Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Playground For Boys

Day Thirty One
Anza Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in the United States.  It is over 600,000 acres and can be reached from the Coachella Valley by car in about an hour.

I was going to get an early start but those things don't always work out.  My son, Nick was having a such a great time with his friends riding bikes, building a fort, climbing trees and just doing what boys do, I hated to take him away.  After giving him a couple of hours of play time, I told him it was time to go.  I had him ask his friends if they wanted to go and two of them, Eddie and Tyler, got permission, so we headed off in the afternoon.

We stopped off at the Borrego Visitors Center before hitting our hike.  If you've never been there, the center has interesting exhibits on the history of the park and how native people managed to eke out a living in this hostile landscape.

We decided to hike up to the Borrego Palm Canyon Oasis.  This is the third largest oasis in the United States.

Indian Head Mountain

An Ocotillo

The Borrego Palm Oasis.  The water is flowing quite well down the streambed.

The boys spot a little frog and as we hike further we hear a serenade of chirps from the frogs in the canyon.

Nick and the boys looking for more frogs.  Notice Nick's water bottle on the rocks.  That was where he left it.

Steps along the trail.

A closer view of the oasis.

Could we possibly be any cooler?  I don't think so!

A big rock slide.

Follow the leader.

Crossing the creek.

Look what I found!

The boys said that this was their best hike EVER!  With big rocks, water, frogs, slides and sand what could possibly be better?  We love Borrego and can't wait to come again.  It's like a big playground in the wilderness.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Gated Canyon

Day Thirty

The desert is riddled with Indian trails.  The majority of trails we currently hike on were once Indian trails and there are many others as well.  Today I went out to hike on one of them. There was only one problem.  They built a gated community in front of it and I need to figure a way to get to it. 
The canyon really isn't hidden except behind a gate.  The real hidden canyon is in Indian Wells behind yet another gated community.

I leave from the parking lot of Saint Francis of Assisi Church.  I make sure my keys are WELL secured.

I hike over a few big sand dunes which are starting to green up with plants.

I get to where I'd hoped to round a corner to get to where I want to go and find a wall.  It's a short wall and I could surely hop it but I know someone who lives here (a community next to "Hidden Canyon") so I'll try that avenue first.  Besides, I ate a big breakfast and I don't want really want to run if security comes after me.

I could climb up over these rocks but don't want to die today so I am going home short of my ultimate goal.....again.

On the way back I notice this rock out about 150 feet from the mountain.  That thing had to come down with a lot of speed in order to get this far out here.  It reinforces my not climbing the rocks today.  That rock would be me.

Flowers are starting to blossom on the dunes.

Sand Verbena just beginning to bloom

I notice this little cave and decide to hike up to it. I'm sure I'm about the 843, 000th person to do so but I just can't help it.  Who knows what treasures await?

Just what I suspected: No gold, Indian artifacts or other valuables,  just rat shit and someone's old chonies.  

For me, hiking is about the experience and not necessarily the destination but just once I'd like to get to where I plan to go.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Not Quite Threading the Needle

Day Twenty Nine

A day off to go hiking; what a treat!  I decide to go hiking in the Indian Canyons and head up the West Fork Trail to the Needle's Eye.  I had been there years ago and wanted to go back.  Since this involves some rock hopping I mentioned to my wife that it would be nice if I had another person just in case I fell on my head and needed assistance getting out.  Well, my wife tells some gal from her work and volunteers me to take her along.  Great. 

I've hiked with lots of people but I've always been lucky enough to choose them myself.  Now I have to wonder what kind of woman my wife is going to choose to send along with me?  I'm picturing the wife of the caveman in the Geico commercials or reject from "The Biggest Loser".  As it turns out, the gal she sends along, Darlene, is cute, thin, funny and a great hiker.  I couldn't have picked a better hiking partner myself.  My wife is so cool.

The trail sign for the West Fork Trail, just off Palm Canyon.

We head up the hill over a series of switchbacks and look over Palm Canyon.

Looking down over the Trading Post

There are many cacti along the way, like these jumping cholla.

A hedgehog cactus.

A nice little red barrel growing from the rocks.

We take a little cross country journey over to Indian Spring with a few palms.  

And then hike by Dos Palmas.  Now, my Spanish is not great but I think Cuatro Palmas would be more appropriate.
Like a dummy I don't bring the map because I'd been here but that was long ago.  There's a new trail and the old one to Needle's Eye no longer exists.  Is it down there?
 Or maybe down here?  After boasting about my innate sense of direction, I take the wrong path and we end up walking about a mile and half past it.

We cruise up the Jo Pond Trail a ways and find it a bit overgrown in sections.  Next trip I'll bring a MAP and loppers.

Looking right up at the Palisades, I know we've gone too far.  But my motto is: "You can never be lost when you're on an adventure" so I don't care.  I don't know if Darlene shares my enthusiasm for the unknown.

We head back to the trail junction and hike down to the creek for lunch.

A perfect spot for a snack.

We hike up the other side of the creek to see this rock art panel before heading back.   

The Needle's Eye will have to wait for another day.

All in all it was great day hiking and I look forward to going back soon with a map, some loppers and whoever else my wife wants to send along.  I just hope I can get back before it gets hot.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Much Obliged

Day Twenty Eight

Back in 1980, Monty Python put out an album called the "Contractual Obligation Album", which was exactly that.  Their contract was up with their record label and they had to put out something.  Oddly enough, this album had a couple of controversies associated with it and it became somewhat of a collectible, making it more valuable than any other album they did.  It's funny how things like that turn out.

Today I was doing my "Contractual Obligation Hike".  I have to hike at least 30 minutes every day to fulfill my ideal of hiking every day.  Thirty minutes was all I had today because of a sick kid at home and the need to get to work on time.

I initially thought I would climb this gully by my house but then thought the better of it.  Even when I was in the best of shape it took me 20 minutes to reach the top.  I knew I could never be up and down in 30.

So I went hiking along the Bear Creek Channel and discovered this trail.  It's less than three blocks from my house and I never knew it.

It crosses the road up by the old water tower location.

And it keeps going

And keeps going

And keeps going

And keeps going.

I get to this place and kind of lose it.  It goes somewhere up this bank but my alarm goes off and I'm out of time.  I have to get back.

So what was just a little hike to fulfill my obligation to myself became a hike of discovery and yet another place I have to go back to in order to finish what I started.  I have no idea where that trail ends and I won't be happy until I know.  

I'm looking forward to the day when my only obligation will be finding where this new trail leads.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Against The Wind

Day Twenty Seven
Today I went to Horseshoe Palms in the Coachella Valley Nature Preserve.  The trail starts off at the same trailhead that goes to both Hidden Palms and Pushawalla Palms.  Horseshoe Palms is in the middle of those two.

This sign is in the wrong place.  The wind blew it down and someone carried it here.

The trail gets up on the ridge and is very exposed to the wind.

Horseshoe Palms glistening in the sun. 

Hikers high on the ridge headed for Pushawalla Palms.

This parking lot was empty when I left.

Looking down the ridge toward the Wilhelm Grove at the 1000 Palms Oasis

It was WINDY on the ridge to the Palms and COLD.  OK, cold for here.  It was probably in the 50s.  I'll be back soon when I have time to make it all the way to Pushawalla Palms.  Hopefully, without the wind.