Palms to Pines & Rare Desert Storm~

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has the world’s largest rotating tram cars.

The two and a half mile trip up the mountain from the desert floor takes ten minutes.

It brings you from a desert floor elevation of 479 feet to 8, 516 feet. That’s a big climb in ten minutes!

The ride up moves through five different life zones, from the Sonoran Desert floor to the Arctic/Alpine Zone, where the highest peak, Mt. San Jacinto, is 10, 834 feet.

You leave the stark, baking desert, and hike in the mountains where the temperatures are 30 degrees cooler than below.

During our trip, a summer storm was moving in, causing it to rain on the mountain, and dropping the temperatures even more.

By the time we returned to the desert, we could watch the rain clouds move in over the mountains accompanied by lots of thunder. This is a rare summer occurrence and one I have never seen before. Despite the rain, the temperature remained a steady 112 degrees fahrenheit, and the drops evaporated quickly after contact with the superheated desert.

After the passage of the brief storm, the light was lovely.

Cheers to you from the scorching, but beautiful, summer desert~

185 thoughts on “Palms to Pines & Rare Desert Storm~

  1. Beautiful landscape! What a treat to leave that heat in 10 minutes. Years ago in the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico, I watched a storm come like that. It’s amazing to see the rain moving across terrain–coming right at you.

    • I have seen rain in other deserts that was more dramatic, and heavy, but this was remarkable in that this desert so rarely gets rain in mid-summer. I have never seen it and I have been coming regularly to the desert all my life.

    • Yes, the mountains are lovely. You have to be a desert rat to like hanging out in the desert in the summer. I am such and always have been, but I only like it briefly, not long term.

  2. That’s a fast climb at almost 14 mph. Our Sandia Peak Tramway runs at 12 mph, so it takes 15 minutes to climb 4,000 feet on 2.7 miles of cable. I’ve driven through storms like that where I had to pull over, stop and wait for it to pass because I had zero visibility.

    • Yep, I have too. I don’t enjoy driving in storms. I had never seen a summer storm in this desert before and there was lots of thunder so it was exciting. I wonder if they closed the tram later due to thunder and lightning…..

      • I would be surprised if they ran that tram in a storm. They close our tram in inclement weather, and stop the cars it the winds come up all of a sudden. I’ve been on it when winds came up and they stopped cars. It feels a little strange swaying in the wind 1000 feet above the canyon floor.

        • Laughing….I bet it did feel strange. The one thing I did notice is they did not stop the tram as we descended despite the thunderstorm, but they may have needed to get us off the mountain. Trams were still going up though……Maybe they have done probability statistical analysis on the relative risk of the tram being struck by lightning during winter storms. Maybe they hadn’t calculated for summer thunder and lightning. Or maybe they did, and the occurrence of both together, the tram being struck by lightning, and a summer thunderstorm, were so rare, why bother. It was just fun being there then. My husband, though, the professor of statistics, did not accompany me on this trip. Laughing more…. I loved every bit of it.

  3. Beautiful pictures as usual. I think I could see your house from one of them. Remarkable rock striations, some verticals. How many miles of cable are used in that system? If you don’t know, let it go. Those interested, ask Google, Alexa, or Siri.

    • Laughing…… I don’t know how much cable. I do know the tramway is considered an engineering “wonder of the world,” and they used helicopters to build the stations. I can’t even imagine building this thing. It was a dream of some engineer, who thought it would be nice to go from the hot desert to the cool mountains in a matter of minutes. He was right!

    • I understand. Smart of you to opt out. <3 It is not good for people who don't like heights and fast and jarring movement, all at once, or for folks who have trouble with fast ascents in elevation.

  4. Must be some hard truth ‘bout the dry heat 🙂 We hit 112 here in Austin early Sept 2000 & I wasn’t happy, lol! Love your descriptions with the pics, the differing zones and terrains – two miles up! Loved your thunderstorm pic but esp liked the last pic, the beautiful desert in bloom. Much to like about that 😊

  5. What an amazing experience – I remember it raining briefly in the Kalahari Desert; so out of the blue, quick and the lovely damp smell afterwards that barely lingered.

    • Awww, such kind words Miriam. Thank you and I have heard about your scorched north and am heading north soon, up to Churchill Manitoba. Hugs to you my friend.

  6. Cindy, I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I drove right past this… Palm Springs, Indio and other places east of where I was born and lived for too many years. There were more than three years when I drove up to Yucca Valley to care for the second wife of a great-uncle, believe me, he was anything but great. Yet, I always liked Vern and she had Alzheimer’s so I drove up three times a week and cooked, cleaned and distracted her and tried to keep a distance between myself and my great-uncle. Thanks for showing me what I missed. But the smiles on Vern’s face when I took her for an ice cream cone melted my heart. <3

  7. Your picture takes me back to seeing storms falling in the mountains of Colorado. It’s amazing how it just falls in these heavy grey sheets. Looks like some beautiful hiking!

  8. This reminds me of Big Bear City where we lived off and on in our early lives when Bill was building park roads in wilderness areas of California. From the desert floor to the high mountain forests we loved it all.

    • You need to write a book Dor. Your life, living all over the wilds of California in the early days of your marriage, would make fascinating reading.

  9. Wow! What a stunning/terrifying view. I don’t like heights and I am not sure I’d be brave enough to use the tramway, but that cool mountain walk does look really tempting.

  10. Stunning views through your lens, Cindy. So good to hear about the storm even the raindrops were evaporated quickly.

  11. I cannot fathom what 112 degrees feels like! Thank you for showing us the storm — this is one post I’m glad to be reading and not participating in — rotating tram cars would NOT be my thing, ha!

    • Laughing. It is truly good to know what you want to do, and what you don’t, and honor it.
      This reminds me of what my mother said to me when I told her we were going up The Amazon.
      “Oh,” said, “Better you than me.”

    • I can’t even believe Vancouver needs rain. So very sad. We’re heading to Northern Manitoba soon. I hope some polar bears are still alive. Hugs to you Rebecca.

      • Where about in Northern Manitoba? That is my old haunts. Lived there for most of my childhood. Most people head to Churchill, but there is so much to that rich wilderness. Even got lost in the bush and was saved by a loon…but that is another story….

        • We are going to Churchill to see the polar bears and the belugas, but then we are heading to Riding Mountain National Park, and renting a cabin to explore all over. I had no idea you grew up in such a remote and gorgeous wild area Rebecca. Have you heard about the two Canadian serial killers from Vancouver Island who are holed up there. Last seen in York Landing in Northern Manitoba. I hope they catch them quickly. All the military and mounties looking for them will scare away the polar bears, plus I have no desire to meet them.

    • Laughing…..The hottest I hiked out here, with my kids, was 119F. It was an abbreviated hike. Heat like this drives every other thought from your brain.

  12. LOL…I spent the first 23 years of my life in that county of California; where I grew up. I’ve only been on that tram once just before I moved to the The coast of Central California…or just slightly north of that. I remember it was late spring, it was hot in the desert, but up atop that mountain, it was cold (or very very cool). It was shocking to come back down into heat. Alpine to desert in just a quick little trip. LOL

    STUNNING images! And thanks for the return of a great memory (sigh).

  13. I do not think I will ever get on a lift like that even if it took me to heaven. Those sky lifts absolutely terrify me and everyone else loves them. I love the scenic views you get but I’ll settle for your perfect photos instead. Thanks for saving me the terror. 🙂

  14. Reminds me of the tram at Squaw Valley, Cindy. I normally use it when I am backpacking into the Granite Chief Wilderness because it saves hiking up the mountain. 🙂 Thunderstorms in the desert can be quite dramatic. –Curt

    • I took that tram in the winter skiing when I was around 14 years old. I was on a school trip, and had barely recovered from horrible flu I got on the trip up. I wasn’t well yet, but I took the tram with my science teacher to ski. I forgot my gloves. He gave me his and pretended it was okay, even though I think he risked frostbite. I remember it well.

    • Yes, it is a strange experience, going from such a surreal summer desert environment, to the relative coolness of the alpine environment. I hope you are doing well and it is good to hear from you <3

  15. Such great captures, Cindy. I was there…and looking at your photos I can’t believe I did it! Though, I do remember wishing time would go a little faster!
    Hope you are well 🙂

    • Heading up to northern Manitoba soon Resa to visit the polar bears…..why don’t you come on up. The train ride from Winnipeg only takes 40 hours. We’re renting a cabin.

  16. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sun and the light and warmth, etc…. but my favorite picture is the rain. I love the grey, the darker colors that bring out so much around us we don’t necessarily see in the light. Love the dessert too!

  17. We visit friends in Palm Springs occasionally, but I’ve never taken the tram up the mountain. Thanks for the encouragement. (I’m slowing down; don’t write much, but I do like to follow along. Your posts extend my world, keep me dreaming of adventures.)

    • Awww, your very kind comment motivates me to keep blogging. If my posts help you have positive dreams and images, then I am very glad I posted them. Be well Albert.

  18. Ha. I did that ride a year and a half ago, after observing the Indian Wells tournament for a few days. There was about 4” of snow at the top.

  19. I’ve been on that Tram once back in the late 80’s when He-Man and I got a romantic get-away. The views are amazing. How wonderful for you to be able to get up there to cooler air!

    What’s funny is my son called home yesterday afternoon to chat and asked, ” how are you doing in the heat?” I replied I was doing great. It wasn’t bothering me at all as I do much better with the heat than cold. I hope it’s not really bothering you too much either.

  20. Fascinating and interesting. One would go from sweating the extreme heat to sudden chills in the climbing altitude and temperature drop and wonder what kind of clothes to wear for the occasion. 🙂

    • Exactly. I didn’t have a sweater packed because we left home in a state of chaos, so I was worried the temps at the top might be too cold, but it was comfortable.

  21. I hope you enjoyed it wish it had brought relief we have been 95-100 but had hail 2 days ago and this morning in the high 40’s in NH but will be in the 80’s all week with many chances of rain just praying storms behave 🙂

  22. The desert is an eerie but beautiful landscape for me. Perhaps because it’s so different from where I live in South Florida. Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures and story. <3

  23. Beautiful, Cindy! I’ve never been to this part of the country, but definitely hope to in the next year or two! We are headed to Big Sur Dec 2 for 3 months, and I am looking forward to exploring N CA.

    Also I hope you are safe from the fires!

    Cheers,
    Lynne

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