A Scenic Route to Palm Springs

Via Idyllwild…

From San Jacinto’s Diamond Valley RV Resort to Idyllwild is only 25 miles away on Highway 74.

We first visited the artsy alpine village on Mt. San Jacinto in December of 2015. In April of 2017 we returned and hiked the Devil’s Slide Trail from Humber Park.

On Thanksgiving Day 2016 we took the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up the San Jacinto Mountain.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway does not drop you off in Idyllwild unless you plan on hiking in. From the mountain station it’s about 7 miles to Humber Park and then about 3 miles more into Idyllwild.

In December 2017 we returned hoping to take a short hike but it was too cold. So we checked out a few shops and had a burger at the Lumber Mill Bar and Grill.


Messy and delicious!

Check out this Christmas decoration:

Today our destination is Palm Springs.

Now, Palm Springs is about an hour away from us. Ramona Blvd. and/or Ramona Expressway intersects with the 79 heading north to Beaumont where we take I-10 east.

Today, however,  we plan a day-trip by driving into Idyllwild and taking the Pines-to-Palms Highway into Palm Springs. We always wondered what it looked like if we just continued on 74 instead of turning left onto 243.

And today we find out. It’s a stretch of some 57 miles. We pass southeast  by Lake Hemet and through the Santa Rosa Indian Reservation where we head north into Palm Desert, Cathedral City, and Palm Springs on the 111.

The really dramatic scenery begins in the canyons approaching the desert cities. We pull in to a scenic view parking area overlooking the Coachella Valley.

We still have to meander through the winding ribbon of highway that appears below as a silver thread.

In the near future we plan on taking I-10 to Banning and driving up to Idyllwild taking State Route 243. Stay tuned!

Simpson Park Part 1

Searching online, Jeff discovers a 483-acre wilderness park named for a former mayor, James Simpson, in the Santa Rosa Hills south of Hemet, CA with hiking and mountain biking trails.(visitsanjacintovalley.com)

Unfortunately the website informs us that Simpson Park is closed until further notice due to hazardous fire conditions. (cityofhemet.org)

Since the park is only 10 miles away from us at Diamond Valley RV Resort in San Jacinto, we decide to check it out anyway.

From the intersection of Stanford Street and Crest Drive, We take Vista del Valle to Rawlings Road and wind uphill for over 2.5 miles to the park’s gate. A small parking area awaits. And there are cars parked here even though the gate to the park is closed and a sign explains why… due to the potential of fires.

But we see people walking, joggers jogging, and babies being strolled in strollers beyond the closed gate. So we park and get out of the car to investigate. We watch a man and a woman climb over the rocks next to the closed gate. The man carries a shovel and wears an adhesive wrap around his knee and calf. The woman looks like she is taking pictures of him walking up the hill beyond the gate with her call phone. As we approach them I ask if we can still access the trails even though the park is officially closed.

Talk about being in the right place at the right time… The man, Jeff Slepski tells us to follow the Lichen Trail avoiding the smaller “rabbit trails” shooting off every which way. There’s a 5 mile loop trail that crosses the uphill road into the picnic areas and continues around the crest before descending again across the road and eventually back to where we began, at the Lichen Trailhead. He shares his email address with me so that he can send me a trail map.

Did I forget to mention that yesterday, January 23, 2018, Jeff Slepski  underwent knee replacement surgery? And here he is walking? His wife is filming a “mockumentary” of  him walking a few steps up the park road headed to the trails with shovel in hand.

But wait, it gets even better. According to the Press-Enterprise, a local Hemet article from 2014 written by Bob Pratte shares info on Jeff Slepski. The 19 trails in this 483-acre landscape of ridges, canyons, boulders, brush, and scattered oaks were built by Jeff and his friends.

Here are some pics from the trails as we discover Simpson Park without a map.

The park road ascends and we look back before entering the Lichen Trailhead which starts out as slabs of rock.

Mt. San Jacinto rises in the distance.

The path is well marked with footprints and bike tracks.

It’s a gorgeous day for a hike.

Mt. San Gorgonio shows off its snow cap as we climb higher. Look closely just beyond the trees in the foreground. The sliver of gray running from the center to the right is the road to the picnic area.

By now we have lost the Lichen Trail. It was supposed to lead us across the park road. There are trails jutting every which way, so we literally walk around in circles enjoying the scenery.

That’s Diamond Valley Lake and the East Dam below.

Mother Nature sure knows how to create stunning arrangements of rocks and trees and shrubs.

Ah, X marks the spot where the horn rock basks in sunshine.

Where does this path lead?

We wander for an hour and head to the top of the road and picnic area before walking back down the hill leading to the parking area.

We plan to return here often. I will wait a few days and email Jeff Slepski for the trail maps.

A Hike in the Desert

The Coachella Valley Preserve

Today we drive to Palm Springs and head northeast of I-10 toward Thousand Palms Canyon Road where a parking lot leads to a 4 mile trailhead for the Willis Palms Loop. I circled the area in red and highlighted the hike in blue.

The green rectangle above shows the proximity of Thousand Palms Oasis and the McCallum Trail that we explored on November 29, 2017.

Here are some highlights from today’s hike:

I don’t know what these strange plants are. The stems swell into ocean-like seaweed polyps. I’m guessing the bulges store water. My internet connection keeps timing out so I will have to get back to you on this.

Meanwhile, the scenery is dry, rocky, and sparse, but oh so beautiful. We gradually ascend a ridge.

That’s Mt. San Gorgonio  towering in the distance below…

Then we intersect with the Herman’s Hike Trail and head back down into the canyon.

The trail is not well-marked but instinct and numerous footprints guide us along.

The rocks are amazing and too big to collect so I take a few pics of our favorites.

At last the Willis Palm Grove appears and we KNOW we are heading in the right direction.

The deep blue sky, the bright green palm leaves, the dead yellow fronds, the fire-blackened tree trunks, and the deep white ash present a stunning photo opportunity but also remind us of the delicate ecosystem living here.

Estudillo Mansion

At the corner of Main Street and 7th Street, separated by black wrought iron gates, lies a beautiful red brick mansion surrounded by coiffed and unlittered grounds. Jeff and I have walked by many times on our daily walks through the neighborhoods of San Jacinto.  One day we take Main Street to Dillon and discover the place is the Estudillo Mansion and that it is open every Saturday from 11 to 4.

So, one Saturday we walk over and check the place out.

In 1842 Jose A. Estudillo acquired all of the land (35,000 acres) in the San Jacinto Valley when he was deeded a Mexican Land Grant. In the 1860s his sons, Francisco and Antonio came to the valley to begin cattle ranching.

Francisco constructed the two-story  mansion on 6 acres of land between 1884 and 1885. He became San Jacinto’s first postmaster and was also appointed Mission Indian Agent by the Federal Government. As Mission Indian Agent, Francisco was responsible for 32 Reservations in southern and central California. He was an elected school board member and the second mayor of San Jacinto, serving from 1890 to 1892. (ci.san-jacinto.ca.us)


After passing through many owners, the mansion was purchased by Riverside County in 1992. Six years later the County turned ownership over to the city of San Jacinto. (ci.san-jacinto.ca.us)

Meanwhile, in 1939 the San Jacinto Women’s Club and the Chamber of Commerce decided to display early California and Indian artifacts during the Ramona Outdoor Play. Response was so positive that citizens petitioned for a permanent museum in 1940.

In 1978 a group of residents formed the San Jacinto Valley Museum Association and this non-profit organization continues its support today. In 2005 the Museum Association was able to use its funds to purchase its present building on the grounds of San Jacinto’s Francisco Estudillo Heritage Park. (Historic San Jacinto City Museum brochure)


The house has been restored inside to reflect the style of the late 1880s. No pictures of the interior are allowed to be taken so I capture the grounds and garden.

We learn that a tree trimmer has to shimmy up the trunk of this Washington Palm to prune the fronds.

The highlights of this visit, however, are the docents. These women fought “city hall” to prevent the demolition of the Estudillo Mansion and preserve  it to the Historical Registry.

Simpson Park Part 2


Today we look forward to hiking a 5.3 mile loop in the Santa Rosa Hills.

Jeff Slepski sends us 2 pdf files of hiking trails in Simpson Park. The first one sketches his 5.3 mile “Classic Loop” trail.

The second one shows all the trails which I then highlight with the classic loop that begins and ends at the Lichen Trailhead.

And off we go! Our bodies are slathered with sun screen and we carry water, trail mix, and the map. Easy peasey…

We head up the Lichen Trail, pass through the Oak Grove, and wind our way parallel to the park road until we descend to the left and cross the road.

The Black Sage Trailhead greets us.

We cross a slab of rocks and admire the view of Mt. San Gorgonio and the valley below.

Within minutes we cross a dirt road and take the curly Ribbonwood Trail.

Feeling confident and in our element, my husband Jeff and I decide we’d like to hike this trail once a week.

Following the map, we cross the dirt road again and connect to the Live Oak Trail. Life is good.

Yet again we cross the dirt road where the Live Oak Trail ends and the Canyon Trail begins. Mt. San Jacinto towers above.

Then Mt. San Gorgonio’s snowy peak appears.

And yes, that’s Mt. San Jacinto again.

We wind our way up the canyon following the mountain bike tracks.

The outcropping of rocks are a collector’s dream. Unfortunately the ones we like are too big to carry back with us.

We give names to some of the more predominant rocks. Jeff nicknames this one “the Blind Troll”, but the profile looks like a chick to me or some kind of bird. Jeff ignores the profile and focuses on the horizontal crack that reminds him of a mouth and the perpendicular line above is the nose. His Facebook friends see a manatee. What do you see?

Here’s the other side of the monster rock… not so cool…

After crossing the Fireman’s Loop, which we almost descend, we  head up to the summit and the Hoodoo Lounge. Diamond Valley Lake and the East Dam lie below.

Look closely and you will see the American flag flying above. It looks like we are far away but perspectives are deceiving.

Quickly we ascend through the brush…

and arrive at Hoodoo Lounge which looks more like Cairn City.

There’s even a Christmas tree!

I take a picture of Diamond Valley Lake again from this viewpoint.

Then we ascend a short loop to reach the flag which turns out to be a veteran’s memorial to a local hero.

We are more than halfway through the 5.3 mile hiking loop. We still have lots of water. We are not tired. We are confident that we are  only about 2 miles away from completing the loop. A piece of cake. And we have a map! The Crest Trail leads us back down to yet one more dirt road.

We’ve got this! I continue to capture my favorite scenes.

Below is the “Pink Pyramid Rock”, name courtesy of Laurel and Jeff Jernigan.

And who could resist taking a picture of this Manzanita Tree silhouetted against a deep blue sky?

Yet another scenic view of Diamond Valley Lake…

Ya gotta love the rocks!

The Crest Trail dumps us onto a dirt road again. Still good, according to the map…

We side step a gate on the dirt road and follow the Quail Trail which intersects the Ocotillo Trail.

Almost done…

We need to turn right onto the Buck Brush Trail, then right again onto the Lake View Trail, and finally a sharp left will lead us back to the Lichen Trailhead where we started.

But we keep hiking for what seems way too long. We never hook up with a sign for the Buck Brush Trail. We follow hikers’ footprints until we start blazing our own trail. We backtrack and find a trail that we hope will lead us to where we need to be. The longer we hike on this un-named path, the more confused we get.

We should have re-traced our steps back to the Ocotillo Trail but we are getting tired and thirsty and our water supply is down to warm dribbles. Going back feels like a dead end. Meanwhile, I am getting dizzy and hot and dehydrated and scared. So, somehow we keep plodding forward. Eventually we see a road below us and the trail starts descending down to it.

At this point I just want to get off the hilly trail. I am hopeful we can find help. Jeff and I decide hitchhiking is the best option.

We find ourselves on Gibbel Road in the middle of nowhere. Our cell phones are off the grid so we can’t call Uber or find the phone number to Diamond Valley RV Resort’s office. (My plan, at this point in my exhaustive state, is to call Mooshi, the manager, and ask her to contact any of our neighbors who just might come out and drive us to our car.) Calling 911 is our last resort. But I’m afraid they will evaluate me for dehydration and sun exhaustion. We just want a ride to our car… so close yet so far away!

Very few cars pass by going in the direction we need to go. Actually, only 3 cars go by. The first car has a Mom and child in a car seat. We withdraw our thumbs. The second car is a city utility truck and our thumbs are ignored. Finally, as I am ready to just lay down and take a nap on the side of the street, we flag down a driver who passes us by and then reverses his truck to find out what we need.

We quickly tell him our dilemma and without hesitating, he gladly drives us 9 miles out of his way to our car!

Thank you, Vito! He refuses money but Jeff presses a twenty dollar bill into his palm as we exit the cab of his truck.

After over 5 hours hiking uphill and downhill in the hot sun, we reach the safety of our little car and take turns gulping down the remaining bottle of water we left behind.

Later we realize that today is our anniversary… 22 years! For some reason we always forget that January 29th is the day we got married, even when we remind each other a few days before. So, now we can associate our classic lost adventure with Jeff Slepski’s Classic Loop Trail to January 29th and just maybe loopy Laurel and Jeff will remember our anniversary from now on.

But if memories don’t suffice, I just happen to have a souvenir from today. I pocketed this rock during one of our happier moments of this hike. And yes, it has a name… Anniversary Rock!

A Lunar Trifecta

The Super Blue Blood Moon

We set our alarm for 4:00 AM this Wednesday morning on the West Coast to observe a special pre-dawn lunar event. Actually 3 events are happening at once.

First of all, it’s a Supermoon.

According to earthsky.org, a supermoon is a new or full moon closely coinciding with perigee, the moon’s closest point to Earth in its monthly orbit.


This proximity to Earth makes the moon appear 14% bigger and 30% brighter than usual. (nasa.gov)

Second, it’s a Blue Moon.

The adjective, blue, refers not to color but to rarity, as in “once in a blue moon.” According to livescience.com, a blue moon is an additional full moon that appears in a subdivision of a year, as in…

  • the 3rd of 4 full moons in a season
  • the 2nd full moon of a calendar month


The first blue moon occurred January 1st.

Below is a picture of a blue moon taken on August 31, 2012 in Guayaquil, Ecuador.


Third, it’s a Blood Moon.


A blood moon refers to the reddish tinge a full moon takes on when fully eclipsed. A total lunar eclipse takes place when the Earth comes between the sun and moon. As the Earth covers the moon with its shadow, the moon turns a reddish-orange color. (timeanddate.com)

Below is a picture from Santa Monica, CA taken by Lucy Nicholson from Reuters, the multimedia news agency.


According to 10news.com in San Diego, the last time a Super Blue Blood Moon was visible in the Western Hemisphere was 1866, over 150 years ago.


And here are my pictures taken from my iPad while Jeff and I sipped our coffee and huddled to stay warm. A really awesome sight to behold even if the photos don’t do it justice. I am just happy we were able to witness this lunar trifecta.