An Outrageously Wild ride on the Mount San Jacinto Aerial Tramway!

So, there we were, our intrepid bunch of adventurers, including our slightly eccentric grandparents who had traveled all the way from Denver to Palm Springs for a grand escapade. The only problem? The weather! It was a balmy 41 degrees Fahrenheit at the top of Mount San Jacinto, a staggering 8,570 feet above sea level, while down in the valley, it was a toasty 80 degrees. Talk about climate extremes! But equipped with nothing more than a cane and a jacket, our brave grandparents decided to embrace the chilly challenge.

At the Tramcar

As we stood in line to purchase our tickets, we couldn’t help but admire the gargantuan tramcar, ready and waiting to whisk us away on this wacky adventure. With excitement building like a pressure cooker about to blow its lid, we boarded the tram. And let me tell you, this was no ordinary tram ride. Oh no! The floor spun around as we ascended the San Jacinto Mountain, providing us with a dizzying 360-degree view of the landscape. And to add an extra dash of thrill, you couldn’t even hold onto anything as the floor spun beneath your feet! The tram sailed smoothly over five towering columns, each time swaying like a tipsy tightrope walker. We clung to the corners of the car like shipwreck survivors on a lifeboat.

As we ascended, a mere ten minutes that felt like a rollercoaster ride to the heavens, the view transformed before our eyes. First, we looked down upon a dusty, windmill-dotted desert that resembled a picket fence made of white windmills. Then, we marveled at the city of Palm Springs and the neighboring desert cities. A quirky fact: this is the only place in Southern California where the Sonoran Desert meets the Alpine Forest! The once barren, desolate land magically transformed into a green, lush pine forest, the home of the San Jacinto Wilderness Park.

Passing the second and third towers, the landscape continued to morph. Gigantic boulders lay below us, and the pine trees seemed like they were determined to win a vertical race. Excitement and anxiety mingled in the air as some passengers struggled to maintain their balance on the spinning floor. My grandpa clung to his cane, looking more like a wizard on a broomstick than a hiker.

Once our ten-minute ordeal was over and the tram’s operator finished their explanation, everyone was desperate to escape from the spinning contraption. We disembarked, and a brisk, teeth-chattering breeze greeted us. We hurriedly zipped up our jackets as the temperature had plummeted to 41 degrees, and the wind was howling like a wolf in search of dinner.

At the top of the Mountain

Our motley crew decided to embark on a hike along the desert trail, a 1.5-mile loop that began as a seemingly harmless sandy path but quickly transformed into a boulder-scrambling extravaganza. The hike was calm and cold, with towering pine trees that looked like they had serious aspirations. Dead trees were left to decompose, becoming one with the mountain, like a tree retirement home.

Along the way, we encountered numerous scenic viewpoints where you could soak in the beauty of the desert landscape. There was barren sand in all directions, and the windmills seemed to have multiplied like rabbits. In the distance, the city of Palm Springs lay, with its lush golf courses creating a vivid contrast to the sandy desert. As we reached the end of the trail, it miraculously mellowed out and connected with the scenic trail, which was just half the length of the desert trail. In the summer, there are over 54 miles of hiking trails on Mount San Jacinto, but you’ll need a $5 hiking permit to explore them.

And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, there’s the skyline trail that connects Palm Springs to the tramway’s summit. It takes a whopping 9 to 12 hours to complete, depending on your hiking prowess. The silver lining? You get to ride the tramway back down for free, so you can relax your aching feet.

Once we returned to the building that housed a museum, cafeteria, and restaurant, we gorged on a hearty meal to replenish our energy levels. Then, with our bellies full and our hearts content, we hopped back onto the tram, descending from our mountainous escapade back to reality. What a day it had been, full of excitement, laughs, and some seriously spinning floors. Our grandparents from Denver might not have known what they signed up for, but they sure got a tale to tell when they get back home!

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