Electronically Serving Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, & Rosemead



By Charles N. Stevens

Photos by Dolores Seidman

Located near the intersection of Frank Sinatra Drive and Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage, is the vast acreage of the Sunnylands Center and Gardens. We drove in and found ample free parking close to the Center. It was a spectacularly clear day, the desert sky as blue as blue can be, the visibility perfect for viewing the snowy crags of Mount San Jacinto in the distance.

As we walked past a circular garden of cactus and succulents, we approached the Center, a white flat-topped building with large windows and glass doors. As we stood in the Center, we looked out on a great circular lawn rimmed with trees and shrubs, the mountains visible beyond. Children frolicked on the grass where colorful canvas tubes and cubes and other shapes had been provided.

Dolores and I decided to walk the tree-shaded path around the lawn, just to stretch our legs and relax. Back near the Center, we stopped to see a geometrical garden of barrel cactus set out in the sparse shade of trees. At its edge was a most unusual sight. What I thought at first was a long rectangular slab of polished granite turned out to be a rectangular basin of water, the water so still that it appeared to be solid. The trees above were mirrored in the water. The barrel cacti are interesting in themselves with their green bulk and yellow spines.

Continuing our walk around the Center, we came upon some striking cactus gardens. The angle of the sun struck the cactus needles so that it appeared that each was surrounded by a halo. From here, we started out on a long gravel pathway that led through desert gardens and the occasional shade of a paloverde tree, its trunk and branches bright green. Mesquite trees leaned out over the path at intervals. We almost had the path to ourselves as few chose to walk it. It was very peaceful and silent, the only sounds our footsteps on the gravel and the occasional subdued roar of an airliner taking off from the distant Palm Springs Airport. Having finished this walk, we began another similar trail. A feature of this path was a large patch of desert left unplanted so that desert wildflowers would bloom there in the spring.

We spent several hours walking through the gardens and exploring the Center. We saw an informative video about the gardens and the Annenberg House, the latter not visible from the Center.
Sunnylands Center and Gardens is a 15-acre tract adjacent to the former home of Walter and Leonora Annenberg, he a successful publisher and ambassador. The home can only be seen on special tours and for a fee. Reservations must be made far ahead of time. The house was the Annenberg winter home. They, like many others wanted to avoid the cold bite of winter in the east and retreat to the warmth of the Palm Springs area. The home and grounds were completed in 1966 along with the planting of thousands of trees and eleven manmade lakes.

As the Annenbergs were wealthy and politically connected many presidents and other government officials often met here for conferences and gatherings. Some called this house the Camp David of the west.

Although we did not tour the home, we found the center and gardens peaceful and pleasing to the eye and well worth a visit.

Approaching Sunnylands Center with Cactus garden in front.

Approaching Sunnylands Center with Cactus garden in front.

 In front of the center is a large round lawn with plenty of "toys" for kids.

In front of the center is a large round lawn with plenty of "toys" for kids.

3.  This geometric garden of barrel cactus is shaded with trees.

3. This geometric garden of barrel cactus is shaded with trees.

Trails wind through cactus gardens shaded by mesquite and paloverde trees.

Trails wind through cactus gardens shaded by mesquite and paloverde trees.

MONTEREY PARK AUTHOR PUBLISHES 4th BOOK – Seeking More of the Sky: Growing Up in the 1930’s:

Charles “Norm” Stevens, a 43 year resident of Monterey Park has recently published his 4th book: Seeking More of the Sky: Growing Up in the 1930’s. This is the story of a young boy growing up in Inglewood, California in the l930’s. This was a time during the depression when unemployment was affecting many and the banks were closed, while the clouds of war were gathering in Europe. But he was lucky enough to be raised in a loving family, the power of that love reflected throughout his stories.

Stevens is the author of three previous books about his experiences during WWII:

An Innocent at Polebrook: A Memoir of an 8th Air Force Bombardier (Story of his 34 bombing missions from his base at Polebrook, England over Germany and France)

The Innocent Cadet: Becoming A World War II Bombardier (A prequel to the first, telling of his training in the U.S. before going overseas into combat.)

Back from Combat: A WWII Bombardier Faces His Military Future from Combat: (This book details the time from when he returned from combat in England until the end of the war.)

He is known to the readers of The Citizen’s Voice as the author of Travel Log Articles including “Cruising the Rhine and Mosel”,” Best of the West”, “In Search of Snow” ,  “From Paris to Normandy on the Seine”, and “Exploring New York”.  He is retired, having taught for 32 years, primarily in the Montebello Unified School District.

Those interested in purchasing an autographed copy of any of his books, may contact the author at 323-721-8230 or  Normstevens24@gmail.com.

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