Mount San Jacinto State Park - November 2010

Kind of spontaneously T and I decided to spend Thanksgiving camping and the desert park campsites were all full so we camped at Mount San Jacinto State Park in the Idyllwild campground - $20 per night (plus $8 booking fee). We knew it would be cold there (below freezing) but it would be just as cold in the desert and we were up to the challenge. Here's where we were:

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We arrived at the turnoff from the 10 onto highway 245 (the Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Hwy) around 2pm and took our time driving up to Idyllwild. The mountains nearby were snow-capped and as we drove higher and higher (7,000 feet at the highest I believe) there was snow on the ground around us and we began to second guess our decision to sleep outside that night! There were some beautiful views along the way with a bit of fall color.

As we neared Idyllwild (which is at about 5,000 feet), there wasn't as much snow and once we got to our site and set up camp the cold didn't seem unbearable. We made a Thanksgiving feast of cranberry chevre, turkey chili, corn on the cob and warm bread. We even had some raspberry lambic (but of course I forgot the corkscrew so we drank Martinelli's instead).

The sun set as we were making the food and it started to get much colder. By the time we had burned through all the wood it was only 9pm and the only thing we could do was climb into our sleeping bag and try to get warm enough to fall asleep. Later I looked up the temperature and it was 32 degrees, but with a dew point that made it feel like 25. So cold!

Somehow we made it through the night and, although we had booked the campsite for Friday night as well, we packed up our stuff and we were out of there first thing in the morning! Couldn't wait to get down that mountain and into the warmer desert. Luckily, we were able to get a refund on the second night (minus a $7.50 cancellation fee).

The campground was surprisingly loud for being practically in the middle of nowhere. It wasn't the other campers as much as a ton of dogs barking in town and what sounded like large semi trucks driving past all night. Here are some photos I took that morning before we headed out.

As we drove south on the 243 and then onto the 74 (also called the Pines to Palms Scenic Byway) the mountain trees began to give way to brush that was more desert-like until we were in the desert proper. If you didn't stop to take photos along the way, the drive from Idyllwild to Palm Desert would take only 1.5 hours. It's amazing how quickly the landscape changes!

I would have loved to spend more time in the park hiking and exploring, but it was just too cold for us this time. We'll have to go back in a different season or just for the day.

Once we got to the bottom we headed through the Coachella Valley to the Salton Sea. But that's for the next post . . .

Click here for more photos of this location.