Southern California has some of the most rugged, pristine and beautiful patches of unspoiled nature in the state, and arguably the entire country.
Idyllwild-Pine Cove residents often like to reflect on their mile-high “paradise and heaven on earth,” their bumper-stickered cars professing and reinforcing their love and devotion.
Our unincorporated hamlet of 3,000 to 5,000 people on this side of the San Jacinto Mountains upslope from Palm Springs is a cherished home to abundant wildlife, hiking trails, clean air, great water, culture, four seasons and a great community spirit.
But this winter’s record rainfall crippled north-south access to our homes; severely damaged east and west travel; and tore apart the fragile healthcare fabric linking us to doctors, specialists, hospitals and services off the Hill.
Much concern has been expressed — and rightfully so — about merchants who are losing business due to the road closures, especially during peak travel season. Some merchants already may have closed their doors — and fortunately, new businesses keep popping up, speaking to the faith in and the resilience of the Hill.
During the school year, the kids had to wake up and be ready at an unheard-of-time of the morning and to travel for hours roundtrip for education. Work commuters still suffer that burden plus added travel costs. People are worried about the housing market, “Will it slow?” “Has it slowed?” There is worry that people are moving off the mountain.
Numerous what-if scenarios are floated in local coffee shops: “What if the fire season is especially dangerous?” “How does one get off the mountain if there is only one exit?” “What if the remaining open road is affected?” “What about adequate water to fight the fires?”
One issue that needs elevation is the elderly folk who live here. The infirm. The poor people who don’t have gas money to travel the “long way down the mountain” for medical services. What about emergency situations — the urgency of humans and canines alike snake-bitten and far from life-preserving anti-venom? What about folk who need daily lifesaving treatments? Yes, there are people on the Hill who need them.
Should a local resident stricken with a life-threatening condition have to live under the sword of Damocles — weighing the risk of postponing treatment due to the more-costly travel — versus struggling to make the trip at all costs?
Gratefully, Idyllwild Shuttle transports the needy down the Hill.
The impact of the roadway damage on residents’ healthcare is a significant issue. It warrants some discussion at the community level. The Feb. 14 storm worsened access to routine lab work, surgical procedures, urgent care and routine wellness checkups off the Hill, too. (Care of our beloved pets’ veterinary needs took a hit.)
Such pursuits are more costly in travel time, gasoline, patience and physical stamina. God forbid that a test is bungled, and one must repeat a trip for the same service. Heaven forbid that one’s caregiver uses LabCorp, not Quest Diagnostics services, necessitating travel beyond where one is accustomed to going.
How are Hill residents faring where their healthcare needs are concerned? Is there a way to check on that?
The presence of Mountain Disaster Preparedness, Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington, Caltrans and Ames Construction at the June 13 meeting offered reassurances for the local business and the tourist season. Who is leading the conversation where healthcare issues are concerned?
It is often said that health is one’s most valuable treasure. When will we add access to medical facilities and services to the list of important issues on the Hill?

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