Wednesday, November 28, 2007


This is the third or fourth time we have visited the area around Palm Springs and I am still completely amazed by the place. Where do all these wealthy folk come from??

We actually have spent very little time in Palm Springs. We stay at the Elks Lodge in Indio, one of a chain of desert communities that have discrete boundaries but have no space between them - a long, unbroken stretch of unusually attractive shopping malls, gated communities, and golf courses, against a backdrop of arid mountains, navigated on crowded, palm- and flower-lined thoroughfares.

To me, the entire experience seems unreal. In such an arid environment, so much perfect grass! Such lush gardens! So many cars! So much wealth! We drove a couple hundred miles through dusty, high desert scrub to get here, and will be driving through low desert scrub when we leave - this lush oasis of high living is quite an anomaly.

Aside from the eye candy, we have one main reason for coming here: the deep-fried Baja shrimp (for me) and catfish (for Odel) from the Fisherman's Market and Grill. They serve the best fried shrimp I have had outside of Mexico or Louisiana, and the catfish is outstanding. We were here two days, and ate shrimp and catfish two days - it's that good.

Usually when we visit, we hike - there are SO MANY hikes in the immediate vicinity. Today, though, we did something different: we visited The Living Desert, a plant and animal preserve in Palm Desert. About half of the vast acreage is habitat for African animals; the other half for species from the American southwest and Mexico. Mature gardens representing various desert environments are interspersed among the animal habitats, with intrepretive signs for all the plants and animals.

After we had walked through half of the preserve (and I got the photo of the warthog, above), we sat down in the amphitheatre for the 2 pm wildlife show. It began with a Great Horned Owl swooping down to the stage from behind the (small) audience, soon to be followed by a red-tailed hawk. That was the cue for the trainer to enter - a great beginning to the show.

She gave a little talk and put on a leather glove... the next thing we knew, a Harris Hawk swooped overhead and landed on her outstretched arm. The other handler/trainer was on the walkway up behind the amphitheatre bleachers, and the hawk swooped back and forth between the two handlers, directly over the heads of the startled audience.

The bird made four passes, the second directly over Odel and me. I SO REGRET that I didn't get a photo as it came straight for us - I felt just like a little mouse about to be snatched up for dinner. It seemed as though it passed right between us. Though the trainer had told us (after the first pass, over other audience members) that the hawk would never touch us, both Odel and I let out very wimpy yelps (actually, closer to screams) and ducked... and not just once, but on the return flight, too! By the way, the photo shows the handler with a Golden Eagle - very impressive.

Besides the endangered animals in the preserve, they have a $70 million dollar animal hospital that provides all the care for the animals in the preserve AND treatment of local wild animals found sick or injured in the area. We took a quick tour - I found the "freezer room" very interesting. Here they freeze and store sperm, eggs, embryos and DNA. The sperm and eggs are shared with other breeding programs around the world to help avoid inbreeding of endangered species; the embryos are stored in the hope that someday enough protected habitat will be available to "grow" wild populations of endangered animals. A few of the rooms were closed to tours; they were being used to house animal refugees of the southern California fires, waiting to return to their zoos once their habitats were cleaned and/or repaired.

From this beautiful - but way too congested - oasis, we move on tomorrow to it's opposite: Quartzsite, Arizona and probably beyond to Gila Bend. No grass, or palm trees, or flowers, or delightful restaurants there!


  1. Interesting blog. Welcome to BookCrossing by the way.

  2. What a great place to visit!
    It's so nice to be traveling (virtually) again with you following the sun-- as I sit here in my office in sweater, fleece and space heater going! (it's sunny today, but the windchill is in the teens!) You guys keep me warm!!

  3. sound like some place I would love to go to have fun barry and jan april