Saturday, October 31, 2009

Palm Canyon Trail, Palm Springs Indian Canyons


Palm Canyon is the jewel of Palm Springs hiking. It is an eighteen mile canyon with unlimited options for adventure. There are numerous palm oases, including the main Palm Canyon oasis with over 3000 palms, streams, year-round springs, Indian trails and ancient village sites. It is an area worthy of a lifetime of exploration. Too bad I only had a couple of hours.

I enjoy hiking so much in the Indian Canyons--although I consider it a bit too expensive to go often--I'd like to live there. I wonder if this place is available?

I park near the Trading Post and head down to the incredible main oasis.

I find these two braves ready to go out and explore but I wonder if they are up to it.

Are you kidding me? We were born ready, they tell me.

Which way should we go?

We head up the main canyon toward the Victor Trail and the canyon is lush with growth. It's the type of place you'd never know was in the desert unless you'd be there.

One reason it's so lush is springs that just bubble right out of the ground.

The water is somewhat warm. It's not a hot spring but a tepid one.

Along the way we use these rocks to make it across the stream. We don't really need them now but they'll be handy in the spring.

I had originally wanted to do a loop hike and come back the Victor Trail but that's not really very exciting for boys. What adventure is there to just hiking on a trail? So, we decide to follow the creek bed up and it's easy since there's really no water in it this time of year.

Along the way Nik picks apart a Cattail and its parts float up into the air. It is reminiscent of snow floating on the wind so Nik dubs the Cattail a "snow wand".

The "snow" floats above us on the wind. Click on the picture and look for the white dots on the photo. That's the "snow".

This is a great adventure for these young braves. They get to climb logs.

Play Atlas trying to hold up the world

And just kick back.

Boys love going through the jungle.

Or maybe not.

They love jumping off rocks.

Or maybe not.

But all in all it was the best adventure these young braves have ever had, at least until the next one. And with all the places to explore in the Palm Canyon area there are sure to be many, many more.

But we can't go until they slide down the rocks just one more time.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Indian Palms, Coachella Valley Preserve


Today I did the hike I should have done yesterday. After doing a long, challenging uphill hike with a sour stomach and irritable intestine I needed a break. The Coachella Valley Preserve in 1000 Palms offers several easier hikes and I took one of them today, the hike to Indian Palms.

From the parking lot, it is easy to find the oasis. Just follow the signs.

Indian Palms is the closest and easiest to reach of the oases at the Preserve.

In case you're directionally challenged they have lined up these rocks to make sure you go the right way.

Of course, if you get off course you can just look to where you're going.

The oasis appears to be strong and healthy but there's not any indication of Indian inhabitation, at least that I can find.

There's plenty of evidence of later visitors, though. I guess Trash Heap Palms doesn't sound as enticing, though.

New growth is widespread in the oasis with cute little baby palms like these all around.

The second oasis is also doing very well.

There's no surface water at the oasis but it is just beneath the soil. Some animal has dug a shallow hole here to allow water to percolate to where they can utilize it.

While there's no obvious Indian artifacts to be seen, I wonder who put these rocks like this.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bear Creek Palm Oasis, La Quinta


I did NOT want to go hiking today. This morning I woke up with morning sickness, or what I'd imagine morning sickness to feel like. My head felt like a cactus had taken up residence within my skull and it seemed like two porcupines were doing battle in my gut. My son brought home some 24 hour flu bug home from school and shared it with the family. At least it's not H1N1. Yet.

Determined to do the hike that I'd been hoping to do for weeks, I set out to hike to the Bear Creek Palms. The Bear Creek Palms are a small oasis high on the north side of Sheep Mountain in the Santa Rosa Mountains. Getting to them requires a hike about eight miles and an elevation gain of around 2000 feet. It is not a good hike to take when you're sick.

The Bear Creek Palms are not really in Bear Creek and I've always known them as the High Palm Oasis but the trail starts from Bear Creek and that's the more common name for them.

This is Bear Creek as it cuts a deep cleft in Sheep Mountain.

The first mile of the hike follows the wash from the top of the La Quinta Cove and is really pretty flat. From there, the trail steadily gains elevation.

As you gain elevation the views really open up. First, Mount San Jacinto comes into view.

Then, Mount San Gorgonio.

Out to the Southeast the Salton Sea fills the horizon.

I get to the high point in the trail and can look down at the palms but I've got to head back home and get to work. It is an easy hike from here but I won't make it today. Feeling sick slowed me down a bit and I've run out of time.

These rocks are usually a good lunch spot but the thought of food right now makes me nauseous.

The trail feels twice as long going down as it does going up but that's always how it feels when you need to find a restroom. But luck is with me today and I make it home before nature calls. I hate to leave anything behind, except footprints, whenever possible.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bear Creek Canyon, South Fork, La Quinta


I want to be a morning person, I really do but it's more difficult than anything I've ever done. My body just doesn't want to cooperate. I wanted to get up and hike up to the Bear Creek Palm Oasis but I couldn't drag myself out of bed early enough to be able to make it there and back. So I did something else. It happens a lot.

I headed up the Bear Creek Wash and got to where the trail heads up to the oasis. Instead of heading up the trail I just went straight into the canyon.

The canyon narrows and a large canyon--the main Bear Creek drainage--takes off to the right but I again just go straight.

The floor of the canyon is dry but there is water beneath the surface. This mesquite is a good indicator of subsurface water. It also makes passing through here tricky and I get pricked trying to crawl under the branches.

If the mesquite weren't enough to foretell water, this palm is. Palms have very shallow roots and require constant water to grow. There probably isn't much water, though, because this is the only living palm in the canyon.

A dry waterfall blocks my path and I wonder if I'll have to leave the canyon to get around it.

But when I get closer I find it's not that tough of a climb, only about fifteen feet. This is the view from the top.

This second dry fall gives me pause.

But only for a second. It's not too tough, either.

After a couple more dry falls--the last which was impassible--I head out of the canyon and take the overland route back to the car. Even though this wasn't the hike I'd hoped to do it may have actually been more fun. Being in the canyon helped because it was windy today and climbing those dry falls was really enjoyable. I may have also spotted another Indian trail but that will have to wait. There never seems to be enough time to do everything I want to. I guess I'm just gonna have to get up earlier.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Day Like No Other

The wife asked me last night if I had something big planned for day 300. You bet I do and I won't let the fact that I have to work at noon, that I have a sick kid at home and a migraine deter me from doing something spectacular, stupendous and superlatively stimulating.

All year I've wanted to hike the Grand Canyon, explore the Narrows in Zion, enjoy the Indian rock art of the Four Corners, do the Mountaineer's Route on Mount Whitney and climb the Tetons. How many of those would I be able to do today? All of them.

I started out with the Mountaineer's Route on Whitney. I love the Mountaineer's Route because it has the most spectacular view of the mountain and it's so much less crowded than the trail route.

Then I headed down the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River. As I made my way back up I saw a young couple making their way down to Phantom Ranch.

From there it was off to the Four Corners. What a truly spectacular part of the country that is.

The walls of Zion envelope you in an otherworldly embrace. It is almost as if you are in the womb of the earth itself.

As the Tetons rise above me I imagine that I'm atop them with the world stretching out for miles in all directions.

One of the many benefits of hiking is the ability to think, to dream and to plan on visiting the world's most beautiful landscapes and to imagine being there.

Or, as the legendary Bob Dylan wrote in his song, Highlands:

My heart's in the Highlands at the break of day,
Over the hills and far away,
There's a way to get there,
And I'll figure it out somehow,
But I'm already there in my mind,
And that's good enough for now.