DAY ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY SEVEN
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.