Checking in from Redlands, CA …
On my last couple of days in the desert, I came through the Morongo Valley to an area known as the San Gorgonio Pass. This opening through the mountains is just west of Palm Springs and is bisected by Interstate Highway 10. The pass is reputed to be the windiest place in all of Southern California. To take advantage of the breeze that can be stiff at times, the pass is home to an awesome sight—a wind farm comprised of a whopping 3,218 wind turbines. These turbines look similar to huge airplane propellers, each mounted on 160 foot high towers. We had seen wind towers in other parts of the Southwest, but never in such massive numbers. With each turbine generating approximately 615 megawatts of power, the wind farm provides most of the electricity for the desert cities.
I am not allowed to walk on interstate highways (and really do not want to). Between Palm Springs and the towns of Banning and Beaumont, however, I-10 is basically the only highway. To navigate through this area, I had to take on some really rough terrain on what amounted to little more than ATV trails right through the wind farm and straight up a mountain, though admittedly one of the smaller ones. Thought I was in good shape, but I was huffing and puffing when I reached the summit after having stumbled through the thick gravelly sand studded with rocks and boulders. The down slope was not much better, but it ended in a pretty area where the rapids of the Whitewater River cut through the boulders.
After crossing the Whitwater Canyon River, I reached my stopping point for the day. As Brenda and I were discussing my route for the next day, a Riverside County Sheriff’s car pulled up. Sergeant Higgins offered advice since the track would still be challenging for the next day or so. He advised a slight change of path to avoid walking through the Morongo Indian Reservation where the sheriff’s department had no authority and where there was a chance that I might experience some trouble. We appreciated his concern and followed his advice. The police across the US have been universally helpful and supportive.
Next towns on our path are Redlands, Loma Linda and Rialto where I’ll walk on Foothills Blvd which tracks part of the old Route 66.