Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Third Time's A Charm

Has it really been three months?

Two times this year I have set out on the Boo Hoff Trail from the top of the La Quinta Cove and two times I have failed to reach the top. It was not that the trail is too hard; I just ran out of time. Today I did something different. Instead of starting in the morning and having to leave because of work, I decided to start in the afternoon, after work. The only thing that could stop me is darkness but don't worry. I brought a flashlight; my wife insisted. Today, the top is going to be reached.

Starting at the trailhead I walk up toward the Boo Hoff. The landscape is decidedly different than it was a couple of weeks ago. There are very few flowers and most everything has turned brown. No need for photos here. I always wonder why they put these signs on all the hiking trails out here. Maybe I'll call the Water District and ask. Or maybe not.

I quickly head for a small ridge to the right of the wash. It's just a bit rocky but it sure beats walking uphill in the sand.

Ah, my old friend. I will not be deterred this time.

On the way up, I see a lot of these big scary bugs, the Master Blister Beetle, Lytta magister. They're huge and they FLY. I can't really get a good picture because they won't stop moving and I'm afraid one of them is going to fly up my shorts.

This is a cool plant. I looked through almost 2000 plant pictures and I still don't know what it is called. I'm sure someone out there does. If not, I'll find out next time I go to the Living Desert.

As you climb, you get a good view of Mount San Gorgonio in the hazy distance.

Close to the top, you enter the wilderness although it's felt like wilderness almost from the moment I left the Jeep.

I get to this sign at the start of the Guadalupe Trail. Check out the dates on this sign. They should probably change it to read, TURN AROUND HERE! IF YOU'RE HIKING THIS TRAIL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SUMMER, YOU ARE GOING TO DIE. NO ONE WILL FIND YOU UNTIL FALL. GO BACK NOW AND LIVE. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?

From the top of the trail, you can look down to the Martinez Landslide and the Salton Sea. Notice the water line from the ancient Lake Cahuilla on the hillside beyond the landslide.

You can also look up into the canyon where the Guadalupe Trail goes. This is one of my favorite trails. Hopefully, I'll get time to do it before July 1.

Looking down from where I came I'm happy I finally made it to the top of the Boo Hoff. I've got to get back before dark, though, because as I reach in the pack for a water bottle, I realize I left the flashlight on the front seat of the Jeep. Good thing I wore my running shoes.

Monday, March 30, 2009

It's LICK-in, not LIKE-in.


Carl Lykken was a Palm Springs pioneer. He came to the desert and partnered in a general store in 1913. He brought the town its first telephone and first post office of which he was the postmaster from 1927-1930. A trail honoring him runs almost the entire length of the city of Palm Springs. The trail has two sections and three trailheads. I hiked on the South Lykken and started off of Mesquite Drive, near the Tahquitz Canyon Visitor's Center.

To access the trail, turn off of Highway 111 onto Mesquite Drive and head toward the mountains. While the trailhead is near the Tahquitz Canyon Visitor's Center, there is no trail parking there. You have to park on the street on Mesquite and walk up about 1/4 mile to the trail.

If you want to visit Tahquitz Canyon, it's $12.50. If you've never been there, it is probably worth the money. I've been but I'll probably take the kids one day once we save up enough cans and bottles to be able to pay for it. The admission includes a guided tour so you can learn about the history of the canyon and see some archaeological sites.

As with all Desert Riders trails, there is a nice sign at the trailhead.

After heading up the trail a bit, you are able to look back and see the Visitor's Center. There are only a couple of exhibits and some fake Indian trinkets for sale at the Center but it's probably worth ten minutes of your time.

The trail switchbacks up the hill and, while it is never really very steep, gains elevation fairly quickly.

You get very nice views from the trail looking south toward the Indian Canyons.

A little higher up you get to a spot where you can look directly into Tahquitz Canyon. Don't get too enamored with the view, however, because if you make a wrong step here, it's straight down a few hundred feet.

The highlight of Tahquitz Canyon is Tahquitz Falls. It's about 60 feet tall and has a large pool at the base although you can't see that from here.

By rotating 180º, I get a very nice view of Palm Springs.

At the high point of the trail are these nice picnic tables. There are a number of tables on various Desert Riders trails but these are the nicest.

Thanks to the Coachella Valley Hiking Club.

The area is named for Josie Johnson but I have no idea who that is. The trail continues on to its southern terminus near Murray Canyon Drive but this is a good turn around point. Unless you have a car shuttle, you will need to walk a couple of miles on the sidewalk to return to your car. If I enjoyed walking on sidewalks, I'd be doing the Bump and Grind.

On the way down, you can look over and see the North Lykken Trail that leads the Skyline and the Museum Trail. But that'll have to wait for another day.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

On The Lookout

Wherever I go this year, I am going to have to figure out a place to hike in the area. Today, we went to visit my father in law who lives in Mountain Center, near Garner Valley. As you would imagine, it's not hard to find hikes in a place named Mountain Center.

I decided to hike up Lookout Mountain which I can see from my father in law's house. It's an official Sierra Club Peak section selection and I climbed it about fifteen years ago so I figure it's time to give it another shot.

My wife's dad tells me that they've been spotting a lot of mountain lions in the area and offers me his .44 Magnum or this spear that he made in this shop. I accept the spear but I'm afraid if I come upon any other hikers on the trail I'll scare them to death, so I leave it in the car. Thank God I didn't get killed by a mountain lion. My poor wife would've never heard the end of it.

You start the hike by heading south on the PCT from Highway 74. Someday, I hope to do the whole section to the Indian Flats Campground. Just not today.

I hiked up here a couple months ago in the snow when I left my kids and their friends to play. It is much easier going this time.

You get up the trail a bit and get a nice view of the surrounding mountains. This is looking down toward the San Ysidro Mountains and Coyote Canyon in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

The route up Lookout Mountain goes through the chaparral, which is some of the worst leg shredding stuff God ever created. You've got Ribbonwood (because it tears your legs to ribbons), scrub oak, manzanita and other various plants that are here just to make you bleed. I have to find the right route but this is not it.

Nor is this. I don't remember it being this far but I was younger when I came before and maybe I was just faster then. But with age, comes patience so I'll just keep going until I hit the right place.

I get to a point where it looks like it might go but after scouting it out, it's a dead end. Years ago I would have just bombed up it and left looking like I just crawled out of a vat of cats. I've learned one thing as I've gotten older. I like my legs with the skin intact.

I've gone too far. The wisdom of experience tells me that. Old guys know when to quit and turn back. Fortunately, my wife is not with me so I don't have figure a way of doing it without admitting my mistake.

I take one more attempt to climb up through the brush.

But I run into a wall of leg flayers. This is not going to work.

As I head back toward the trailhead I finally find the right way but it's dinner time and I don't want to miss that. When I came up the trail, I was too busy enjoying the view and totally missed where I was supposed to go. I vaguely remember doing the same thing fifteen years ago. Of course, as one ages, along with patience and wisdom, comes forgetfulness. But when I come up next time, at least I'll know what to look out for.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Boys Day Out


This morning I asked my son, Nikolas, where HE wanted to hike. He chose the Living Desert. I told him we were going to hike if we went there, not just walk around and look at the animals and he said OK.

He asked if he could bring two of his friends, Eddie and Jakob, along and I said OK. We stopped at the store to pick up a few Lunchables and off we went.

We get to the Living Desert and head straight for the trail.

Well, almost straight for the trail. Nikolas has to stop for a picture with the goofy cutout near the Butterfly and Hummingbird exhibit.

And so does Jakob.

And Eddie.

We hike up the main tourist trail to get to the trailhead of the Eisenhower Trail. There's a lot to read on this board but let me sum it up for you. They named the mountain and trail for a President.

The boys get right to it. Their parents are going to be SO happy tonight when they are ready to crash at about 8:30. It's warm so I just let them go and am content to bring up the rear.

There's a plaque part way up honoring Bill Cook. I bet that's who Cook Street is named for.

This is really a nice trail. I can't believe I've never done the whole thing before. There are tremendous views of Indian Wells and beyond.

The boys are getting tired out and want to stop. I keep pushing them and they are happy when we make it to the halfway point, a picnic table and SHADE.

They try to catch this Desert Iguana, Dipsosaurus dorsalis, and I am secretly pleased when they don't. They'd want to bring him home and I'm sure he'll be much happier up here where he belongs than in some aquarium.

The boys are overjoyed when they see the trail stretching out before them: downhill all the way!

Even still, with the temperature close to 90º even downhill can be taxing so they stop for one last water break before finishing up the hike.

After the end of our hike, we stop in the Living Desert cafeteria for some soda and air conditioning. Rejuvenated, the boys want to look around a bit so we do. We check out the train, the reptiles (a Living Desert employee is doing a hands-on for the kids with an African Boa), the African animals and the petting zoo in the Village Watutu. I finally have to force them to leave since my other son, Harrison, has a baseball game I have to get to.

Don't worry, we'll be back.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Land Grab


They're at it again. The land grabbers, I mean, managers have locked up yet another area in order to "protect the sheep". I just hate it when the public is locked off of public land. There's something about that that's just not right.

I headed over to Rancho Mirage to go to Magnesia Falls. I hiked here about a month ago but didn't climb the falls due to a sprained thumb and a lack of time. Well, the thumb is better and I have enough time this morning.

You cross this nice bridge to get to the "mountain park".

And then you have to cross this storm water catch basin in order to get to the canyon.

Unfortunately, you are met by this new sign that tells you the canyon is closed. I guess the person who put this sign here couldn't quite make it as a carpenter so they had to find themselves a government job.

This sign here tells you more about the closure. One of the things that peeves me about this whole land closure due to the sheep is that it is all based on pseudo-science. The biologists have not one bit of evidence that hikers impact the sheep. In fact, it has been noted for over 100 years, starting with George Wharton James in his monumental tome, The Wonders of the Colorado Desert, that sheep are unperturbed by human presence. There are a number of factors which have accounted for sheep's demise including being hit by cars, eating poisonous decorative plants, disease, mountain lion predation and being killed accidentally by biologists. Not once, to my knowledge, has a hiker ever been responsible for the death of a sheep. In fact, in Borrego Springs, they even keep count of all the sheep that are spotted by tourists hiking in Borrego Palm Canyon to no ill effect on the sheep. What's so different here?

Oh, I get it. It's a private party. You see, this land isn't closed to everyone. It's only closed to you and I. If you're "authorized" then it's OK to enjoy the canyon and the sheep. I guess sheep are only bothered by the unwashed cretins of the general public but not by the "experts" in the field. So if I spent seven years smoking weed in Humboldt while working on my four year degree, then it would be OK to hike here. I could be "authorized". But as it is, I'm unworthy.

I'm not going to let it bug me. I'll just go hike somewhere else today. Besides, if I go up there, the "experts" might come up and restrain me with a net and an attack helicopter like they do the Bighorn. I'm not ready to be collared and tracked.

So I decide to go over to South Palm Desert and ask the Visitor's Center if they have any maps on the new Wilderness areas just voted on by Congress, some of which are in our area. They don't. But they do have this fancy new stake with the number one on it. It must be from the stimulus money.

Now I see where the unclean hordes go who've been locked off other public land. I saw four large groups going on nature walks near the Visitor's Center. So much for solitude.

The flowers are dying out but at least I can appreciate the beauty of these cholla.

And this has got to be the biggest asparagus I have ever seen! Actually, that's the Desert Agave, Agave deserti. I wonder if you can make tequila out of them. I could use a shot or two right about now.

Oh Jeez! Yet another sign telling people where they can't go. When I hit two road blocks on the same day, it's time to head home.

I wish someone would explain to me why it is OK to deface the mountains and encroach on Bighorn habitat if you have untold millions of dollars but it is not OK for the public to enjoy the lands that they own.

On most days going hiking is a pure joy. There are a few days, however, where it can be frustrating. Today was just one of those days. Running into road blocks and closures is no fun when all you want to do is go out and commune with nature. People need places to get away from the everyday worries and find peace. It seems those places are getting tougher to find every day.

Thankfully, there are numerous other places to hike and find serenity. I just have to make sure I get to them before they close them off.