Friday, February 1, 2013

Palm Springs Excursion - 01/27 thru 30/13

 Las Vegas to Joshua Tree National Park - Sunday
           We convoyed down from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree National Park.

                                         The Old Kelso Train Depot

There were around sixty Around the Bend Friends club members on the Palm Springs excursion which was held between Sunday (1/27/13) and Wednesday (1/30/13). We began our trip with a seventeen car convoy from the Silverton Casino in Las Vegas to Joshua Tree National Park. Along the way, we stopped at the old Kelso Train Depot and Museum for a break. Another stop was made for one car to gas up at Amboy where some of the movie "Cars" was filmed. We were all in great spirits and the back road route was beautiful as the clouds played above. As the last of a bit of bad weather was moving out, we passed the Kelso Dunes (also referred to as the Devil's Playground).

                           The scenery along the way was magnificent!

After our hikes in Joshua Tree, we dispersed somewhat to finish the trip down to Palm Springs, California. We left Joshua Tree as the sun was beginning to set and arrived in Palm Springs at dark. As we entered the valley, we were greeted by hundreds (?) of windmills turning in the wind. What a sight!

      When you see the windmills, you know you are almost to Palm Springs!

Chris Dempsey out did himself on this trip! He organized the hikes, hotels and several group dinners. He was the liason to Philip Ferranti and the Coachella Hiking Club. And, he was the "Man with the Plan" all week. Hats off to Chris for doing an outstanding job for 60 something appreciative hikers! Had to be stressful, huh? Thank you.

                                               Our Convoy Route

Joshua Tree National Park - Sunday
Lost Horse Mine Loop
                             Late Afternoon at Joshua Tree National Park

                     Beginning the Lost Horse Mine Loop in the Burned Area

When we got to Joshua Tree National Park, we got together at the Visitor's Center and divided into four groups. Each group was headed to different hikes of different lengths and difficulty. The group going to the Lost Horse Mine Loop hike had sixteen people so we caravanned into the park and found our trail which would be a clockwise loop of 6.5 miles with a gross gain of 1100 feet.

                        Some of Our Group in Front of the Old Gold Mine

                            Malapai Hill (background right) from Trail

The area we started in had burned recently and it was disappointing to see all the joshua trees burned to the ground. Around two miles into the hike, we saw the old gold mine sitting on the hillside. We headed up the hill for a visit and marvelled at the old machinery. Afterwards, the trail continued around where the fire did not reach. The scenery was vast with a cold breeze keeping our layers in place. In the distance, we could see Malapai Hill, a possible extinct volcano. Along the way, we saw four mines that had been filled in. John dropped his hat in one, as seen to the left!

                                         Remains of Miner's Home

                                            Joshua Tree NP Terrain

About half way around, we came upon an old fireplace chimney with a few rusted things around. Nearby was a filled in mine. We took our break here then continued. The second part of the loop was mostly a fast stroll through a wide wash decorated with large joshua trees. We also saw many yucca rostrada around. The flowers must be gorgeous in the spring. After we finished the loop, we exited the park at a good time for evening photographs. Onward to Palm Springs!

                                         Evening at Joshua Tree NP

                                          Evening at Joshua Tree NP

Mecca Hills - California - Monday
Pyramid Canyon
                           The Pyramid Rock - Shaded Light by Photoshop

                                                     Philip Ferranti
                        Author of 140 Great Hikes in and near Palm Springs

Our hikes in Palm Springs were suggested by Philip Ferranti, the author of 140 Great Hikes in and near Palm Springs and founder of the Coachella Hiking Club. Although there were three other hikes offered for the day, sixteen of us decided to hike Pyramid Canyon which would be led by Philip himself. We drove out to the Mecca Hills (named for their resemblance to the Mid East) and parked at a turnout three miles from the beginning of Box Canyon Road.

                                           Starting Up a Wide Wash

                                       Some Flowers Think It's Spring

It was a chilly morning but the wind was taking away the residual clouds and when the sun came out it became warm. We hiked up the wide wash listening to the former college professor explain some of the area's geology. This area is ground zero for the Andreas Fault so we were all ears! Philip also told us of the rain and flooding that this area experienced in September of 2012. He said the wall of water coming down through that same wash was likely to be 6 to 8 feet high.

Much of the sandy floor had been sent down across the road and we walked on bed rock quite often. There were dried puddles with coyote, deer and bighorn tracks. Large boulders had moved several feet. And, some of the walls of the canyon had receded.

We also took note of the obvious up turning features of earthquakes at work. The walls had vertical striata.

Near the top of the wash, we turned left into another large wash. Here, we connected to Pyramid Canyon. We could see Pyramid Rock and the Salton Sea when we looked down the wash.

                                     Joan Checks Out a Side Canyon

                                        Expansive View From Overlook

At Pyramid Rock, we jogged up to the right to get an expansive view of the next beautiful canyon. Then we took our break. From there, we hiked down the large wash and connected to our original wash. There were many features of the canyon walls that screamed for exploration. However, this was for another day, another trip. Our hike was 5 miles with only 600 feet of gross elevation gain.

                                     Taking a Break at Pyramid Rock

                      Returning to Trailhead - Geologic Up-rise Clear in Walls

Orocopia Mountains - California - Monday
Calcite / Badlands Overlook
              Badlands and Salton Sea Overlook from Calcite Canyon Ridge

Upon returning to the cars, Philip suggested to us that we take another very short hike (.75 mile) just up the road to a special place. Eleven of us were game so we piled into the cars and went three miles further up the road. Parking on the right side of the road meant that we would be in the Orocopia Mountains. We started up a small wash passing at least two full side washes before turn right on the third.

                                      Geologic Fault Line Clearly Seen

This was a small wiggly wash that held calcite in the sand of the walls and floor. We examined the shiny layered type rocks (similar but harder than mica) and climbed up to the ridge above. From our perch, we could see badlands all around and the Salton Sea in the near distance. There was also a clear geologic fault rising below us. We enjoyed the view then returned to Palm Springs. It was great getting to meet Phillip and we enjoyed his meandering and lecturing style. Thanks, Philip! (I hope I spelled everything right!)

For more information on Philip's book go to :

                           Thanks to Philip for Showing Us a Great Time!

Palm Springs, California - Monday & Tuesday

After our hikes, you could go into the tourist district of Palm Springs and see other club members walking around shopping and eating. There was a 34,000 pound statue of Marilyn Monroe standing on a street corner. She was on loan from Chicago and will be there until June. To the left, there is a photo of one of the hotels where the club stayed. It was okay but they need a larger breakfast room!

                                         Scenes Around the Town

One of our local Tuesday hike leaders, Misty, gave our car the "low down" on good places to eat. They include, Tylers, Lulu's, Tutti Frutti Yogurt, and the Grind Burger Bar. John and I tried Tylers ... twice ... and found it to be top notch for sandwiches.

As you walk down the street, there are "Hollywood Blvd" type stars in the sidewalk. And, of course, palm trees everywhere.

There were also three group dinners offered during our stay in restaurants around town. Word is that they were a lot of fun!

                              San Gorgonio Mountain Beyond the Windmills

Mecca Hills - California - Tuesday
Big Painted Canyon / Ladders Loop
                                        One Ladder in the Slot Canyon

                                         Curve in Big Painted Canyon

The highlight hike of the trip for many of us was the Ladders Slot Canyon. Combined with the colorful Big Painted Canyon, this loop is 5 miles long with around 800 feet in elevation gain. We were fortunate to have hike leaders from the Coachella Hiking Club to take us around. Misty and Don were great fun and knew the route like the back of their hand! This hike starts near the Pyramid Canyon hike but a recently graded 5 mile dirt road called Painted Canyon Road is added.

                       Don (Guest Hike Leader) Shows Us the Slot Entrance

                                John Climbs One of the Ladders in the Slot

We started up a fairly wide wash in the Mecca Hills. The day was warmer and we were all talking away. Suddenly, Misty and Don stopped. Near the left side of the wash on the ground, there was a HUGE rock filled arrow. It was pointing to a crack in the wall of the canyon. The crack, at first glance, seemed impenetrable. It took some scrambling but there was an obvious trail that led up to a large boulder and then down a ladder on the other side. (The first ladder!) We were officially in the slot canyon which would take us on a fantastic journey of almost a mile using, I think, four ladders to reach the next levels of the slot. It was beautiful inside the slot as light seeped in from the small space above. Our group of twenty-three hikers took their time climbing the ladders so there was plenty of time to enjoy the surroundings and take photos.

                                Misty (Guest Hike Leader) Peers Above

                                       Cactus Wren Atop the Ridge

We finished the slot canyon with a hike through a small wash then up and out onto the ridge above the canyons in the area. To the left, there is a photo of Ann and Diane gaining the ridge. On the ridge, we had views of the Salton Sea, the snow capped mountains of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio (two of the tallest mountains in southern California) and a passing blimp! As we hiked along the ridge, we could see down into Big Painted Canyon where we would be later in the hike.

                   San Jacinto and San Gorgonio Mountains with Snow Caps

                               Hiking the Ridge Above Big Painted Canyon

As the blimp passed nearby, we enjoyed the huge ocotillas on the ridge. Some had stems of at least two inches in diameter. The trail took us up more then led us right to the edge of the canyon below! Sure enough, there was another huge rock arrow on the ground and over the side, we went. The trail led diagonally down the canyon wall and we took our lunch break at the bottom.

                              Hiking with Misty in Big Painted Canyon

After the break, we started on another fantastic journey down through a truly painted canyon. There were colors and stripes on the walls of an easy winding wash. We were looping around to pass the slot canyon entrance that we used before but first, there were two more ladders to down climb as seen below.

Reaching the cars, we understood why this hike is one of the most popular hikes (not to mention, the first hike) in Philip's book.

                                   Descending the Last Two Ladders

                                Hiking Out Between Two Smoke Trees

Indian Canyons - Agua Caliente Indian Reservation
Lower Palm Canyon
East Fork
Victor Trail
                                   Palm Canyon from the Trading Post

                                              Lower Palm Canyon

On this last day of the excursion, we traveled only two miles up the road to the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation of the Cahuilla Tribe where Indian Canyons are located. The majority of the hikers reached the Palm Canyon Trading Post where they would begin one of the hikes into Palm Canyon, a water filled canyon lined with many many untrimmed wild and native California Palm Trees. Sharing the trading post overlook with five hummingbird feeders complete with several unafraid hummingbirds, we gazed down on the lush landscape of palms and water.

We all dropped down into Palm Canyon where there are many picnic tables and began our hike up the canyon underneath the palm canopy. On our way up, seven of the thirty hikers split off from the rest for the longer hike up to the Stone Pools. The remaining twenty-three of us continued up the East Fork of the canyon where we soon left the lush canopy and entered into the barren desert once again. When it was clear that we had left the scenic portion of our hike, we stopped for our break then turned around for the trip back.
                                     Descending from the Trading Post

                                   Ellen and Nancy Crossing the Creek

It was finally a characteristically warm day in the desert of southern California. Our short hike of a little over three miles was a very pleasant way to end a wonderful week. When we reached a trail junction for the option of returning to the Trading Post via Victor Trail, seven hikers took the bait. The rest of us continued hiking back with the palms.

Back at the Trading Post, we did a little shopping then one by one, we left for the return trip to Las Vegas. There were a few people who were staying one more night to enable a visit to the Follies. The writer and two more hikers decided to drive over to another part of the park called Andreas Canyon and do a short hike there that was billed by Misty as being the most beautiful one in Indian Canyons.

                                Hiking Back Through the Picnic Area

                                                        Palm Art!


Indian Canyons - Agua Caliente Indian Reservation
Andreas Canyon
                                                  Andreas Canyon

                                                 Andreas Canyon

The three hikers exited the car at Andreas Canyon and knew immediately that Misty was right. This area was an oasis in the desert for sure. The creek was a full flowing stream among more of the characteristic palms of Indian Canyons. And, the setting was a trail situated among the rocks of a hill above.

Along the way, we passed this critter to the right. We think it may be a Western Fence Lizard. At any rate, he (or she) just sat there and eyed us warily as we took our photos and passed on by. At the top of the trail, we found ourselves just below the homes of the resident Cahuilla Tribe. There, the trail U-turned and led back to the cars above the canyon and palms. This short one mile hike was definitely worth the extra effort and, after a nice lunch at Tyler's, we all headed back to Las Vegas.

                                    Rock Cliff Above Andreas Canyon

                                  Return Trail Above Andreas Canyon

Other hikes taken by members of the club were as follows:

Joshua Tree National Park Sunday - Skull Rock, Wall Street Mill / Barker Dam, and Ryan Mountain Trail

Palm Springs Monday - Coachella Valley Preserve Trails, Whitewater Canyon / Pacific Crest Trail Ridge Loop, and Mission Creek to the Pacific Crest Trail North

Palm Springs Tuesday - The "Big Split Rock" Slot Canyon (led by Philip), Pacific Crest Trail North, and Murray Hill (Peak)

Indian Canyons Wednesday - Fern Canyon, and Palm Canyon Trail to the Stone Pools


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Kay, for sharing your J-Tree and Palm Springs adventures. It appears that you all had a very nice trip (with the possible exception of Chris, at the end!) Your pictures were terrific as usual and the story was very well done. ...Larry Dunn

Jerry Thomas said...


It was definitely a Western Fence Lizard. I looked at some more photos on the internet. Another great outing with AtBF!