Today is our last day at Lake Cahuilla. After two weeks in one place, we are ready to move on. Yesterday, we cleaned up camp, washed the trailer, did laundry, and reprovisioned supplies in preparation to head up to Joshua Tree.
Our time here has been fun. We’ve gotten a chance to see how we do in close quarters for an extended time (pretty good, we both say), met some great people, and had a whole lot of good time with Eric and Diane, Susan’s brother and sister-in-law. We have had a lot of laughter, expeditions into the desert and great meals with them over the past two weeks, and they’ve given us a few ideas of where to go in our travels.
Susan and I also loved going to the big horse show in Thermal. We saw the 1.45-meter jumpers on Saturday—some crazy high jumps—and got to spend a little bit of time chatting with our friend Kimber, who we saw ride last week. Seeing her has been one of many pleasant surprises so far on the trip.
During our time here in the Palm Springs area, we did a few hikes and drives into the surrounding areas. I spent a day driving down by the Salton Sea by myself, and we all had a beautiful day in Anza-Borrego, scoping out the wildflowers.
Diane and Eric asked us the other night if we’d come back to the area, and our initial response was ‘No.’ We have enjoyed our time here, especially with them, we enjoyed exploring the area, and we really loved going to the horse show—it’s an event that has long been on my list to attend.
And, we loved our camp: it was quiet and rustic, with great neighbors the whole time. The only down side (and really, it was a minor one) was that it was next to the county shooting range for law enforcement. Overall, it was the perfect place for us to camp for two weeks. The only disappointment was that we never got to see the bighorn sheep that live in the hills above us. (Our neighbors saw a group of 15 moving along the ridges on the afternoon we were in Anza-Borrego.) We did, however, see a coyote slinking up into the hills one morning. That’s something, I guess.
On the other side of the Palm Springs ledger, Susan put it best when she said that it felt like we were in the ‘desertburbs’: crowded and congested, with lots and lots of ritzy, gated subdivisions. It was true; once we were out of camp, I felt like I was back in the car-centric, overwrought California that I lived in when we were in the East Bay.
Here are a few thoughts about our first long-term camp:
- Living small. We’re learning a lot about the trailer, and what it is like to live in such a small space. We’ve gone through some gyrations with ’stuff’—clothes, utensils, chargers and the like—but it’s generally working out pretty well. We’ve always viewed this first expedition as a shakedown cruise, one that will tell us what we need and don’t need on these trips, and there have been no real surprises. We have a list in Wunderlist (an awesome, sharable to-do app that we can’t live without) for things we wish we had brought, and it’s pretty low so far, as is the list for things we didn’t need.
- Weather. One thing we’ve had to pay attention to in a whole new way is weather. You can’t rely on the silly little Weather app on the iPhone. A week ago Sunday, there were extreme winds for more than 24 hours—winds from 25-35 mph, with gusts over 50 mph—and we had to break down most of camp so it wouldn’t blow away. That whole night, the Casita was buffeted pretty hard by the winds, and we had to close all the windows and keep the fan off, because, well, there’s sand in the desert. A lot of it.
Once we got over that one, the weather turned beautiful once again, but it can change in an instant. Last Friday, Susan and I went into town to do some errands and get away for a bit. While we were out, we noticed that the wind was picking up. I checked the newly installed NOAA Weather app, but there were no high wind advisories in the area (although it did show the winds picking up).
We decided to head back to camp, and when we turned down the dirt road to where the Casita was parked, our hearts fell: we couldn’t see our trailer awning or our pop-up tent. As we approached, our neighbors Dave and Inga ran over to let us know that they had taken the tent down, rolled up the awning, and moved a bunch of stuff that could blow around. That was an amazingly kind gesture, and a pretty good lesson to us.
- The kindness of strangers. Our camp was very quiet over the time we were here. It is one of the reasons we liked it so much. That said, we always had some neighbors around, like the artists attending the local art show in La Quinta, horse people riding trails in the hills, and a quite a few Canadian couples down for the winter. Not only did we witness such kindnesses as impromptu help in keeping our camp from blowing into the hills, but we also traded stories of places to go (and avoid), shared glasses of wine at dusk, and talked about life on the road. This has continued to be one of the joys of traveling like this.
- Getting healthy. Susan’s shoulder has been getting better and better with time, and she’s overjoyed at being able to work out regularly again. We put up a little gym in the horse corral behind camp, with kettle bells, the TRX, bands and more, and we’ve both been putting in time there.
And so, we’re off on the next leg. We’re not sure how long we’ll be in Joshua Tree; our plan is at least five nights, maybe more. We will be off the grid, so don’t worry if you don’t hear from us (although I might end up running into town for coffee and a laptop charge).
And to Trixie, thanks for keeping an eye on us; we’ll let you know when we’re out of Joshua Tree, and on to our next destination, most likely Valley of the Fire in Nevada. Until then, here’s a little gallery of pictures from the last week. Enjoy!