Tamarack Valley via Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Friday morning we woke up and decided that everything else could wait. In less than two hours we had packed the car and headed out on a trip back to the San Jacinto Wilderness – this time from the east, via the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

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One of the reasons we were so casual about this trip was the presence of piped water at Round Valley, a nearby campsite to where we planned to stay. Unfortunately, four years into a drought as we are, the spring that produces the water had run dry. No water on the mountain! After a few calculations we bought a couple of bottles of back-up water from the cafeteria and up we went.

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The ‘Tramway’ is a large gondola-type cable-lift with a rotating floor. It starts at an elevation of 2,643 feet just near Palm Springs and travels 6,000 feet up an insanely steep cliffside to the Mountain Station, elevation 8,516 feet. Beats walking! But Jess was absolutely petrified the whole time, keeping her eyes shut so she wouldn’t lose her lunch.

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Snack at the top of the gondola ride of death.

We picked up wilderness permits at the Long Valley Ranger’s Station and off we went! Since the total distance we needed to cover was only around 2.5 miles, we were able to take many breaks (we didn’t need to rush through like we did at the Mexican border).

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Here, want some lip balm? We dropped it into the dirt!
Here, want some lip balm? We dropped it into the dirt!

Making it to Tamarack Valley, elevation 9,120 feet, we found the Quartz campsite and set up camp. Since the distance was so short, we packed a couple of creature comforts: a bag of wine, and the coffee plunger! After a quick minute of zazen we rehydrated up some veggie curry (leaving it simmering for ages made it delicious) and enjoyed the view and each other’s company before retiring at 3-year-old bedtime. Everyone seemed to sleep fairly well, we were all warm enough and there was pretty much no wind at all.


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Wearing mommy’s thermal tops!

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Gabriel making some dirt soup
Gabriel making some dirt soup
Wine and cheese
Wine and cheese
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That is not how you wear a hat, silly

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In the morning we went out for another walk and saw deer grazing in the meadow nearby. They didn’t mind our presence and went about their business peacefully.

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The walk back was beautiful, and Gabriel even hiked a bit himself. We had a relaxed lunch while we waited for the next gondola ride down the hill, and away we went. The ride down ended up being much scarier than the way up, for Jess anyway!

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Just don’t point it at the sun.
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Gondola machinery
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Epic gondola of terror
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The guy on the left thought I was really funny.

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