RISE, SHINE, AND CHANGE ELEVATION: The suggestion that we "rise and shine" is often depicted by an illustration of a cheery-faced person stretching happily in bed. Perhaps their hair is a bit messy, perhaps there's a slice of toast or glass of orange juice on the nightstand, perhaps a pretty songbird is at the window. But rarely does the concept of "rise and shine" get paired with a celebrated trip up the side of a mountain in a small, window-laden, revolving car. Still, though, does this not seem like an adventure that might help the whole rising and shining thing far more than a slice of toast or glass of orange juice? An early morning ascension up the steep and dramatic side of a tall peak? Sorry, toast, orange juice, and songbird at the window -- a tram ride in the wee smalls of the A.M. might do a bit more to shake off the sleepy cobwebs. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway agrees that a fresh-part-of-the-day journey from the desert floor into the San Jacinto wilderness is a stupendous way to greet a summer Friday. So every Friday, through the Friday before Labor Day Weekend (that's Sept. 4), the famous tram'll set off up Jacinto at 8 o'clock in the morning, along about the time other people are thinking about getting a bowl of cereal and checking their email through bleary eyes.
YES, ABSOLUTELY, DEFINITELY... you should be wide awake when you drive to the base-of-the-mountain attraction, but will you get an extra jolt of adrenaline on the ride? It's hard not to, considering how many feet you rise. Valley Station, where you start, is at 2,643 feet, and Mountain Station, where you stop, is 8,516 feet. No cup of coffee, and we don't care how strong it is, will take you, at least energy-wise, up some 6,000 feet in the air. The tramway normally opens at 10 a.m., save weekends in the summer (which start earlier, too), so consider your 8 o'clock Friday morning ride a real jump on the day's summer desert heat. It's cooler up the mountain, that's for sure. And if you need another coffee or juice, you can find it when you disembark; there are snack bars on both ends of the tram's track.