Summer has come to us before its scheduled due date. Winter is not yet over, but the beaches and villages around the Monterey Bay are already being heavily visited by sunbathers. My visit to the southwest desert is about to begin, in just a day or so. I’ll be off in the desert mountains in a small town near Palm Springs for most of two weeks. When I go it is my custom to leave my journal posting behind, but it’s a splendid time to go capture images of the desert surroundings.
On my last visit to the area, 500 miles south of here, the wife and I were eating breakfast in a quiet restaurant on the first morning of our arrival. We were discussing what we might do that day to entertain ourselves before checking in with our friends in the afternoon. We come to the desert to watch their home and dogs a couple of times each year when they go on vacation.
When we finished eating breakfast, I stood to walk my bill over to the cashier near the entrance to the restaurant, when the fellow behind me also stood at the same time and said,
“Excuse me. I couldn’t help but over hear your conversation. Are you planning on driving out east into the desert this morning?”
“Yes, we are,” I said.
“I have a suggestion for you,” he said. “I’m a local and have lived here all my life. I know a place that’s out of the way that hardly anybody knows about, and I think you will like it”.
He was an elderly guy, with a good tan and a lively spirit. He gave me instructions on how to get to this place, which he called Box Canyon. The Coachella Valley is loaded with golf courses, resorts, casinos, shopping centers, and fancy homes perched on mountain sides behind locked gates. People come here from all over, but especially from the cold country in winter, to enjoy the desert heat in their shorts, shades, and sandals.
Box Canyon, this fellow diner explained to me, is not a tourist place, but rather is a canyon several miles long that you can drive through. He described it as some of the most interesting rock formations he’d ever seen. His brief description and recommendation was all I needed to want to go find and see for myself. It would be that, or walk around in an air-conditioned mall all morning. I will choose rocks over Macy’s any day.
The drive out east from the larger towns becomes quite interesting as we leave the affluence of communities where movie stars and business jillionaires enjoy their retreats to pool side playgrounds. The towns become Hispanic, look to be as if part of Mexico has snuck across the border into California. I stopped in one grocery store, asking how for directions on how to get to Mecca, which is the town closest to Box Canyon, but nobody in the store spoke English. One woman gave me some signals and drew me a map in the air with one hand to show me turns in the road I must take to get to Mecca.
We did eventually find Mecca, and had to stop again and ask a couple of teenage boys walking along the road how to get to Box Canyon. Maybe one day I will invest in a smart phone or GPS gadget, but today I rather enjoyed being just a little bit lost. My map didn’t have enough detail. The missed turns and bad guesses caused us to see some places we may never see again.
We had Box Canyon pretty much all to ourselves this morning, and drove the length of it both ways, round trip, a distance of maybe 10 miles. It is a unique spot on the earth. I have seen some of the amazing rock formations in the mountains and deserts of Utah. The rocks in Box Canyon are not as big and as many, but are still worth the effort to go find them. Maybe on this coming trip I will go back when the sunlight is streaming in at a different angle and have another look.