For thirty years in a row, Palm Springs has become my home at some point each spring. The Coachella Valley is a desert that extends roughly forty five miles to the shores of the Salton Sea. It is fifteen miles wide and surrounded on three sides by enormous mountains with the highest peak exceeding ten thousand feet. There is a series of interconnected drainage systems that is commonly referred to as “the wash”. When I hike with my mom, this is one of our go-to spots. At 83, her days of climbing mountain are over, but she will kick your ass on a five mile hike up the wash.
In all of these years, I have rarely seen a drop of water in our trail. This open space of the drainage system is about eighty yards wide and the concrete walls can be as high as twenty feet. In some areas, the border is more natural like a gentle sandy slope or a wall of natural rock. One way or another, it is a giant canal system with a sandy floor.
The epic rain began to pour last Wednesday night and it continued throughout Valentine’s day on Thursday. We rented a full-size pickup for this trip, so I felt OK about driving to the gym for our morning exercise. The street gutter in front of our rental home was full, but there was no excess water in the street. When I took my first right, things changed and the cars were creating huge plumes of water as they slowly progressed down the roadways. When we reached the bridge that crosses the wash, I could not believe my eyes. The entire thing was overflowing with chocolate colored water topped with violent whitewater rapids.
The natural banks were collapsing the the concrete was barely able to contain the massive water flows. Full sized palm trees appeared as toothpicks as they were on the fast track to the Salton Sea. I later watched a video of a small white car floating down this massive river. It looked like a tiny marshmallow bobbing in a sea of hot chocolate. The photo in this post is from one of our walks last year. Try to imagine a steady stream of water two to three times taller than my mom and eighty yards wide. That was our scene last Thursday.
There are many times in my life when I have a false sense of security about being in control. It reminds me of a famous line from Top Gun where an actor says, “Son, your ego is writing checks your body cannot cash.”
Watching the rain combine to form a massive river in the desert was a nice reminder that I control very little in my tiny amount of time on this planet. Instead of letting my thoughts wander into the sea of problems that are beyond my control, which is just about all of them, this soggy Valentine’s Day was a nice cue to refocus on a few things I can control. Here is my short list:
- How many times I smile each day.
- The amount of time I spend thinking about the past.
- The type of food I eat.
- My commitment to honesty.
- The words spoken by my inner-voice.
By the end of the day, 3.7 inches of rain assaulted the desert. It was the most in 76 years, and the third highest of all time. While I am sad for the destruction, I am thankful for the lesson.