rain Forest has the perfect set of variables to create a thriving temperate rain forest ecosystem with an abundance of mossy green flora and fauna.

Hoh Rainforest hike Olympic National Park

The one word that best describes the Mt Storm King hike is 'adventurous' but others may differ. With an elevation gain of 2100 feet over 2 miles, it's a moderately strenuous hike, but what makes this hike 'adventurous' is that the final ascent involves the use of ropes to climb a steep, loose gravel, rocky crag to the summit.

usnig ropes to climb Mt Storm King Olympic National Park

summit of Mt Storm King Olympic National Park

After these hike, we had a well-deserved dinner in Port Angeles.

Weston, Mackenzie and Dave in Port Angeles WA

Before departing Washington, we planned a hike in Mt Rainier National Park. Unfortunately, the kids had to go back to work so it was just the two of us on the 6.4 mile Skyline Trail hike.

Skyline trail Mt Rainier National Park

One of the highlights of our fall stay is the Palm Springs Halloween Party. The bars are packed and there is a large outdoor concert and costume contest. This year 'Fire & Ice' made a return to Palm Springs. It was a repeat costume but who cares it was still fun.

Halloween at Hunters Club Palm Springs

Palm SPrings Halloween Street concert

November

On the 5th, I attended a 'Geology of Amboy Crate' class organized by the Desert Institute. Amboy Crater is a dormant cinder cone volcano that rises 250 feet from the desert floor and sits on a 27 square mile lava field in the eastern Mojave Desert. The volcano formed during the Pleistocene era, some 80,000 years ago and is long dormant, with the last lava flow emerging some 10,000 years ago.


It's 1.5 miles to the base of the crater from the parking lot. We made multiple stops along the way as the geologist reviewed various aspects of the volcano. I'm hard pressed to identify a better way to explore this place than with a geologist.

Amboy Crater california

At the base, we began climbing on a loose basalt covered trail to the rim. Once on top we followed a trail that circled the 1,500-foot diameter rim.

Looking into volcano vent of Amboy Crater

Standing on the rim we had an excellent view of the expansive lava field that surrounds the volcano.

lava field surrounding Amboy Crater california

After exploring the rim, we ventured into the crater. The inside of the 250-foot high crater contains two lava lakes which are now flat in appearance and are covered with light colored clay. A great day!

Walking in Amboy Crater volcano vent

On the way back to Palm Desert I stopped at some deserted homesteads and noticed this big, silver Hollywood style sign in the distance. It was created in 2022 by artist Jack Pierson, who has a history of rescuing and repurposing evocative signage from seedy, abandoned bars, motels, and other establishments. 

The End of the World  sign in Mojave Desert

He describes this patch of the Mojave desert, locally nicknamed Wonder Valley, as 'a place known for those who drop off the edge of civilization', Long a haven for artists and other bohemian types, it has a powerful pull for anyone looking to get off the grid. The abandoned cabins aptly describe certain sections of the valley.

Our last big hike of the season was the Maynard Mine trail in the Aqua Caliente Reservation. This would be an excellent hike any time but add an incoming storm and the vista views become even more dramatic.

Maynard Mine trail in Indian Canyons Palm Springs

Storm clouds over Maynard Mine trail in Indian Canyons Palm Springs

We may be late for the party, but we finally bought tickets for 'Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience' at Empire Polo Club in Indio. Most of the experience involve walking from room to room where every surface is decorated with moving projections of Van Gogh's works in high resolution.

Beyond Van Gogh Immersive Experience

Opinions vary as to whether the exhibit is worth the price of admission C. Shaw Smith, art professor at Davidson College, expressed that the exhibit is more about presentation and spectacle than about the art itself. However, as a casual art admirer, we enjoyed 'Beyond Van Gogh' because of its unique combination of art, music, story telling, cinematography and immersive theater.

Beyond Van Gogh Immersive Experience

Van Gogh is considered one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade he created over 2100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life. Yet only one of his paintings was known by name to have been sold during his lifetime. Van Gogh became famous after his suicide at age 37 following years of poverty and mental illness.

Van Gogh art displayed on wall at Beyond Van Gogh Immersive Experience

Vincent Van Gogh stated, 'I dream of painting and then I paint my dreams'. For a man tortured by psychotic episodes and bouts of depression, it may have deeper meanings than many of us can appreciate.

Beyond Van Gogh Immersive Experience

Beyond Van Gogh Immersive Experience

On November 9th, we attended the finals of the 2022 Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. The facility is also home to the BNP Paribas Open – the largest combined men and women’s tennis tournament in the world. Unfortunately it was also the last national pickleball championship held a the Tennis Garden. Starting in 2023, the event will be held in Texas.

On November 14th, we held a 'moustache party' at Joanna and Wayne's home. We had bought these stick-on moustaches in Seattle a year ago and were saving them for the right moment. The moment was now! Everyone had a laugh and there was no better way to end our fall stay than with these outstanding people. Unfortunately, this was the last time we would see Wayne – what an amazing and inspirational person. He had such an impact on our community.

Front: Steve, Wayne and Joanna

Back: Lisa, Ken, Charlotte and Dave

Moustache Party with Wayne

On November 16th we flew home and officially ended our 2022 stay in California. It really was the 'Return to a New Normal' that we were hoping for back in January. We didn't leave empty handed, we brought home a bag of lemons and limes fresh picked a few days before we left.

Fresh lemons and limes from Coachella Valley

We spent an incredible 175 days in California during 2022 but it was time to head home for the holidays and the pending birth of our first grandchild.. Lots to look forward to back in NH.

Coachella Valley from airplane

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