I’ve never had an explicit fear of heights, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something truly terrifying about being suspended — from high-tension cables — thousands of feet above the ground.
Anyway, we went to Palm Springs on Monday to take the tram from the foothills of Mt. San Jacinto to nearly its summit. And it only took about seven minutes of relative hell.
Riding up the tram to the first tower was no big deal, amateur theme park fare. Heading to the second, third and fourth towers, though, were like nothing I’ve ever experienced outside of an airplane.
Propelled upward at greater than 45 degrees at about 8 mph, the inertia made your body seem slow and heavy. This was neither good nor bad because I could not move very much. There must have been 60-70 passengers (including a group of teenage girls) in our carriage. Riding through the towers was no fun either, though it probably could have been — the tram would rock back and forth a great deal when it would reach each tower, as the cable was flattened through the tower’s scaffold — but each time we’d reach a tower the girls would shriek like the just saw a Jonas Bros., and all because the inertia in the cart would shift. Every time. Their heavy breathing made the cramped cart practically suffocating. I wanted to strangle them. I’m not a violent man… but I thought about it.
From Palm Springs Mountain Tram Base Camp one cannot even see its Mountain Camp, but it’s there…. 8,127 feet above sea level. Tucked behind massive jagged, jutting rocks, Mountain Camp is but a gateway to a valley atop the mountain. And in mid-January, it’s a snowy meadow rife with sled-yielding tourists from seemingly every corner of the world.
We ventured down to the snow-y playground and threw some snowballs and made a miniature snowman. It was the highlight of what was a tenuous excursion.
The base camp is sort of like what I imagine an over-extended rural airport terminal as — maps in glass cases, taxidermied goats, disgruntled staff. There was one row of chairs against a four-foot partition around the room, and the people who sit alternate over and over with the people in line to enter the tarmac. It was a not-so-well oiled machine.
The mountain camp is not much different looking, but it sure was different smelling. The over-run toilets had backed up an overworked sewage system, which made the camp’s idyllic patio reek like a torment of human waste and decay. It was enough to keep me from eating any of the over-priced food in their restaurant or even consider a vending machine.
It was a fun experience but not one I’d want to make every day, or even every year. As a matter of fact… I’m good.