Thursday, June 11, 2009

Visiting Time Is Over


Has there ever been better weather in June in the desert than we have been experiencing this last week? I went to go hiking in south Palm Desert this afternoon near the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument Visitor's Center. On Tuesday, I also went there but left after discovering I forgot my camera and went somewhere else later. Today, I had better luck. I brought my camera; I brought some water; the temperature was perfect. There was only one problem: the visitor's center was closed.

I don't know if it budget cutbacks or a seasonal adjustment but the day of operation at the center have been reduced from seven days a week to five. There has probably been a drastic drop in visitors so it makes sense but why lock the gate? The trail is still open.

The signs are nice at the center and contain a good amount of information for the first time visitor. But what's the deal with the white little stick-on sign on the top?

I'm sure who ever put it there said, "Good enough for government work" when they did it.

When I came here a few months ago, the trail was crowded with visitors. There were at least three groups of fifteen or more being led around by volunteers. This time the trail was left to me and the ants. I don't know why ants like the hot weather--maybe not as many people around to step on them--but they tend to really come out in the summer.

These little brown posts are still not done after all these months. Can't a guy with some white paint just go out and finish the job or does it require Congressional approval before he paints each one? That job should take three hours and it's been three months. Did they contract Halliburton to do it or what?

On my previous hikes here the trail was lined with flowers. Not so this time. The only things blooming were the Smoke Trees and the Desert Lavender on its very last legs. Lavender was probably the first to bloom and is the last to die out. I cannot walk by one without rubbing some blossoms on my hands. I love the smell.

The coming of summer brings a distinctly different feel to the trail. The flowers have all died and gone to seed. The Canadians have headed north. Even though the weather is beautiful, it is still warmer than before and the days are long. In the distance, I hear a lonely coyote mournfully bay. Alone on the trail, I think of what's to come. This weather won't last forever and I probably won't hike this trail again until fall. But you never know.

Summer is the time of year only someone who loves the desert can tolerate. Endless sun and solitude can bring bliss or insanity, often at the same time. It is a feeling only ants and a very few people will ever understand.

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