Saturday, December 26, 2009

Art Smith Trail to Cat Canyon Oasis


After yesterday's "take it easy" hike: I decided to do something a little more challenging today. As usual, I didn't have as much time as I would've liked and ended up hiking back in the dark but I'm used to it by now. The wife isn't, though, and she called me twice to make sure I was still alive. I don't think I have ever been more so.

It seems that I'm not the only one out to burn off a few Christmas calories. While the Art Smith is certainly the best trail in Palm Desert, this is, by far, the most cars I've ever seen in the trailhead parking lot. I don't even want to imagine how many people are at the Bump and Grind trailhead parking area today.

I have a little over nine miles to go and less than two hours of daylight left so I put my head down and get moving up the trail. One bad thing about keeping your eye on the trail is that you miss a lot of the scenery. I hiked right past a whole herd of Bighorn Sheep and didn't even see them. I talked to a lady on the trail and she asked if I saw the sheep and, when I told her no, she said they were back a few hundred yards. Some things are worth turning around for.

I tried to get as close as possible but they were wary and retreated when I moved their direction. They didn't go far but they knew I was there. (Click on this or any picture for a closer view).

This guy is the obvious leader of this herd of at least nine.

Here's a closer look.

You'll have to click on this picture to enlarge it but eight Bighorn are here. It's like Where's Waldo trying to find them all. It's amazing how well they blend it. I could have possibly gotten closer to them but with other people on the trail I did not want to take a chance of a scaring them away. Whenever I come upon a scene like this I realize that my next big investment has to be a really good camera.

I wanted to just stay and watch the sheep all day but I had places to go so off I went. The trail passes several palm oases before coming to the Cat Canyon Palms.

It also gains a good amount of elevation.

I wonder what the wife is making for dinner tonight. For some reason, I have a hankering for asparagus.

The trail levels off as you get near Haystack Mountain and then actually starts going down. I hate it when trails start losing elevation that you've already gained.

This benchmark is right next to the trail. Not too interesting, just coordinates.

But it's not long after that when Cat Canyon Palms comes into view.

I won't have much time to look around but I'm sure this was an area that the Indians used.

It's a very healthy oasis and there is surface water available. I'm not going to stomp around in here today but some time I'd like to investigate this whole area more. I think there's another, even larger, oasis up a bit further but this one is all I'll have time for today.

There is a little trail leaving the oasis and I'll take a shortcut whenever I can get one.

With the sun having already set I won't have much light left before the headlamp comes out of the pack and it'll just me, the moon, the stars and the trail.

But before that happens I get to enjoy the wonder of an area that few visitors to the desert, or even locals, will ever see.


Ed said...

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." -John Muir

I missed Mass this year, but I found time for my daily hike in Temescal Canyon with my dogs. That's fellowship, isn't it?

Hal Summers said...