Thriving in the desert

The desert never fails to surprise. It looks dead, but teems with life. Nature provides. Artifice informs. People amuse.

The bird

partial albino red tail hawk, Mike Schuler trail 3-14.JPG

On the Mike Schuler trail overlooking Palm Desert, the solitary hiker encounters a rare partial albino red-tailed hawk. The descriptor is common, but sort of a misnomer. True albino birds lack pigment not only in their feathers, but their skin and eyes. This one has leucism, the term biologists apply to birds with aberrant white plumage. At the sound of the shutter, she was gone with the wind.

The lizard

chuckwalla2, Fortynine Palms Oasis trail 3-14 - Copy.JPG

Chuckwallas like to sunbathe on the abundant rocky outcrops in Joshua Tree National Park. In the presence of predators, they scurry into crevices and expand their lungs to wedge themselves into tight protection. Most don't care for humans invading their space, but this one, next to the Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail, seemed to like the camera as much as it liked her.

The man

corner of Monroe and Hwy 111 Indio 3-14.JPG

It was hot at the intersection of Highway 111 and Monroe in Indio, but among the palms and the pepper trees, this fellow found shade from which to communicate his message. Whatever it is.

The store

2nd Amendmen Sports3 Palm Desert 3-14.JPG

Message received. This retail establishment is tucked into a business park in Palm Desert across the street from the Riverside County Permit Assistance Center, which serves all your permitting needs not related to weapons.

The tavern

Dillon Road2 Desert Hot Springs 3-14.JPG

There's nothing out here on Dillon Road in Desert Hot Springs except dust, wind and did we mention dust? And cold beer at a true road house also offering hot burgers, 2-for-1 dinners, free biscuits and gravy and live music on Saturday nights.

The Jurassics

desert dinos4, Hwy 62 Joshua Tree 3-14.JPG

The worst thing that ever happened to the dinosaurs was climate change (or maybe meteors or alien invasion). The second worst was when they built the Shell station, the Burger King and Spanky's BBQ between Interstate 10 and the sculptures of Tyrannosaurus rex and Apatosaurus in Cabazon. Happily, for dino devotees, this roadside attraction is visually unimpeded in Joshua Tree, across Highway 62 from Able "2" Help Bail Bonds, and a couple miles east of Dyed Hyde Tattoo (& body piercing--20 bucks).

The Graveyard

Pet Cemetery3 Desert Hot Springs 3-14.JPG

Among the RV parks, cactus nurseries and wind-burned vistas of Dillon Road not far from the Road House is 2.26 acres of eternal rest for man's best friends. One local account says Pet Cemetery's real name is Pet Haven, was founded in 1964 and hosts 2,000-some (dead) residents, including dogs, cats and pot belly pigs.

Pet Cemetery grave markers5 3-14.JPG

There's a trailer onsite, and a pickup, but no sign of life above ground. The listed telephone number has been disconnected. Whether the property is truly dead or only at the mercy of the elements is unclear. Century 21 lists it for sale, and if you seek wind, heat and creepy, dry quiet, it's yours for $135,000.

[windswept grave, Pet Cemetery Desert Hot Springs 3-14.JPG

Photos: Ellen Alperstein


More by Ellen Alperstein:
Thriving in the desert
Fake terrorism, serious intent
Animal Rx at Children's Hospital
A red and white and traffic all over valentine
Jumbo, the doctor will see you now
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