Treasures in the Desert

by Bob Sparrow

ironwood 2My formal introduction to the ‘treasures of the desert’ probably took place in the early 70s, when brother, Jack took a job as restaurant manager at Ironwood Country Club in Palm Desert and he invited me out for a weekend. I believe it was in March and I was teaching school in southern California at the time; I remember thinking as I made the drive to Palm Desert just how close the desert really was – only about an hour and half drive and yet, I was to find out, a world apart. And while the weather was certainly nice in Orange County in March, it was amazing in Palm Desert, especially the nights. I remember sitting out on a beautifully clear evening with a billion stars all around, wondering how long this had been going on – apparently for quite some time.

painter's pallet

‘Painter’s Palette’ Death Valley

My love and fascination with the desert and its flora and fauna has continued to this day. I was amazed at the colors and the shear beauty of the desert on my first visit to Death Valley where I was also intrigued with ‘desert stories’ like that of ‘Scotty’s Castle’. My two treks through Joshua Tree National Park introduced me to unique rock formations, eerie hidden caves and spectacular views. My hike through Havasupai introduced me to the extraordinary water features in what was seemingly a dry, desolate desert. I recently visited the Desert Museum in Tucson with niece, Shelley Watson and continued to be amazed at all the beauty and life that exists in the Arizona-Sonora desert. The Raptor Show, featuring Ravens, Great Horned Owls and Falcons was remarkable!

Aside from the ‘family treasures’ in the desert, such as my sister, Suzanne living in Scottsdale and my sister-in-law, Starlet in Apache Junction, there’s a small oasis about three-and-a-half hours from home that calls to Linda a couple of times each year; you might know the place . . . Las Vegas. Linda has not met a Top Dollar slot machine that she doesn’t think she can hit the ‘big one’ on, so for her birthday each year, I ‘surprise’ her with a trip to visit our money. This year we did manage to salvage a little education out of the trip with an excursion to Hoover Dam, the building of which was amazing.

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Primm, Nevada

With all the hikes, excursions, timeshare in Palm Desert and trips to Vegas, you’d think I’d have my fill of the desert, but no, there is yet another pilgrimage that we make each year and from which I have just returned – Primm.

Primm, or what used to be called Stateline, is on the California-Nevada border, and at first passing you wonder why anyone would stop there with Vegas just 30 minutes away. The answer is Primm’s two 18-hole golf courses, which have a unique history of their own. Famous golf course designer, Tom Fazio, was contracted by Steve Wynn to design the golf course at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, under the condition that he would not design another golf course in the state of Nevada. Thus, the two magnificent courses he designed at Primm are just over the border in California.

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South Point Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV

A group of 12 couples from Yorba Linda Country Club have been going to Primm on ‘Derby Weekend’ since 1996. The outing was originally put together by Debbie Osborne, who with husband Russ, still attend, along with two other original members, John & Judy VanBoxmeer and Don & Marilyn Spradling, who made the trip this year from their home in Fresno. Linda and I have been lucky enough to have been part of this ‘gang that couldn’t shoot straight’ for the last 12 years

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Rodeo at South Point Equestrian Center

A small wrinkle in the Primm trip this year was, for the first time, we didn’t stay in Primm. While the golf courses are top quality, the Primm Resort & Casino would be lucky to get the tip of one star in a five-star rating. So, one of this year’s organizers, Chuck Sager, who has ‘connections’ at South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, suggested a change of venue. The South Point Hotel is very unique among Las Vegas hotels – it has 124 bowling lanes as well as horse stables and a full equestrian center, where, last weekend, many of us witnessed our first rodeo. It is truly an amazing place.  Thank you Chuck!  We also changed golf courses to Rhodes Ranch, another ‘treasure in the desert’.

derby

Sometimes a ‘winner’ is a ‘loser’

A tradition at this gathering is a large bet on the Kentucky Derby. We have two legitimate ‘pony players’ in the group, Jack Budd and Russ Osborne, so everyone gives them $105 and they make some sort of boxed, parlay, quinella bet to heighten our interest in watching ‘The Derby’. We actually won about $24,000 in 2011, of course it was split amongst 24 people, but still, it was a lot more fun than losing, or winning the way we did this year. Jack & Russ actually picked the top 4 finishers, but because they were mostly favorites, our $105 bet got us a $30 return, so ‘winning’ produced a $75 loss. But it was exciting for a moment, before we realized that winning was actually losing – more mysteries of the desert!

Whether I’m hiking, exploring, golfing or just losing money, the desert continues to lure me to its hidden treasures.

Glacier National Park and The ‘Unhappy Camper’

by Bob Sparrow

Linda motorcycle

Linda in route from Minnesota to California in 1972

Depending on your perspective, this is the ‘natural’ part of our trip or the ‘natural disaster’ part of our trip; Linda shares the latter perspective. To help frame this, you need to know that Linda was raised on a dairy farm in rural southern Minnesota; there was no indoor bathroom facilities for the first 5-6 years of her life, so she used an outhouse, which was about fifty yards from the house; which in the winter was fifty yards too far and in the summer, fifty yards too near. Pheeeew. Linda left the farm for California immediately after graduating from college . . . on a motorcycle. No, she wasn’t a passenger, she was driving. Linda plays golf and walks the course. I say all this to establish the fact that she is not a wussy, but she is also not a lover of the great outdoors. Wilderness to her is the rough along the 4th fairway at Yorba Linda Country Club.   ‘Roughing it’ is a Marriott without valet parking. She believes that people who had no cars invented hiking. So over the last three days of our trip, we are operating on two totally different wavelengths, sounding something like the following:

Linda

The ‘Unhappy Camper’

Lake McDonald in Glacier Nat’l Park

Four mile hike to Avalanche Lake:

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Avalanche Lake

One perspective: “The trailhead starts at a waterfall where the Avalanche Creek cascades magnificently into Lake McDonald and weaves back through the majestic pines to Avalanche Lake, a serene, crystal clear lake set in a glacial valley surrounded by 7-8,000 foot mountains.

Another perspective: “The waterfall’s pretty and the lake is nice, but there are too many trees between them and I can’t get any phone reception here; apparently there is no Big Cell or Big Wifi in this Big Sky state.”

We check into the Lake McDonald Lodge

One perspective: “What a quaint room, rustic wood beam ceilings, step-saver bathroom and a view of the forest.”

Another perspective: “This is the worst room I’ve ever stayed in, no TV and where’s the mini bar?”

Bear

“No I don’t have bear spray, I thought you said hair spray!”

Flora and Fauna

One perspective: “Did you know that in Glacier National Park there are nearly 1,132 species of plants including 20 varieties of trees, over 200 species of birds, nearly 60 species of mammals and 24 species of fish, including 18 native?”

Another perspective: “No, but if these damn mosquitos don’t leave me alone, I’m going to eradicate one entire species myself.”

Going to the Sun Road

One Perspective: “This is one of the most spectacular roads I’ve ever driven on, look at the water falls and rock formations here on the Continental Divide.”

Another Perspective: “Keep your eyes on the road!  Couldn’t they have just blown a tunnel through the mountain instead of creating this road along these cliffs?  Who wants to go to the sun anyway?”

View from Many Glacier Lodge

View from Many Glacier Lodge

Many Glacier – Hike to Johns Lake

One Perspective: “I know it’s early, but do you want to take a quick 3 mile hike before breakfast to John’s Lake, the walk along the river is beautiful?”

Another Perspective: “Zzzzzzzzzzz”

Five mile hike to St. Mary’s Falls

One Perspective: “These are spectacular falls”

St. Mary Falls

St. Mary Falls

Another Perspective: “If they’re so spectacular, why didn’t they build the road closer to them? Oh crap, I broke a nail.”

Into Canada and to The Prince of Wales hotel.

One Perspective: Great old railroad hotel with spectacular views

Another Perspective: No elevator and we’re on the 5th floor? No cell, no wifi, no Starbucks and I’ve seen this view on the Internet. When do we check out?

For someone who wonders why people would want to walk through a forest without any real purpose, she did pretty well particularly in light of the emotions she was going through with her father’s health. She did enjoy the scenery and the company of Moose (Pat), Rocky (Pam), Glacier (Bob P), Current (Jeanne), Digger (John) and Dug (Lisa), Slot (Linda) and Akeem (me) – it’s a unpublished rule that you have to have a mountain/hiking name.

Prince of Wales Hotel

Prince of Wales Hotel

 

View from PofW Hotel

View from Prince of Wales Hotel

Now that I’m home and have the luxury of wifi, I’ve attached the pictures to the 3 previous posts – Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Flathead Lake that you can revisit in the archives, including the video of the buffalo walking next to our car.  (Yes, I learned how to insert a video into the blog!).  All the pictures, including the ones here, are mine, except the one of Linda on the motorcycle in 1972.