Thursday, June 12, 2014

Epic Drive Palm Springs to Vegas (part 1)

Someday, if you want fun, take the long way from Palm Springs to Las Vegas.  If you go in the spring, you will see amazing wildflowers – if you go any other time you will see a different world than you get otherwise.

Part One Palm Springs to Twenty-Nine Palms

An Alexander Home in Palm Springs
This section will show you all the desert has to offer in all kinds of ways.  You start in Palm Springs and drive up through some lovely homes.  At the top end of Palm Springs you can see the “Alexander” homes have come to typify the best of 1960s design.  Then you head up towards the towns of Joshua Tree and Twenty-Nine Palms.
The Alexander Back Yard

And “up” is the right word.  There is a big include in the Morongo Canyon, and the road rises up it.  This is the very visible and obvious dividing line between the “low desert” and the “high desert”. The low desert is the Colorado (the US portion of the Sonoran Desert), which includes Palm Springs and the resort towns.  Here, winter temperatures rarely fall below freezing and elevations are near sea level.  After the rise, you are in the Mojave desert which has much colder winters and freezing temperatures, while not common, are not the rare sight they are at lower elevations.
The Incline up from Morongo Valley

The incline is one of the very few visible dividing lines.  In most cases, there is a mountain range (running from the San Gabriels in the Los Angeles Basin through the Joshua Tree mountain ranges) dividing the High Desert from the Low Desert.  And since you exit from the mountains ‘down” to the desert floor, you don’t realize that difference in elevations and ecosystems.  The high desert is much more diverse ecologically – but you don’t really notice because the Palm Springs area low desert has almost no native vegetation left.
You will also notice a difference in the type of homes.  Palm Springs is pretty upscale in most of it’s residences.  As you move up to the High Desert you will notice that the price of homes and property decreases as the distance to Palm Springs increase and the weather drops.  The community of Joshua Tree that lies off the highway and in the foothills is a bit of an exception to this.  It is a bohemian community of artists and there are quite a few expensive and dramatic homes. But you barely see them.
Artsy PreFabs in Joshua Tree's hipster area

Twenty-nine Palms itself is a military town (there is a huge Marine Airbase here) and the town is dominated by active duty and retired military.  It is the gateway to Joshua Tree National Park as well, and so there is a very transient population.
Not so Artsy Twenty-Nine Palms
tomorrow Twenty Nine Palms to Amboy

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