Hotter than Death Valley?
A Summer Walk Around the Salton Sea

Day 6

As I started my last day's walk, I noticed a fly buzzing around me. Until today, I had not encountered any flies or other insects. At first, I tried to ignore it, hoping it would go away. But for the fly, all that sweat on my face and neck was like being in heaven. I then tried walking fast, even running, to try to leave it behind. After two such attempts, I almost burst out laughing. Here I was able to tolerate the high heat, but this little fly was getting the better of me. But I wasn't about to give up. I tried swatting it whenever it landed on the back of my neck. Amazingly, I actually managed to kill it, but my joy was short-lived. There appeared to be more than just one fly. To find out, I poured a little Gatorade on the pavement and to my utter amazement, 10 or so flies converged on it in seconds. Then, I remembered. When I was buying ice at a convenience store in Salton City a few days ago, I had noticed some T-shirts with funny inscriptions. "Salton City isn't the end of the world, but you can see it from here" and "Salton City is the place to be; twenty million flies can't be wrong". I had no insect repellent and I just had to surrender. I brought my Eastern philosophy of "live and let live" into play and just let the flies land on my face and neck without attempting to shoo them away. It was a bit irritating, but I was at peace.

As I approached Mecca, I passed by several farms. Most of them grew dates and watermelons. What drew my attention, however, were a few large specimens of California Fan Palms.

California Fan Palm

California fan palms

There are 2,500 species of palms worldwide, with 11 native to North America. The largest of these, and the only palm tree native to California, is Washingtonia filifera or the California Fan Palm.

The palms can reach a height of 30 to 50 feet and have a diameter of 2 to 3 feet. When the skirt or shag of the palm is accounted for, the total diameter can increase to approximately 8 feet. The skirt of the fan palm is formed as each dying palm frond bends down towards the trunk forming a layered "skirt" that will eventually cover the majority of the trunk. It is the thickness of these majestic skirts that accounts for the dense shade many oases provide.

As I took a long rest under the palm trees, I found myself elated at the prospect of finishing the walk. At the same time, however, I felt slightly sad that my little journey was coming to an end. Soon, I would meet Joy, and we would be right back into the hustle and bustle of urban California.

I want to thank my wife, Joy, for staying cooped up in motels for a week; no spouse should have to endure such a sentence, but endure she did. Thanks, Joy.

Many thanks to my friends Russ Isaacson and Tom Haines for helping me with the jogger configuration and to Keith Schwartz and the Milpitas office of Globalstar for lending me a free satellite phone.

Dinesh Desai
August 2005