Our expectations when we left downtown Palm Springs for a trip up the aerial tramway on the outskirts of the city were low. It wasn’t just that I had spent the before day unable to keep food down (cursing an oyster in Santa Barbara the previous night), but surely a cable car that promise to whisk passengers up from Mexican climate on the desert floor to a Canadian-style pine forest on top of a mountain in a matter of minutes is the sort of trap of a place that feeds on tourism naffness? How wrong we were.
Winding slowly up San Jacinto towards the station at the top, we marvelled at how close to the mountain we were travelling and the mesmerising views across the desert – from the wind farm that greets all visitors to Palm Springs all the way towards Joshua Tree in the distance.
Sure, once we arrived there was an obligatory photo shoot with a very uncool backdrop to take care of before we could exit the station and enter the San Jacinto State Park, but the lady at the counter really didn’t mind that we didn’t want a copy to send to our parents (which was her suggestion – maybe we looked particularly young that day?): as an entry to the peaceful walking trails outside, it was most certainly worth it. The mountain range is criss-crossed with hiking trails – it even includes a section of the Pacific Crest Scenic Trail, which runs from the length of the west coast from the Mexican to the Canadian borders – and the fact that we didn’t get very far (the blame again falls on that oyster) is just another reason to return.
P.S. Here’s another recommendation: make sure you listen Gram Parsons – the unbeatable soundtrack to a Californian desert adventure – in the car as you drive up steep road that connects Palm Springs with the cable car station