Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Palm Canyon to Stone Pools (Indian Canyons - Agua Caliente Indian Reservation - Palm Springs, CA) - 12/14/14

Palm Canyon

Stone Pools (Dry)

Beginning Hike Down from Trading Post

 The southwest acreage near Palm Springs is owned by the Agua Caliente Indian tribe. Here, the tribe maintains a collection of trails called Indian Canyons. One of the main canyons is called Palm Canyon. The trailhead for this hike is located at the Trading Post parking lot where a flock of hummingbirds greet the visitors. Today's hike would travel a length of Palm Canyon to a place the tribe have named Stone Pools. Ten hikers dropped down the switchback from the Trading Post to the palm tree lined canyon stream.

Crossing the Palm Canyon Stream
 The very well-maintained trail leads hikers up the canyon along the stream with one stream crossing on flat rocks placed in the water.

Starting Up the Stone Pools Trail
 In the upper portion of this part of the canyon, there is evidence of a forest fire from years ago. The California Palms are burned at the trunk but the tops are still alive.

View Back

 At a signed junction, we turned right to stay in the main Palm Canyon leading uphill to the right. This started a formidable climb on a nice trail that hung above the main canyon fork. We were climbing up toward the saddle ridges in a straight line. The desert terrain was colorful after the rain that had fallen two days before. Partially burnt chollas stuck up around us and the San Jacinto Mountains rose steeply up to our right.

Hikers and Bikers Meeting in the Middle of Nowhere

 The only place providing different scenery was a wide wash crossing. When we got there, there was a group of bikers taking a break. They had come in from the wash. We continued after speaking, going across the wash and a bit further to a signed junction. Stone Pools were indicated to the right going down the small canyon. Indian Potrero was indicated in the opposite direction.

Stone Pools Upstream
 Not far downstream, we came to an area of granite in the middle of the wash. The granite had several potholes, some of which were quite large. There was a smattering of water held in a few of these holes presumably from the small amount of recent rain.

Stone Pools Downstream
 This was our turnaround point so we sat and enjoyed our break. The Stone Pools are probably much more interesting during a rainy period but, the area was pretty and different.

Return Hike

 We returned the way we came passing several recreational hikers on the way. The views going down were more beautiful than going up as we could see more of the canyon beside us. It was a nice hike to end the Palm Springs weekend.

6 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Dropping Back Down to Canyon

John Hikes Palm Canyon

Burned Area in Palm Canyon




Murray Hill (aka Murray Peak) (Palm Springs, CA) - 12/13/14

Switchback near North Side of Murray Hill Summit

West Side of Murray Hill

Top of the Initial Road Climb up the Goat Trails

Taken
 On Saturday in Palm Springs, ten club hikers returned to the Palm Hills Drive trailhead located off of Highway 111 in the southern hills of town to hike past the gate adorned with no trespassing signs along with many other weekend hikers and bikers. Today, we were serious. No more 4 mile scenery filled hikes for us ... noooo. Today, it was a 9 mile loop so full of gorgeous scenery that you probably couldn't fit any more into it! Oh, and we should probably mentioned the 2700 feet of elevation gain which is mostly in the first 3.5 miles. Yep! A great hike was coming our way!

Hiking Along Canyon
 We hiked up the first road hill ... the same one we had hiked the day before ... without stopping. A steady pace helped especially as we neared the top. After a small break to speak to other over-fifty hikers at the top, we continued down the road to the same turnoff trail on the right that would take us over to the canyon as we did yesterday.

Starting Up Clara Burgess Trail
 The canyon was in the morning shadows and we continued up to that signed trail junction telling us to turn, this time, to get to the Clara Burgess Trail that would take us to the top of the nearby high point called Murray Hill. This trail took us down immediately to cross the canyon bottom and back out to begin a switchback filled route to the summit.

Starting Up the Serious Part

Snow Dusted San Jacinto  Mountains
 As we hiked, we could see the mountain range that runs alongside Palm Springs, called the San Jacinto Mountains. It was covered with a dusting of snow from the day and night before. By the end of our hike today, a lot of the snow would be gone. The temperatures in the valley settled in the 60's, however, the northwest winds during our climb on the north side of the hill were a bit chilly. Good thing we were using a lot of muscle, huh?

Climbing the North Side
 The trail zigzagged around here and there on the north side passing a couple of small peaks before the big one. There was one hiker in front of us and two behind that eventually passed us during a break.

Waning Gibbous Moon Above
 We didn't see any bikers on this side of the hill as it was extremely steep and the switchbacks were sharp. Later, we saw two bikers dive down this side for their descent. Brave? Or, ....

The Palm Springs Valley Below

The Last Switchbacks to the Peak
 The last part of the climb was only switchbacks. In this photo, you can see how small the peak is as seven of our ten hikers can be seen approaching the top. The last three hikers were not far behind.

The summit of Murray Hill is very small, therefore, the part that everyone rests on is a somewhat larger area below it. The Coachella Hiking Club brought up and assembled three picnic tables here. There is also a forty foot hitching cable for horses.

Kay Photographs One of the Switchbacks
 When we arrived, those three hikers ahead of us were enjoying one of the tables. We examined the peak then crowded around another of the three tables discussing how weird it seemed that the peak was only 2200 feet high. As we sat and enjoyed a deserved break, three bikers arrived from the south side of the peak.

Resting at One of Three Picnic Tables just below the Summit
 We were impressed by their show of strength as they actually road their bikes up the last bit of trail. On the other hand, they were equally impressed by the fact that the average age of our small group was in the late 60's. Whaaat?

Summit Photos

Starting Down the South Side of Murray Hill
 After we watched two of the bikers take a nose dive off the north side of the peak, we began our descent on the south side, the more friendly of the two sides. The descent began with a couple of switchbacks but soon turned into a rolling descent down to a small meadowish place where we found the trail sign for the other end of the Clara Burgess Trail. This is where we junctioned with the Garstin Trail.

Looking Back at Murray Hill from our Descent
 Murray Hill could be seen off and on throughout the remaining 5.5 miles of our hike. We passed several hikers on this side of the hill along with a few more bikers.

Hiking Out a Ridge on the Garstin Trail
 Our loop route took us out along a narrow ridge high above our hotel and the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. Not to mention one of a million Palm Springs golf courses!

Approaching an Overlook on Garstin Trail

Looping Around
At the end of the ridge, we started a steep drop down the trail to a junction of several more trails. It was during this segment that we encountered the only really rough and rocky trail. Almost all of the Goat Trails seem to be very pleasant for walking. The dirt is more sandy than in Las Vegas and even with the recent rain, the steep hills were not slippery. We managed through this rough section like experts!

Rock Man
 At one trail junction on this end of the loop, a rock man had been laid out. He was about 15 feet by 10 feet. And, yes, it was a man ....

Garstin Trail View
 We continued around small peaks on what we think was the Garstin Trail. As we neared the northern edge of the hills, we found a very tall, very skinny and very precariously built cairn. One of our hikers could not resist to put just one more pebble on the stack. Fortunately, its balance was kept and we escaped!

Tall and Skinny Balanced Cairn

Using a Hundred Feet of the Canyon
 We finished the loop by dropping into the granite canyon that we had crossed near the beginning of the hike. We scrambled down the canyon for around 100 feet then climbed out at the same place we had dropped in before. From there, we retraced our steps back to the steep road and descended back to the cars. This was definitely a great hike!

9 miles; 2700 feet elevation gain; 4.5 hours

Granite Canyon Bottom

Hiking Out Along the Canyon

Trailhead Art Work (Seen only from Return Direction)