A couple of weeks ago I called my parents and asked if they wanted to spend the day in Waterton — to my delight they immediately took me up on the offer and arrived only a couple hours later.
Many great memories flooded my mind as we checked off the list of essential Waterton activities and attractions.
Photos by the Prince of Wales Hotel… check.
Climbing up Bears Hump for photos of the Waterton town-site… check.
Lunch at Zums followed by photos in front of Cameron Falls… check and check.
It was a great day for it too, even though the skies threatened a storm, we only got a little drizzle of rain followed by sunshine and ice-cream cones. Ice-cream tastes better in National Parks.
The take home message really is that it’s well worth it to take advantage of our close proximity to a world class national park — one can basically drop their camera and come away with some great photos.
We spent our last full day in Palm Springs riding our bikes and visiting a few more sites and restaurants in the area before we headed out the next day.
We stopped at the outdoor mall, The River, for a quick Starbucks run. I don’t drink coffee myself, so I had a smoothie, but Andrea loves the caffeine imbibing experience (so long as it’s in a reusable / recyclable cup). Starbucks, it should be noted, will happily provide you with a ceramic mug if you just ask.
My favourite stop of the day was The Jackalope Ranch restaurant.
Because Jackalopes have become so rare these days, the restaurant provided some helpful wildlife information, and as the story goes:
The elusive Jackalope is a cross between a rabbit and the now extinct pygmy-antelope and is occasionally seen in the less populated areas of the American West. The Jackalope is an aggressive species, willing to use its antlers to fight. It is also the only species where male and female both have antlers. Thus it is sometimes also called the “warrior rabbit”.
Jackalopes possess the amazing ability to mimic human sounds. In the Old West, when cowboys would gather by their camp-fires to sing at night, Jackalopes would frequently be heard signing back, mimicking the voices of the cowboys.
When chased, the Jackalope will use its vocal abilities to elude capture. For instance, when chased by people it will call out phrases such as, “He went that way,” in order to throw pursuers off its track. The most effective way to catch a Jackalope is lure it with tequila, preferably a premium brand, as they have a particular fondness for this nectar. Once intoxicated, the animal becomes slower and easier to hunt. Jackologists, those who study the rare animal, state that the antlered creature becomes
especially vocal during a thunderstorm, because they supposedly mate only when lightning flashes.
Jackalopes are illegal to eat in the United States however the meat is thought to taste like chicken. It is believed that Jackalopes can live to be over a hundred years old. But that belief is hard to prove because they never seem to age. That is why the Jackalope is highly prized for its milk, which is believed to contain a potent ingredient that”turns back the clock” and keeps people looking young and healthy. However, it can be incredibly dangerous to milk a Jackalope, and any attempt to do so is ill advised.
We tried the nachos and diet cokes and enjoyed the setting thoroughly. However, we only saw one live Jackalope — it’s hard to see in the photo below but if you click through to the larger version, I’m sure you’ll find it.
The other noteworthy point about The Jackalope Ranch is their handy rifles used as legs for the tables near the bar and that amazing life-sized wooden motorcycle at the door. Much like the Jackalope itself, this motorbike is something you have to see to believe.
Home to one of the world’s largest collections of flyable second world war aircraft, the Palm Springs Air Museum provided tremendously interesting artefacts and information about American conflicts in the Atlantic and Pacific arenas (mostly WWII). One of the best things about the museum was that they had a “no rope” policy allowing guests to board and interact with the planes. Not all of the planes are still flyable but any plane with an oil can underneath meant it was being kept up and ready for flight.
A time-line of the second world war written on one of the hangar walls kept me engaged for quite some time. Reading about the build up, saber-rattling, and political manoeuvring that happened before war actually broke out in Europe captivated my attention almost as much as the aircraft.
The display on Pearl Harbour was also extremely interesting. One of the pacific island maps the Japanese used to plan the attack shows the calculations made for the bomb run to be successful.
All in all, I loved seeing the planes and reading about second world war history and would recommend the museum to anyone interested in that sort of thing.
The rest of the afternoon led us to the Classic Club for drinks and to enjoy the view (the view at the Classic Cub is phenomenal).
Then we headed home for another wonderful meal of BBQ kabobs and many games of Sequence.
Of all the wonderful things we did on this vacation, our hike into Deep Creek Hot Springs will probably remain the most memorable. The drive from Palm Springs presented some spectacular views! (Unfortunately the photos don’t do it justice).
We began our journey with the GPS pre-programmed to take us to the Kinley Creek Bridge. That may not have been the best idea because, while we wanted to get to the bridge, we didn’t need to wind through so many residential roads when sticking to Grass Valley Road would have been a better route.
Located along the Mojave River, (sometimes called Deep Creek) the hot springs welcome people of any size, age, and colour. Speaking of colour, I think we (especially me) got a bit too much sun exposure this day!
Unfortunately for us, our sun screen was not as full as we thought and by the end of the day, the sun had burned my back into a splotchy mess of red and white. (I’ll be the first to admit that trying to apply sunscreen to your own back is a rookie mistake).
Though some sources say it’s about 40 minutes to an hour to reach the end of the Bradford Ridge trail, we took our time checking out the wildlife and photographing flowers and I felt myself getting a little frustrated as we broke the two hour mark, but it just made the reward all the sweeter when we were finally able to soak in the hot springs.
We waded across the river (unnecessarily, it turns out) and soon found ourselves bounding from pool to pool testing our stamina against each of the various springs’ temperatures. The waters within the four(?) pools varied between 39c to 47c (102f to 117f). The river itself, unless swimming near a hot springs outlet, was quite brisk.
Our group soon expanded from the two of us to about 12 sitting and chatting in The Womb and the pools below it. Although many (most?) of the folks decided to go au-naturel, the people we met were lovely, happy folks, mostly from the area and we spent a long time getting to know one another. A bit of a motley crew, they included a very sun worn dude with two dogs (though he claims only one dog is his own), a cute set of twins from L.A. (celebrating their 25th birthday, it was their first time at the springs and also first time skinny dipping), a couple of local regulars, and another young couple who were also here for the first time.
A little grey bird caught our attention as it fed its young in the nest attached to the walls near the shower below the Anniversary Pool. We didn’t even notice the nest until the parent showed up with some food and the little chicks chirped their tiny little beaks off. So cute to see nature happening right before our eyes.
The fellow with the dogs showed off his slack line skills crossing the river with ease and later he began filling sandbags (long ones that he brought himself) and placing them below the hot spring run-off. It’s anyone’s guess how long it will last but one of the twins suggested they call it the Goldilocks Pool because, the spring water mixed with the river water created a mixture not too hot, not too cold, but just right.
We loved every second of the river and the springs (and the company) but the setting sun pressured us to get going. After all, we felt that our hike back on the Bradford Ridge Trail would be considerably more frightening in the dark. We opted for a different, less steep route, and it made us worry we’d lost the trail but we soon found it again and made haste to get back to Palm Springs.
The wild west has left its mark on California and we enjoyed a taste of it this morning. We rode up to Oak Glen for breakfast at Apple Annie’s Restaurant and Bakery. As you can probably tell by the pies in the photo, at Apple Annie’s they do NOT skimp on pie filling. Also they guarantee their breakfasts will fill you up or the second helping is on the house — I couldn’t take advantage though, the first plate of bacon and egg skillet was enormous! (and delicious).
The atmosphere at Apple Annie’s alone makes the drive well worth it. The walls are plastered with photos of “The Duke” and even the waitresses play the part by packing heat. You’ll find six-shooters conveniently located in little frames on the walls, I suppose, in case gun-play happens to break out and you’re not strapped up.
Next, we did a little bit of shopping in the nearby shops at Idyllwild. The most interesting one to me was Mountain Mike’s.
If you ever go to this shop, inside you’ll find the pleasantly nostalgic aroma of leather and Mike himself, a friendly and extremely bearded fellow, busily measuring and cutting leather for whatever custom project he happens to be working on.
He seemed to be, true to the store’s name, a genuine mountain man. Above his head I notice a very old looking rifle and sword — he explained that the rifle and sabre were the ones his great-great grandfather carried in the American Civil War. Not for sale, but nonetheless quite something to see.
After we had shopped ’til we dropped, we drove back on the scenic route to Palm Springs. Most of the trees and shrubs are sprouting leaves again after the terrible fire that ripped through the area last year.
We made a quick stop at a scenic pull-out and the panoramic photo below shows the winding road into the Coachella Valley. (Worth clicking for the large version).
It has been another great day in southern California.
As far as choosing the hottest days to pick to go on a desert hike up a mountain, we picked a doozy! I’m not actually sure how the heat compared with our other days in Palm Springs, but up on the mountain with not a degree of shade in sight, we were frying. It’s not to say that the view wasn’t lovely or that the crows circling us weren’t fascinating (acknowledging the possbility they were just waiting for our demise so they could pick the flesh off our bones).
After what seemed like, but was probably not, a long time in the sun, we decided to head back before serious heat stroke set in.
I’m pretty sure the rest of the day consisted of the world’s tastiest smoothie, followed by many games of Sequence.
After our, now ritual, morning hot-tub planning session it became clear that today would be a leisurely wind down day filled with lounging, shopping, and restaurant hopping. Not to say that we weren’t going to bike around town and get out in the sun, but everyday just seems to be the perfect fit between relaxing and getting out and being active. Everyone should have at least one vacation in their life like this one.
As we approached the street market, I first noticed the parking lot it was sitting on was covered by huge blankets of solar panels. I’m not sure where the power generated goes, but as anyone that has ever parked their car in the scorching California sun knows, there is a lot of potential solar energy to be captured in parking lots.
After browsing, but not really buying much, the rest of the day really was spent just hopping in and out of nice restaurants trying to determine who has the best nachos and/or Martinis in Palm Springs. It turns out, they all do!
We didn’t see any celebrities tonight, but I did see some artwork by Sorel Etrog which reminded me of the famous sculpture he did which is now at the University of Lethbridge.
On our sixth day in California, we jumped into the Camaro and flew up to Joshua Tree National Park. I loved the little pubs we hit up — the first one, Joshua Tree Saloon, has plenty of character: (click for larger).
Next, we went to the Barker Dam where, as we soon discovered, there isn’t a lot of water to be dammed. The state of California has been suffering a severe drought for the last 5 or 6 years but the desert was still beautiful. The panoramic photos I shot of the area don’t do it justice:
We also took a look at the Coachella Valley and the San Andreas fault from a lookout point before we went for dinner at Pappy and Harriets. Which, it turns out, has a rich history. Apparently The Pixies played there just last night.
A complete trip to California includes some time at the coast so we made Laguna Beach our next stop. As you can see by the panoramic photo below (click for larger) it wasn’t the sunniest morning at the beach.
We spent our morning shopping around, took some time on the beach, and then by afternoon decided it was time to head back to Palm Springs. On the way back, we took the more scenic route up the coast and by this point it had warmed up so we put the convertible’s top down. That car is fun to drive and more than one person commented on it!