Sunday, May 31, 2009

One Happy Pup


Our pooch, Kahlua, has become a hiking fiend. She LOVES to go hiking with me. Yesterday, when I was getting my pack ready to go on my hike, she started jumping up and down against our sliding glass door like some crazed kangaroo. I thought for a minute that she might break through. Unfortunately, I was unable to take her yesterday because I was going to 1000 Palms and it is a nature preserve; no dogs allowed.

Today, I was not going to disappoint her again. Since we've pretty much covered all the trails available to dogs here in La Quinta, it was time for a road trip all the way to Palm Desert. I don't think Kahlua has ever been that far so she was very excited. So am I. The entire hike is in the shade since the sun just set behind the hill.

We head over to the Homestead Trail because this is a trail where you are allowed to take your dog off leash. Kahlua hates the leash.

Before we head off, we make sure we get a poop bag. Thankfully, I won't need it.

These steps are the only steps on the whole trail. I don't know why they're here but I guess to help keep erosion at bay. If nothing else, they're a cool way to start.

Up the trail a hundred yards or so is the picnic table and water fountain. You know that saying about leading a horse to water but not being able to make them drink? The same holds true for dogs.

Kahlua can't really figure out which trail to take. Too many choices.

We look down on the long and winding trail. I bet trail makers get paid by the foot.

We encounter three hikers with three dogs and after sniffing one another we go our separate ways. OK, we left the sniffing to the dogs but they all passed inspection.

We see another couple of hikers with a dog below us. In all, we saw seven hikers and five dogs on our little excursion. Every single one had a smile on their face.

We make our way all the way around to the Herb Jefferies Trail. This isn't a trail split; the little trail to the left leads into a canyon I call El Baño Canyon. I'll let you figure out why.

We drop down the Herb Jeffries Trail and walk back to our parking area along the flood control ditch. It's not a pretty way to finish a hike but I think Kahlua is tired and will appreciate the flat ground. This is the longest hike she's done; she'll sleep well tonight.

It used to be that you could take your dog on almost every trail here in the desert but they've become quite restrictive due to the Bighorn Sheep. But if you're looking for a good place to hike with your dog in the desert, this is probably your best bet. Kahlua loved it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sunset Boulevard


The desert around the Coachella Valley is not really known for sunsets. The massive uplift of the San Jacinto Mountains dominate the western skyline and the sun goes behind them a good hour before darkness sets in. The mountains are beautiful but the sunsets are usually nondescript. Tonight, however, with the clouds I thought we might have a good chance at a memorable sunset. I just had to figure out what would be a good vantage point.

I thought the hills near the 1000 Palms oasis would be good because it is on the north end of the valley and the view wouldn't be as obscured by the San Jacinto Mountains as other places might be. But I had to hurry. The sun was going down quick.

I headed toward the trail that goes to Pushwalla Palms.

Instead of going up the steps to the ridge, I turn right and follow the wash. There are plenty of steps leading in this direction so it seems like a good way to go.

It turns out there is a trail going up an old road so it's perfect.

At the top, the trail continues heading east but I take a right and head out across a little trail on the desert pavement that is atop this butte.

It's not long until I hit another trail and this trail is a regular thoroughfare. It is also very old.

The trail heads along the top of the bluff and is marked with Indian trail monuments.

It is easy to see why a trail would be here. It is a direct line from the Wilhelm Grove at the 1000 Palms Oasis to the Hidden Palms Oasis. For the Indians this was like I-10.

On the way back I count the various trail monuments and there are over fifty of different sizes ranging from a couple to feet across to over ten feet. I've never seen such a display of trail shrines in one place.

The trail heads into the setting sun and back toward the main palm oasis.

I'm just gonna ride off into this.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Good Day Sunshine


A morning person I am not. So I was incredibly surprised when my eyes opened at 5:45 a.m. and I was wide awake. I do not believe that has ever happened before. EVER. My wife saw me awake and asked me if I was planning to go hiking this morning. I hadn't planned it but since I was totally awake I figured it wasn't a bad idea.

At 6 a.m. the temperature is 69º. It's amazing and it actually helps keep me awake. Of course, the huge cups of Peets® Coffee I had before leaving the house didn't hurt, either. What's more amazing is that people are actually awake and walking around this time of day. I don't know what might prompt them to do that but I figure it's got to be insomnia, some sort of mental illness or drugs. It's probably drugs.

They finally replaced that terrible map at the top of the Cove with another slightly less terrible map. At least on this map you can see what the colored arrows on the trail markers stand for. It is also nice to have an idea of the mileage of certain trails.

I hike up like I'm going to Lake Cahuilla and it's beautiful in the shade. I don't plan on making a habit of getting up early but it is nice out.

The sun finally decides to make an appearance, kind of.

In the amber light of early morning the Indian trail that takes off from the main trail is clearly visible. At least to me it is.

I drop down to the canyon and follow it up. There are several tinajas, naturally occurring rock water tanks in the wash so it's easy to see why the Indians hiked over here. They knew every possible water source in these mountains. The tanks are all dry now but you can see that some are still moist.

The canyon continues beyond where I am able to hike today but I've just got to see how far it goes. Maybe this fall or if we get some cooler weather any time soon.

There are a lot of holes in the rocks here, so many in fact that I'm going to call this Swiss Cheese Canyon.

Several of these little mini caves have obviously been used as animal dens.

Instead of following the trail back, I decide to follow the canyon to where it hits the Morrow Trail. I've got to see where it goes. There are several more little rock tanks in this section of canyon. None are very large or contain water but if we get a good thunderstorm I'd imagine the water here might last for months.

It starts getting a little sketchy and it doesn't look as if I can follow the canyon all the way.

No, definitely not. The drop off here is about thirty feet so I decide to leave the canyon and follow the ridge down. It's a short little rocky section but at least it's doable.

I hit the wash where the Morrow Trail goes and it's covered with hundreds of footprints from hikers. In the sandy wash sections of the canyon I was in, there were none. I wonder how many hundreds or even thousands of hikers pass by here every year and never even consider what might be up in these canyons?

Just like a hike doesn't start until you leave the road, an adventure doesn't start until you leave the trail. I'm sure I've hiked by here plenty of times myself but never again will I go by without thinking about what awaits me up in these little passages to adventure. And maybe if I just got up a little earlier I'd be able to find out how far that canyon actually goes. Of course, I think that now, at night in front of my computer. When morning comes, I feel differently. I always do. Well, almost always.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

On A Hunt For Nothing


At the beginning of the year I went for a hike just south of the Tradition Golf Club in La Quinta. This morning I went back to see what else I might find. And what did I find? Unfortunately, not much.

Behind the Tradition is an alluvial fan lying beneath Coral Reef Mountain.

There are some trail or boundary markers built by the Indians that have been undisturbed and remain intact. If you look at this picture there are three. The rock pile in the foreground, one on the left about halfway up and one a little higher than the middle of the picture.

Looking up the hill, I think I might see a possible hunting blind or rock wall.

But when I climb up there all I find is a view.

I could hike up to this little pass but it is starting to get hot and I've got to get back to work. I'll save this trip for fall.

There is a hunting blind here. I saw this in January but I'd hoped that maybe I'd find something else this time. I never know what I'm going to find, if anything, so sometimes it just turns out that I'm out hunting for something that doesn't exist.

There is a little trail that leads down the hill and I'd like to follow it to see where it leads.

There's another trail marker but the trail disappears under the swath of homes and fairways as the past has been swallowed up by the present.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Changing Plans Times Two


Today I was supposed to do a long, cross country hike from just north of 1000 Palms, up to Stubbe Spring and then over to Key's View in Joshua Tree. Probably twenty miles. I'd planned to do this with Carl Garczynski, one of my best hiking buddies. Carl is seventy-two, going on seventy-three, and has done enough hiking and mountaineering for ten people. Whenever I get a crazy, harebrained idea I call Carl. I know he's always up for a challenge. He does the same with me.

Carl came up with this idea and I was really looking forward to it. Then my wife told me that I'd have to take my youngest son to school this morning because he had a big project due and he'd need my help. There was no putting it off on someone else. Disappointed, I told Carl I was out. We'll have to put that trip off until the fall now.

With the change in plans I decided to go to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, as I often do, and do a little hike down to Law's Junction and back.

I get off the Tram and the weather is perfect, a cool 55º.

I head down to the Ranger Station and get my wilderness permit. I almost stop to use the restroom but I decide to wait. We're in a drought here and there are plenty of trees that could use a little water.

At the trail sign, I go straight rather than follow the trail; it's a little shortcut.

I head up the trail and am thinking this is a perfect day. I really enjoy the solitude of hiking alone but sometimes it's nice to have someone along to share the experience.

I get to the trail junction where one trail goes to Round Valley and the other to Willow Creek. I spot some hikers who took the first Tram car up on the trail ahead and one still at the trail sign. It's Carl! He's out hiking with two of his buddies, Don Hay and Harland Walker. He invites me to join them and I gladly accept. I've already changed plans one time, what's another? Don and Harland are birding and tell me they are looking for a White Headed Woodpecker. I don't know a lot about birds and the only way I'd know a Woodpecker is if I saw it in action. In addition to a new flower book, now I'll need to get a new bird book.

We hike along the High Trail to Round Valley and stop along the way to listen to bird songs. Just before we get to the Round Valley Trail junction, we veer off into the woods heading for the ridge to find a nice lunch spot.

This rock looks pretty good.

And the view is spectacular. We get a whole panoramic view of Tahquitz Peak and the Desert Divide. We can look down into the Willow Creek Drainage and beyond. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can see the Tahquitz Fire Lookout.

Come on up, guys! It's nice and flat on top.

Still spry in his seventies, Carl makes his way up the rocks.

After lunch, we part ways. I have to head back to pick up kids at school and the guys haven't spotted that White Headed Woodpecker yet. I head across this little bridge and am going to head cross country over to Sid Davis Canyon and back to the Tram.

I really wish I had more time up here, though. It really is perfect and the meadow at Round Valley is just starting to green up. Hopefully, in the next week or two I'll get enough time to hike up to San Jacinto Peak.

I get past the campsite that the trail I'm on leads to and discover that there is a pretty well used route leading over to Sid Davis Canyon. Along the way I spot a doe in the trees but she's a little too quick for me so I don't get a picture of her. With no hunting in the State Park, there are plenty of deer up here in the backcountry.

I continue on the "trail" and it goes steeply down this hillside amongst the pines.

Snow Plants (Sarcodes sanguinea) are starting to appear.

The "trail" leads right to the convergence of Sid Davis Canyon and the Round Valley Trail. It comes down right where I need it to.

As I sit in the Tram waiting room thinking about what a great hiking day it was, I am thankful to have a friend like Carl and grateful for the luck of running into him out on the trail. If he'd been another minute ahead of me, I'd have missed him and gone on to Willow Creek.

Of course, if I'm going to run into someone I know out here in these mountains, chances are it'll be Carl. That guy's everywhere.