Peaks, Palms and Picnics: Day Journeys in the Mountains and Deserts of Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley of Southern California

Peaks, Palms and Picnics: Day Journeys in the Mountains and Deserts of Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley of Southern California


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780916251574
Publisher: Sunbelt Publications, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/01/2002
Edition description: 2ND
Pages: 182
Sales rank: 742,797
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Journey 1

Trail of San Jacinto Peak

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway ride to Long Valley, easy Desert View walk or challenging hike to top of San Jacinto

"Omar's Bread"

"Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light"

Edward Fitzgerald-translation

The first quatrain of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the eleventh century astronomer-poet of the Persian desert, echoes on a high country trail in the San Jacinto wilderness on an early morning hike. The magnificent granite turret, Mount San Jacinto peak, with the boldest escarpment in North America, is the spire upon which the sun rises and sets so compellingly in this our Colorado Desert. Forming a backdrop of incredible soaring heights for Palm Springs, now in summer the bald peak rises smoke gray. In spring, fingers of white gleam in rivers of snow. Winter brings a pinnacle of alabaster white lending a sense of grandeur to all the surrounding land.

On our Trail of the San Jacinto Peak, we are drawn up into the sky on this ageless mountain with its forever vistas of wilderness and endless desert. But first we must begin at the station.

Chino Valley Station

At the north edge of Palm Springs, Mom, Dad, my husband Scott and I follow Tramway Road climbing the alluvial fan to the Chino Canyon Valley Station at an elevation of 2,643 feet. Imposing sheer rock faces press down as we drive into an awesome canyon.

This canyon was once summer home to the Cahuilla Indians. Chief Francisco Patencio, a respected desert Cahuilla Indian, often quoted on the history of the Coachella Valley, was born in Chino Canyon in the 1840s and died at about 100 years of age. He recalled the flat lands high in the canyon were good for fields and gardens but also in great peril during floods. He said his ancestors could take refuge here from the exploring Spaniards passing through the lower valley and later from the Californios, people born in California of Hispanic ancestry in the 19th century. Chino Canyon was hidden from the desert floor. These early explorers were using an ancient Indian trade route which ran through the San Gorgonio Pass. Trade routes were important to the Cahuilla as luxury items such as food, shells, animal and mineral products were exchanged with Chumash and Gabrielino coastal tribes. Travelers carried important messages; they were the newspapers of the people. Like them, we have traveled from the coast not to trade goods but to trade moist ocean air for warm dry air of the desert.

Palm Springs Aerial Tram

A 14 minute vertical tram ride past five supporting towers whisks us up, up and away, ski lift fashion, past life zones not often seen stacked together horizontally. Enthralled, we stand at the rear window of the enclosed 80 passenger tram reveling in the exhilarating rise of the red car. Others with less affection for heights stand in the middle, eyes averted, concealing their trepidation. Leaving the creosote and brittlebush of the desert, the tram travels past five geological life zones ranging from Sonoran to Arctic fringe and stops at the 8,516 foot mountain station with its gift shop, restaurant, snack bar and observation areas. A 22 minute movie on the history of the tram plays in the theater. Stepping from the station into the cool forest, the scent of pines envelops us. The dry breeze blows now a comfortable 40 degrees cooler than on the valley floor.

Long Valley

Before entering the wilderness, we fill out day-use permits at the ranger station box at Long Valley, a short walk from the tram station. Long Valley with a short nature trail and a desert view trail invites with picnic tables and barbecue grills. Here, we part ways with Mom and Dad. Concerned about altitude changes, they will meander toward Round Valley staying in the flat of the valley. Scott, my husband and Trail Master, nicknamed T.M. and I are on a mission: lunch at the top of the Turret.

In the past, a hike into the high country for us was from the other side of the mountain. Then, bedraggled from a night in the tent and dusty from the trail, we met Palm Springs tram hikers, in spotless white clothes and sandals, with jaundiced eye. They seemed to be cheaters. Now, delivered by the same tram, fresh and ready to meet the challenge, it didn't seem so much like cheating as we still had an 11 � mile round trip to hike. Plus, Mom and Dad would be able to share the high country forest experience.

Round Valley

A march of two miles to Round Valley begins our ascent. T.M., always alert to signs of animals, spots several bushy-tailed coyotes. Eyes glowing in the dark forest, observing curiously, they remind that this is their wilderness, too. Once these forests were the habitat of the most dangerous animal the Indians encountered, the grizzly bear. Like the bald eagle, the bear was sacred and not hunted. With difficulty and foreboding the Cahuilla men would ascend into the mountains with bows made of mesquite or desert willow; then descend, deer slung over shoulders, down through the steep cactus and chaparral infested slopes. This may have been a fearful task for them as the mountain top was also the realm of the ubiquitous evil spirit, Tahquitz. With a penchant for stealing souls and concealing himself as solid rock, he could also appear in angry thunder and lightning and travel in frightful whirling dust devils. No thunder claps or lightening strikes as we reach a stream, our last chance to filter water. A trip to the outhouse is fast as spiders and bees have claimed it as their own. From Round Valley, we climb the trail past the sign marked "San Jacinto Peak."

San Jacinto Peak Trail

Our pace picks up after resting in the shade of lodgepole pines at Wellmans Divide, the junction of the Saddle Junction Trail and San Jacinto Peak Trail. The San Jacinto Peak Trail turns right. Soon we find ourselves out of the stately pine forest and into the bright sun on dry slopes switchbacking through an elfin forest of manzanita bushes. Branches and berries crown this large evergreen with its reddish-brown twisted trunks. Manzanita means "little apple" in Spanish and the mealy berries are eaten by wildlife and were made into a cider by the Indians. Soon we meet the Summit Trail and other hikers with the same destination. Pressing on, closer to the top of the mountain, a stone shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Core in the 1930s provides emergency shelter.

A scramble up boulders advances us another 300 yards to the "top of the world." No peaked pinnacle to inspire or awe, but rather a conglomeration of gigantic granite boulders balancing one atop the other creates this "summit of the exalted mountain."

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the bough,
A flask of Wine, a book of Verse-and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness-
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

From this elevated place, the pale purple horizon circumscribes the wilderness and our paradise. Our wine is thirst-quenching water, our bread is eaten next to a windswept limber pine tree and a travel journal is our book of verse. An eagle's vista, a wide panning view, spots the mighty San Gorgonio peak, old "Greyback," the highest peak in Southern California. The 10,000 foot precipitous drop of a perpendicular escarpment falls away into thin air before us. This, the northeast face of San Jacinto Peak, is recognized as the most severe escarpment in North America. Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley cities string out below on the tawny floor of the Colorado Desert. Disappearing in a haze, the Colorado Desert reaches eastward almost 250 miles to Phoenix and southward slips past the blue Salton Sea into northern Baja California and the Mexican state of Sonora.

In the deep western distance, the Pacific Ocean gleams only on a rare clear day. The Little San Bernardino Mountains to the northeast rise dim blue with a gilding of gold. Hidden behind them are the Mohave Desert and Joshua Tree National Park. The Santa Rosa Mountains to the south and southeast with windswept ridges stand out in sharp relief. Our vistas and visions of the desert and mountains along many of the trails of the Coachella Valley would have belonged to Cahuilla Indian, Spanish explorer, Californio or American pioneer. These paths, worn by the feet of many travelers, mark places where visitors can not now remain; a patchwork of Indian reservations, National Forests, State and Federal Wilderness, BLM land and Santa Rosa National Scenic Area has insured this. Perhaps, someday in the future development will string all the way to Arizona but foresight and cooperation will have preserved some of this unique Western landscape.

The sudden rise to a high altitude and the hike begins to blur the senses and returning down the trail, legs straining, toes jamming, the last mile seems endless. Exhausted, collapsed on the waiting room floor at the mountain station, we are thankful the tram will keep us from having to descend another 6,000 feet on foot. I describe this hike as long, long and arduous, T.M. as a piece of cake. We are anxious to know how Mom and Dad fared in their ramblings.

Desert View Trail

They are not worn out but have a story to tell. Starting confidently up the Round Valley Trail behind us, talking and laughing, they proceeded until Mom spied six or seven coyotes slinking along on their own trail. With an abrupt about face with fearless leader Mom leading the retreat, they exchanged their scant knowledge of what to do when facing a coyote pack-stand tall and not run? Or was that for mountain lions? They weren't exactly running but when they chanced upon a ranger and described their encounter, he had smiled. Seems the coyotes here are looked upon as merely part of the scenery.

Heartened by this news, they headed out again, this time on the 1 � mile Desert View Trail, an easy loop, pleasant with a slight rise to the brink of an escarpment dropping abruptly to the desert floor. After scenery gazing and resting among giant boulders, they proceeded close to the rim to another lookout with a similar spectacular viewpoint and then back down the easy slope to the picnic table area of Long Valley. Their adventures on the mountain and ours tell us that whether you are 40 or 75 years old, time is fleeting.

Take Heed! Time Fleets Fast Away
Forty or Seventy, Dark Shadowed Forests beckon Stay
Share Together the Mystifying Mountain Air
Soon the Fall shuts Another Day

Table of Contents

Journey 1
Trail of San Jacinto Peak
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway ride to Long Valley, easy Desert View walk or challenging hike to top of San Jacinto "Omar�s Bread"

Journey 2
Trail of Inspiration
Palm Springs Desert Museum and challenging Museum Trail Hike "Greek Muses Tapenade Sandwich"

Journey 3
Trail of Palm Canyon
Aqua Caliente Cultural Museum, Short hike in Palm Canyon and visit to trading post "Spring Cactus Salsa and Prickly Pear Limeade"

Journey 4
Trail of Murray Canyon
Murray Canyon hike to Seven Sisters Waterfall "Summer Raspberry Crisp"

Journey 5
Trail of Andreas Canyon
Hike up Andreas Canyon viewing mortars and metates "Brandied Figs and Mascarpone Cheese"

Journey 6
Trail Above City and Falls
Hiking north end of South Lykken Trail viewing Tahquitz Canyon to Josie Johnson lookout and picnic tables "Crunchy Pita Sandwich"

Journey 7
Trail of John G. McCallum
Visit to McCallum Adobe/Historical Society and Cornelia White Home on the Village Green "Scottish Shortbread"

Journey 8
Trail of Pearl and Nellie,Two Women of Vision Downtown Walking Tour: Oasis Tower, McCallum Adobe, Tennis Club, Thomas O�Donnell House and George Roberson House (Le Vallauris) "Short Ration Cake"

Journey 9
Trail of Carl Lykken
Challenging hike up North Lykken Trail then descending to downtown Palm Springs via Museum Trail "Stuffed Pickles"

Journey 10
Trail of a Self-Directed Spa Day
Hike South Lykken Trail to Simonetta Kennett Vista Point and visit to Welwood Murray Memorial Library "Spa Fruit Salad, Orange, Ginger and Raisin Scones"

Journey 11
Trail of the Pony Express
Hiking Garstin Trail rising to a plateau connecting with Berns and Araby Trails "Pony Express Quick Black Bean and Tuna Pan Bagna"

Journey 12
Trail of Pulchritude
Celebrity Bus Tour and Downtown Strolling Tour of Casa Cody, Community Church, Korakia Pensione and the Ingleside Inn "Serendipitous Cobb Salad Sandwich"

Journey 13 Trail of the Peninsular Bighorn Sheep
Short jaunt up Bighorn Overlook Trail "P. B. and Jalapeno Jelly Sandwich"

Journey 14
Trail above Rancho Mirage
Mountain biking and hiking Mirage Trail "Stuffed Medjools"

Journey 15
Trail of the Peninsular Bighorn Sheep
Santa Rosa Mountains National Scenic Area Visitor Center, Short garden hike and more challenging Art Smith Trail "Rosie�s Bag Lunch Garlic Chicken Sandwich and Cherry Pie Bars"

Journey 16
Trail of the Living Desert
Living Desert Wildlife and Botanical Park in Palm Desert "Zesty Cabbage Deli Sandwich"

Journey 17
Trail of Toro and Santa Rosa Peaks
Drive up Santa Rosa Mountain Road, Short hike to Santa Rosa Peak and Mountain Bike ride down mountain "California Muffuleta"

Journey 18
Trail of the Pinyon Pine Tree
Mountain biking Pinyon Flats Trail "Anza Valley Guacamole"

Journey 19
Trail of the Desert Divide
Cedar Spring/Jo Pond Trail to Garnet Ridge "Easy Camp Pasta and Bruschetta with Roasted Garlic"

Journey 20
Trail of Romantic Old California in Ramona Country
Hiking Cahuilla Peak Trail "Ramona Sandwich with Candied Grapefruit Peel"

Journey 21
Trail of Shangri-La in the Colorado Desert
A visit to historic La Quinta Hotel and Hiking Bear Creek Canyon Trail out of La Quinta Cove "Turn of the Century Langostino Salad"

Journey 22
Trail of the Ocotillo
Lake Cahuilla recreational area, challenging hike of Boo Hoff Trail "Fruits of the Valley Bonbons"

Journey 23
Trail of the Fish Traps
Short walk to view ancient fish weirs, drive to Travertine Rock "Easy Old-fashioned Raisin Sour Cream Pie"

Journey 24
Trail of the Desert Date
Driving tour of Shields, Jensens, Oasis Date Gardens and Valerie Jeans Date Shop "Chocolate Chip Date Cake and Date Shake"

Journey 25
Trail of a Spectacular Canyon and an Accidental Sea
Exploring Painted Canyon and the Salton Sea Recreation Area "Painted Canyon Albacore Tuna Steak Sandwich and Marinated Vegetables"

Journey 26
Trail of a Larger Than Life WWII Soldier
General Patton Memorial Museum at Chiriaco Summit and Desert Flight Museum in Palm Springs "Forties Tuna and Blueberry Salad"

Journey 27
Trail of the Bradshaw Stage Line at Dos Palmas
Short walk to oasis along San Andreas and El Alamo Trail and challenging hike to Dos Palmas Preserve "New Fangled Slumgullion"

Journey 28
Trail of the Wind
Wind Farm Tour "Grilled Vegetable Hearty Sandwich"

Journey 29
Trail of Whitewater Canyon
Drive up the Canyon and Visit to Rainbow Rancho Trout Farm "Rainbow Rancho Trout"

Journey 30
Trail of the Fringe-Toed Lizard
Coachella Valley Preserve, Thousand Palms Oasis "Thousand Palms Heart of Palm Salad"

Journey 31
Trail of Big Morongo Canyon
Bird watching and hiking the Big Morongo Canyon Reserve trails "Tarragon Pine Nut Watercress Salad"

Journey 32
Trail of the Joshua Tree
Oasis of Mara visitor center, drive to Split Rock, short hike at Skull Rock, drive to Queen Valley, short hike at Cap Rock and highlight hike in Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park "Big Rock Turkey and Artichoke Sandwich"

Journey 33
Trail of the West�s Last Great Manhunt
Drive to Landers and hike to the site of Willie Boy Ambush and Memorial to Sheriffs "Focaccia Sandwich"

Appendix of Recipes
References and Suggested Reading


Omar's Bread
1 package fast rise yeast
3 ½ - 4 cups flour
1 ¼ cup lukewarm water, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup olive oil
Pinch of sugar

Dissolve salt and sugar in ¼ cup lukewarm water. Place 3 cups flour on bread board. Make 6 inch well in center leaving some flour on bottom. Add yeast to sugar and salt water.

Pour olive oil and yeast mixture into well. Start working flour into well gradually adding remaining 1 cup lukewarm water. Continue working flour toward center until a soft dough forms. Add more or less additional flour to form a ball. Knead dough 20 minutes on very lightly floured board picking up edges and folding to center, pushing dough away from you with heels of hands. Rotate dough ¼ turn and continue kneading until ball is smooth and elastic. Place in large greased bowl turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl with a cloth and allow to rise in a warm draft-free place such as an oven. To warm oven, heat at 200 degrees for 3-4 minutes and turn OFF. Allow to rise until double in bulk.

Punch dough down with fist. Form into 4 balls. Place balls in greased bowl and return to oven allowing dough to rise 30 minutes. Lightly sprinkle cornmeal on two ungreased heavy baking sheets. On a lightly floured board, roll balls with rolling pin into 8 x 1/8 inch rounds. Place rounds on baking sheets 2-3 inches apart. Cover with cloth and let rest 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake one pan at a time on lower rack for 3 minutes until loaf rises. Transfer to rack 3-4 inches higher. Continue baking 3 minutes more until light brown. Remove from oven. Immediately seal bread in aluminum foil wrapping tightly. Let rest 10 minutes. Serves 8. Serve warm or at room temperature. For the trail, pack cheese, peanut butter and jelly or fruit.

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