DAY TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY FOUR
I went out this afternoon to go and hike up to Dead Indian Palms. I'd tried to get up there in the winter earlier this year but it was locked up and closed. I vaguely remember hearing it would open again September 1 for a few months. Maybe I was just imagining it.
I park along Highway 74 and start hiking toward the oasis hoping the fence is down or at least the gate unlocked. If it's not, I figure I can just climb the ridge behind this sign. I'll be able to see the oasis from up there.
The fence is still up and there's no sign with any information at all. The sign that was there has been painted over. It would be very easy to skirt the fence and go beyond it but I don't know if that would really be the right thing to do, especially since I'm documenting it with pictures. It's one thing to break the law, it's quite another to tell everyone about it.
So I'm left with this option. Steep, rocky and loose just the way I like it.
As I head up the ridge I hear some sirens and see several emergency vehicles heading up Highway 74. A bit later I see a tow truck so obviously there's trouble up there.
There's the palm oasis. I remember back in the day hiking back there with my trusty hiking dog, Shasta and seeing several Bighorn grazing on the hillside without a care. They seemed so unconcerned with us. They had plenty of grass on the hillside, they had water in the oasis and we had the freedom the enjoy their presence. I wonder, what happened?
For some reason governmental bureaucrats think hikers somehow negatively impacted
the sheep although several other factors are far more important in understanding the decline in the sheep population. Drought, development, predation, disease. Years ago both hikers and sheep roamed the hills without a care but back then there was no country clubs or mansions built in the sheep's territory. Now, the foothills around Palm Desert have been built up, overtaken by development, the oases has been depleted by overdrafting the water table and the only ones punished are those who appreciate wildlife and its habitat since they've seen it first hand. Of course, money talks and hikers walk.
This ridge has always been somewhat interesting to me because there are remnants of a bulldozed road that goes a few hundred feet and stops. There is also some old cable up here which makes me think there might be an old mine or something here but I've never found one.
If not for a mine why would this cable be here?
Beyond the road there's a trail that continues up the ridge but for how far? I sometimes wonder if there's an old trail here that perhaps led up to the mountains or some of the higher oases in the area. I guess I'll have to wait until it cools down to find out. As I round this corner I notice sometime move but can't see what it is.
I get around the corner and no further than 20 feet away from me is this young ram.
He casually ambles away from me looking back to see what I'm doing up in his terrain.
I continue up the trail and he just walks away off the trail giving me a wide berth but never hurrying. It's too hot to hurry.
He's obviously not too scared or taken aback because he gets to an area less than 100 yards away and starts grazing. I stand and watch him for about 15 minutes but he never moves further away or rounds the corner out of view. He's comfortable just hanging out on the ridge and seems to enjoy watching me as much as I enjoy watching him. We're just two guys enjoying a walk in the mountains.
As I start to head back, he follows me down. I have to get back before dark so I can't see how far down he comes but I tell him I'll be back. There's a lot to explore in these hills and I want to do it before they shut it all down. Then the only place to explore wilderness will be in our imagination.