Monday, November 30, 2009

The Grottos, Mecca Hills Wilderness Area


The Grottos are a special area in the Mecca Hills Wilderness area where the erosion of steep mud and rock canyons have created cave-like formations. They are a fun area to explore due to the nature of the grottos themselves and the beauty of the surrounding canyons. They are reached from Box Canyon Road leaving the town of Mecca, near the Salton Sea.

There is a good parking area and a nice BLM sign pointing out some of the natural features of the Grottos area.

Hiking from the sign, you will see some trails heading up the hill to the right of the wash. This steep trail is not the official trail but I like it better anyway.

From the trail into the Grottos you get a nice view of the Salton Sea.

After a short hike of a couple miles you come to this canyon, the entrance to the Hidden Palm Oasis.

The oasis is listed on your topo map and is a very important source of water for wildlife in this area.

It's also good for thirsty puppies.

The walls of the canyon are multi-colored due to mineralization.

Hiking further up the canyon there are more places with interesting colors and shapes. My favorite is the rock "foam finger". You almost expect it to say, "We're #1" on it.

But even more interesting than these rock formations is this crease in the hillside.

Once inside you have to get down on your hands and knees and crawl through this little gap.

Once inside you have to have a flashlight or headlamp because it's DARK. The cavern goes back a hundred feet or so before any outside light is even visible again.

But this is not the way out.

The way out requires some climbing and some squeezing and crawling and a few other things that Kahlua really isn't up to today. There is a nice loop trip from the top of this Grotto that comes down into yet another Grotto but I'll just have to leave that for another day.

Today I'll just content myself with going out the way we came and enjoying the hike out.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

McManus Trail To Eagle Canyon


The McManus Trail is a trail with no defined trailhead; it starts in a dirt lot off of Highway 111. Once on it, it leads you to Eagle Canyon, which I found out today has no defined exit. So I guess you could say I took a hike from nowhere to nowhere.

The trail starts in a dirt lot a few hundred yards west of the building that was once Pompeii Nightclub and is now being redeveloped to be the Glory To God Ministry building.

The little storm over the weekend left a small amount of snow on the mountains above Palm Springs. It did not rain at my house but it's nice to know that winter is on the way.

There are many roads and trails in the Palm Hills area of Palm Springs but I try to stay on the single track trails whenever possible.

Following the trail down, I come to Eagle Canyon and decide to follow it to where it leads.

The canyon goes down several dry falls and requires some rock scrambling but I love this stuff so it's no problem.

It is not too easy to spot but there is a trail exiting the canyon but I decide to continue following the canyon in order to discover where it goes. I come to regret this and wonder if I should've taken the trail.

The canyon is pretty and I'm enjoying it so I'm surprised by what comes next.

At the end of the canyon is a rock and sand company with no outlet. Instead of entering, I head to the right and hike out on another nondescript empty lot.

I end up 2/3 of a mile down Highway 111 from where I started so I get to finish my hike with a quick traipse down the road to the non existent trailhead. The middle of this hike was superb but I think the start and finish need a little work.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bedeviled and Bewildered


A few weeks ago I went south of Devil Canyon in La Quinta and discovered a new--to me--Indian Trail. I saw two Bighorn on that hike but didn't have my camera so had to take pictures with my iPhone which didn't turn out that great. Today I went back over there hoping to see those sheep again and this time I not only had my camera but I also brought a camcorder.

As exciting as it is to see sheep, what really thrilled me about that trip was the new trail. I followed it as far as I could but lost it. I'm hoping I can pick it up again and see where it goes.

This afternoon was perfect for hiking. Cool, overcast and with some rain falling in the distance.

There are some dark clouds up in the direction that I'll be going; I hope they don't decide to start dumping on me. All I have on is a cotton shirt.

It's amazing how easily I find the trail. I gain elevation and can see the rain really coming down over near the Indio Hills. I kinda wish I were over there.

This trail is one of the most well defined in this area. I just hope I can find out where it goes.

Today there are no Bighorn although they've definitely been here. This well used sheep den has some fresh droppings.

I look high to see if I can find the continuation of the trail. No luck here.

I look across the hill but there's nothing there, either. I have no idea where this trail goes and it's very frustrating.

Another frustration is how little time I have to look. The clouds and the night descend quickly and I've got to get out of here.

How such a well defined trail just diminishes into nothing is a mystery. Where does it go? Why can't I find it?

What I really need to do is come up here with a full day so I can make as many wrong turns as I need in order to find the right way.

If there is one.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tried and True


There are days when I don't need to try some place new, do something challenging or travel very far. Today was one of those days. The day after Thanksgiving should be one of those lazy days with nothing planned but sitting around and watching sports on TV (or getting up at 2 a.m. to get a deal on that TV to watch sports on). Unfortunately, some of us have to work but that didn't mean I didn't have time to take Kahlua out for a little walk.

Kahlua and I went up to the top of the Cove here in La Quinta for a little two mile loop and saw we weren't alone. Other people decided it would be a good day to walk off yesterday's gluttony.

It seems Kahlua didn't get enough bird yesterday. She tries to catch a raven to no avail.

We're soon on the trail and it's more relaxing than all the Tryptophan we took in yesterday.

It's so relaxing, in fact, that we bypass the place I'd planned to turn and just kept on going. That's not a problem out here because there isn't a wrong way out here.

You always seem to come across something interesting.

This Ocotillo has absolutely no leaves or sign of life but this one blossom.

It seems that some people have worked off their Thanksgiving surplus by hiking up this sandy hill that Nikolas and I broke in a while ago but I don't have energy for that today.

Plenty of families are out today, which is nice to see, but I'll be seeing plenty more families coming in at work so a two mile loop is just what I need today to stretch out the muscles and unfurl the mind. Now it's back to reality.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Indio Hills Twisted Landscape


The Indio Hills are an area in the Northeast section of the Coachella Valley and while they don't offer a lot to the hiker there are opportunities for discovery and adventure. Anyone who's ever been to the Indio Hills will tell you they are mainly a wasteland, used for illegal dumping, target shooting and partying. However, the Hills have a very interesting geology due to the fact that they lie on the San Andreas Fault.

Nik is checking out the odd shapes of the Indio Hills.

I climb up a canyon but it's just a dead end and we decide to go to a different area to see what we can find.

We find a lot of little arches and other formations in the sandstone conglomerate.

This is a cool looking formation but it doesn't look like good hiking terrain.

I don't think we can get too far up this thing, either.

So we stick to the wash and go to see what we can find.

Unbelievably, we find a trail.

This is a very well formed trail and from its location and the way it traverses the hill I think it's probably an Indian trail rather than a game trail. There are many other Indian trails in these hills so it wouldn't surprise me. I'd love to follow it as far as possible but that'll have to come another day. Nikolas isn't as excited about new trails as I am.

There are so many little nooks and crannies in these Hills that despite the negative effects of human impact it is a great place to visit and explore.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rocking With The Boys


Dead Indian Canyon, in South Palm Desert, is a great place to take the kids. It's pretty, it's short, it's interesting, there's lots of rock scrambling and there's a good chance you may see a Bighorn, especially if you go late in the afternoon.

One of the great features of this canyon is the rock scrambling involved. The boys don't waste any time when it comes to starting climbing.

The boys do some quick inspection on the rocks along the wash. All geology classes should be held outside. Kids might be interested then.

This little rock shelter make the guys wonder if some animal lived here.

The fun really starts when we have to climb the rocks in order to get to the palm oasis.

Making our way through the palm thicket requires more balance than climbing over the rocks.

Up near the top of the canyon is another little spot to explore.

It doesn't go back very far and ends at this skylight.

We should've brought a lunch because this is a great spot for a picnic.

Climbing up the rocks isn't the only fun thing in this canyon. Nik gets big air on the way down.

If you've got some kids that are "bored" sitting around watching TV or playing video games all day, Dead Indian Canyon is a great place to take them. There's no boredom allowed here.