Beaumont and Banning

 / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

A few days ago, on my way down the hill, I stopped to shoot the city of Banning from above. The incline is so steep, I didn’t have to go to a special view site, I just pulled over on the side of the road, and shot over the edge! The snowcapped mountain in the background is the Big Bear/Lake Arrowhead area, and directly behind me would be the Idyllwild area – Banning is located smack in the middle between those mountain resort areas, in the valley below.

I’ve never known very much about Banning, it was always just a dusty little town on the way to the desert. In fact, in my family we say “Beaumont and Banning” like it’s all one place, when in reality they are two separate neighboring cities. Sisters in the same valley, but definitely separate cities. I spent the day exploring both.

Beaumont is the smaller of the two, population-wise, but it seems bigger driving through? I’m not sure why? Banning has twice the population, but it seems smaller and dustier, which I actually like. The fewer big box stores, the better, as far as I’m concerned! It also has a tiny but cute downtown area with an old theater that still shows movies. I read over the weekend that the movie theater was being considered for a grant to get the outside repainted, and the inside renovated – so it sounds like that theater will stay healthy, business-wise.

What I like best about both cities is the fact that there are so many old houses. It was never a terribly wealthy area, so the old houses are all small – there are no big Victorian mansions like you’d find in downtown Riverside or Redlands, but if you’re looking for a little old house, they have them!

 / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I’ll end with a shot of a branch from a tree in Banning – nothing special, but every spring, this kind of tree knocks me out – the blossoms are so PINK! And with no leaves, just masses of hot pink flowers, they look too unreal to be real. So I stopped and got my yearly image, and that’s that. And I’ll probably do it again next year!

Jury Duty in Riverside, California

Riverside Courthouse / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I’ve never served on a jury before. It’s not exactly something I wanted to do, but it’s definitely a civic duty and I believe in our judicial system, and since Riverside County seems to summon citizens exactly once a year without fail, it was really only a matter of time before I was selected.

Honestly I enjoyed the trial itself – it was a quick one, only a few days – and the process was fascinating. But once the trial was over, and jury deliberations started, that’s when it got ugly. I was sort of stunned by how easily some of my fellow jurors threw the judge’s instructions out the window – and how some were more interested in following their gut reactions, rather than just rely on the evidence. To say it was an eye-opening experience is to put it mildly. I still believe in our system, but I’m even more grateful that it’s 12 jurors, and not 6 or 8!

Riverside Courthouse / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I took these images on the first day, with my iPhone at lunch. The courthouse was built in 1904, and was modeled after the Grand and Petit Palais in Paris – so it’s absolutely beautiful! And it has orange trees growing in front, reminiscent of Riverside’s heydey – and they were in full bloom. Orange blossoms may be my all-time favorite scent – just pure heaven. And the area around the courthouse is equally as beautiful – it’s right in the middle of downtown, just blocks from where I used to live.

Riverside Courthouse / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Overall the experience was stressful and not fun, but I’m glad I was able to do it. It felt good to see the system working, and it felt good to be a part of it. But if that was my one and only time behind those closed juror doors, that would be fine with me!

Oh, and the newspaper headline in the image above is NOT from the trial I was on. That was the headline on the local paper the first day I served, and it just jumped out at me, so I shot the image in front of the courthouse. I am extremely thankful I wasn’t a part of a trial with an ending like that!

Bay Tree Spring

I grew up in San Diego County, and although I’ve been coming to Idyllwild since I was a kid, I had never taken the road from Idyllwild to Banning. I’d gone from Idyllwild to Palm Springs, and from Idyllwild to Hemet, but I’d never taken that third route off the hill, through Banning, until last year. But since I found it, I love it, since it’s the most direct route to get to both Riverside and Los Angeles.

And on that route, just off the side of the road in a certain spot, there were always a couple of cars stopped. I could see some old rock work as I passed by – it looked sort of like a manmade wading pool or fountain, but I really didn’t know what it was. Then I heard someone talking about the natural spring on Highway 243 and it all made sense. Riverside county was known for it’s springs at one time – think about all the places named after springs – Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Gilman Hot Springs, Murrieta Hot Springs, etc. In fact, the hot springs were a big tourist attraction long ago.

Bay Tree Spring / Photo: Cheryl SpeltsBay Tree Spring / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I had never actually seen a spring before, and I kept intending to stop sometime, but I hadn’t actually gotten around to it yet, and then yellow tape went up all around it. Then I read that because of all the snow we got this year, the spring had high levels of bacteria. Evidently as the snow pack melts, it carries contamination from animal waste, and that causes the bacteria level to be too high for safe human consumption. Okay, that makes sense. So yellow caution tape should keep people out – right? Well apparently not. A few people are evidently still drinking the water. I understand – spring water is usually pure, and definitely healthier than water that has been chlorinated – but in this case, those healthy natural minerals are offset by bacteria. Yuck!

Bay Tree Spring / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

But unfortunately, because a few people are drinking the water, despite the signs and warning tape, now the U.S. Forest Service is considering capping off the spring for good. We’re talking about a spring that has been there for decades – the stonework was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps – and it’s safe to drink from the majority of the year, but because it’s potentially unsafe for part of the year, especially after a lot of rain or snow, we may lose it forever? That just makes my head spin. Especially since there have been no reports ever of anyone getting sick from this particular spring. It’s true that the human body can handle some bacteria, and while the Forest Service may have determined that the contamination is too high, there are people drinking from it, and suffering no ill affects. I personally would not drink from it now – but if a few people want to ignore warning signs in three different languages and caution tape, and they aren’t getting sick, is that really a reason to permanently cap it off?

Bay Tree Spring / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

There is a sign at the spring, asking for the public to comment on the matter – nothing is decided yet about the future of Bay Tree Spring – the proposal to close it is just that, a proposal. If you would like to keep it open you can contact Heidi Hoggan, San Jacinto Ranger District, P.O. Box 518, Idyllwild, CA 92549 or email her at hhoggan@fs.fed.us by April 20, 2009.

Why keep it open? Well for me, it’s a part of our history. And it’s unusual, and different, and fun. It would be sad to lose something that special. For others, it’s the healing properties of the water – when it’s safe to drink from, the water is oxygen rich and full of minerals. And for others, it’s just the best tasting water in Southern California. I’ve actually heard that from several people, and I do believe it because all the water in Idyllwild is great. Maybe someday I’ll get to try the water from Bay Tree Spring? I hope so!