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Saturday, March 1, 2014

From Below Sea Level to 8500 Feet Above

Since Doug's folks were visiting last week, we decided to do some touristy things that we have not done in a very long time, one thing being the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.  It had been well over 20 years since I had last gone on the Tram so was excited to experience it once it again.  The new cars are circular and they turn as you ascend and we had picked the most perfect day to go up.  It was warm and sunny in the desert and mild and sunny in the mountains.  Because of the dry winter California has been experiencing, there was no snow on top of the mountain.  The forecast said clear, sunny and 50° on top!  The Tram station at the base of the ride is quite a climb in the car taking you to 2,000 feet.  From there, without even going on the tram you can hike many great trails and there are lovely waterfalls that gush a lot more than this when there's been snow.
From there however, the tram gets you to 8500 feet in about 10 minutes!
The cars are quite stable but it's standing room only so you have to be careful.  When the cars ride through the cable towers they sway a little adding to the excitement!  But the views are breathtaking in every direction and it's oh so cool to ascend high above the desert floor through the pine trees, surrounded by towering rock.  The Coachella Valley stretches out to the east and on a clear day, like the one we got, you can almost see the Salton Sea. The crisp air thins as we land at Mountain Station.  Once off, you are hit by fresh, cool, clean mountain air.  Beautiful and refreshing. I can see where this would be a fantastic getaway in the summer heat with temperatures reaching 110° in the desert but only 70° or so in the mountains.
The views really are spectacular and the opportunities for hiking are endless.  We were just there for the views on this day and they did not disappoint.  From one of the viewing platforms you could see our housing complex out in the distance, with the green from the golf course highlighted.  
After tooling around for a bit we decided to make our way down.  The tram descends at what felt like a much faster speed because the car does not turn on the way down.  Your ears pop a bit and your stomach drops a little but it's a great ride down as well.
It was wonderful to share this with Doug's sister and his parents.  We will definitely make our way back up here again one day when we can spend the day hiking around.  One of the many treasures of California is the unique ability to be in the desert, high in the mountains or at the coast all in the same day.  Quite a treat to leave the desert and land at the top of Mt San Jacinto in just a few minutes.