We found ourselves in Palm Springs in the early part of December during the pandemic. In “normal” times, I imagine this is where retired golfers converge. Palm trees, sunny skies, temps in the 70s, and golf courses scattered everywhere. Ten months into a pandemic, however, found California in another serious lockdown as emergency rooms and ICU beds filled to capacity and beyond. Most Canadian snowbirds were not able to cross the border to migrate to the south for the winter. Although our RV park was at about 75% capacity and the pickleball courts were active, the area seemed saddened by the lack of its usual hubbub of activity.

We filled our time with online Christmas shopping, reading, Karen writing, Carl playing pickleball a few times a week and golf a couple of times, and taking a few jaunts to explore the surrounding area.

We spent a day exploring the vicinity around the Salton Sea (not some sultry location with visions of a turban-wearing king being fed grapes by his harem … I know, I have an active imagination!). The Salton Sea is a salty lake that formed in the San Andreas Fault. (For more information about Salton Sea, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salton_Sea.) At one time, it might have been a place to which people flocked, but it seemed abandoned—deserted, graffiti-ridden shops, overgrown boat ramps, unkempt beaches, scraggily landscape. A banana museum was nearby. It shares a building with the only open convenience store. Unfortunately, the museum was closed because of the pandemic.

Nearby are acres and acres of date palms, lemon trees, grape vines, and produce fields. These provide the beauty in the area. Rows of trees—many laden with ripening citrus—rows of carrots waiting to be harvested, rows of grape vines waiting to be plucked. The richness of these fields overshadows the impoverishment permeating the general area.

Down a long dirt road called Painted Canyon Road, a 4×4 road, we found a popular hike into the canyon. We weren’t prepared to take the entire hike, but we did a portion of it, enjoying the dry, brown, desert beauty it offered.

A few days later, in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, we ventured into downtown Palm Springs. Deserted. Most restaurants were closed (outdoor dining was not permitted during the lockdown), many shops were closed, and masks were required both inside and outside. We wandered around the empty sidewalks, purchased some takeout from a local crepes café, and caught sight of a show being filmed in front of a boutique.

Another day, we drove into the mountains, a winding uphill adventure, to Idyllwild, a sweet little mountain town tucked among tall pine trees. Green trees are few and far between in the southwest unless, of course, they are palm trees. So, laying eyes on and driving through a forest of pine trees was a TREAT!

I find that being in nature suits me. I might not be the roughing-it kind. The idea of erecting a tent or sleeping on the hard ground under a starry sky does not appeal to me, to be honest. But taking a hike in the woods to find a waterfall or a breathtaking view, kayaking on a lake or a river, or driving on some back dirt roads designed for 4x4s, ATVs, and OHVs—off the beaten path to see “behind the scenes” so to speak—is definitely my cup of tea. Our trip to Idyllwild was a healing balm, and our drive to and through Joshua Tree National Park helped as well.

Joshua Tree National Park is filled with—you got it—Joshua trees! It also has the remnants of an old gold mine and some fabulous dirt roads on which we let our truck sow her wild side. Beauty can be found everywhere, even in the desert.

We left Palm Springs to spend Christmas and New Year’s in Mesa, Arizona, but we will be touring other parts of California this coming Spring. Fingers crossed that the lockdown will be lifted, and the pandemic will be starting to subside.