Tuesday, December 16, 2014

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

 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)

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