This Is Now…

When we arrived back at Thousand Palms Oasis in the Coachella Valley Preserve on September 27th, this is what was happening under the palm trees…

Palm fruit started blooming.

Buddy and Bear were waiting for us.

And Gregg…

Sonoran Desert Spiny Lizard…

A rattlesnake dining on a Norwegian mouse…

Gregg and Tyler ride the new Preserve all-terrain work vehicle, the Kawasaki Mule.

Gregg’s son, Matt, hacks my iPhone to take a selfie with his Dad.

Matt’s girlfriend, Amanda, joins in…

Outside Tyler’s office/lab I snap this photo of dead palm trees. The one on the right is modeling the haystack look.

The Washingtonia Filifera, aka California Desert Fan Palm, displays its skirt and ripened palm fruit.

The palm grove surrounding Simone Pond…

The Indio Hills pushing upward between the Mission Creek Strand and Banning Strand of the San Andreas Fault…

A collared lizard…

The robins return!

This photo is dedicated to my grandson, Oliver, who shares the rareness of the arrival of these robins.

Spider webs captured in the morning light on the boardwalk…

A walk along the boardwalk wetlands…

A glorious morning sunrise painting the clouds pink and orange…

The long-eared owl returns to his perch on the palm trees along the boardwalk.

Nestled under the palm trees against the backdrop of the Indio Hills, lie our RV and Gregg’s trailer. You are looking at the San Andreas Fault, well, the best evidence of…

Hidden Palms tucked away…

No, water is not visible on the surface, but it lies 6-12 feet under the sand.

A scorched palm tree recovers its life because the crown of the tree has not been damaged.

We hike up onto a social trail on our way back from visiting Hidden Palms.

Beaver-tailed cactus…

Car Crash Canyon…

Pushawalla Palms…

Just look at the luscious palm fruit dripping down!

The Native Cahuilla ate the juicy fruit from the trees, mashed it into a pulp for fermentation, and ground it into flour.

Mineral-stained water trails show the evidence of water lying beneath the surface.

These straw-like tendrils reach down into the water source below to encourage the propagation of these indigenous California palm trees.

Through the Wash and Over the Ridge

To Hidden Palms We Go… (first)

The trail that crosses Pushawalla Ridge is quite scenic, especially once you start heading down into the canyon where the hidden palm grove thrives. Flowers are starting to bloom everywhere! Jeff and I keep discovering new ones to identify and old favorites to recall…


Standing tall amongst cryptantha, or popcorn flower, phacelia bursts into purple.


Don’t let the pale flowers fool you. Just crush a few in your hand and smell the fragrant essence of calmness.

We descend into the grove of hidden palms aka washingtonia filifera aka California fan palms. The “skirts” are a giveaway.

We follow the wash out of  Hidden Palms and pick up the Horseshoe Palms Trail that meanders through another wash and around this linear grove of palm trees.

Pygmy cedar

What? A fir-tree like bush in the desert? Is it some kind of pine tree with yellow flowers? The pygmy cedar is a member of the aster family. The species form is similar to a creosote bush… small, greenish, and hemispherical with yellow flowers in the spring. (


This thorny wisp of a bush splattered with deep purple flowers gives off an ethereal vibe.


This brown-eyed primrose is blooming along with cryptantha and possibly pincushion or desert dandelion. We’ll talk later…

The grove of Horsheshoe Palms is tucked along the south side of Pushawalla Ridge.

As we meander through the wash I turn around and take this picture of a flowering indigo bush with Mt. San Jacinto in the background.

When you crush the deep purple petals they smell like, as Harlan says, basil on steroids.

Looking down, we notice ants carrying small bits of petals to their ant hill. Maybe they like the smell too!

Desert sunflower

A single stem stands tall with one radiant flower unfolded and the promise of more to come. Bright pink verbenas hug the sand.

Desert star

This low growing mat-like plant usually blooms in the spring.

We arrive at the palm log fence overlooking Pushawalla Palms.

Pushawalla Palms lead up and out of Car Wreck Canyon that loops onto a plateau on the north side of Pushawalla Ridge. Or, you can stay in the wash and continue hiking into Pushawalla Canyon where it dead ends.

But we are not hiking down into Pushawalla Palms today anyway. We head toward the Ridge instead, which still requires an uphill hike.

Desert holly

This blooming plant greets us along the way up to the plateau where we connect with Pushawalla Ridge. Did you know there are male and female holly plants? The female has reddish buds that pop out berries. The male plant, well, if you crush the blooms in your hand, they turn into a grainy dust.

We head back on the Pushawalla Ridge.

Mt. San Jacinto smiles down on us.

Can you tell we really love it here?

Hidden Palms Trail

There are at least 10 hiking trails throughout the Preserve and as the name Thousand Palms implies, many lead to palm groves. The McCallum Trail passes through 2 groves, a riparian forest and a large pond oasis. To get to Squaw Hill from the Visitor Center 2 smaller palm groves line the trail. Indian Palms is a set of 2 groves separated by a hill.

Today we visit Hidden Palms tucked into a small canyon across the street and southeast from the Visitor Center.

Harlan, one of the trail guides walks with us as we head toward the ridge of Pushawalla through the wash. Most of the trail disappeared after the recent October 13th flash flood and I take some photos to share with our Preserve Manager, Ginny Short.

The sign below leads to Willis Palms. Can you find the trail? Neither could we.

Instead of hiking up the switchback and cutting through the ridge of Pushawalla to get to Hidden Palms, we follow Harlan to learn more about desert plants and observe new growth and blooms from the recent rains. (We head toward Willis Palms.)

Meanwhile, I practice identifying plants and shrubs, such as arrowweed below.

We head south and pass the hill to Pushawalla Ridge.

Looking back, I take a pic of smoke trees in the desert wash.

Desert trumpet is plentiful here. Harlan explains that the oblong swells along the stem are filled with carbon dioxide and the Cahuilla used to fill them with tobacco to smoke.

The brittle bush below is not dead.

The leafless plant surprises us with its sticky amber resin.

Nearby is a blooming brittle bush.

After showing us his secret off-trail spot to observe blooming plants, Harlan departs and Jeff and I continue south toward Willis Palms. We are taking the roundabout trail to Hidden Palms that takes us parallel to Thousand Palms Canyon Road and Washington Street.

Looking back… Cheese weed thrives among dead smoke trees in the wash. Across the street the palm grove of the Smoke Tree Ranch Trail stands to the left of Squaw Hill.

A babbling brook trickles along the wash beside the trail; the result of the recent flash flood.

Smoke trees…

The artistic effects of salt and sand striations…

Bobcat tracks…

And coyote tracks…

The hills… Notice how they look raked, almost as if a giant hand scraped its fingers down through them.

As we head east parallel to Washington Street, golden cholla cactus glow in the sunlight.

At the road to Covered Wagon Tours we head north toward Hidden Palms.

A cluster of beaver-tailed cactus greets us. Notice the tiny pink bud ready to bloom.

The thick palm skirts create the optimum habitat for desert wildlife.

We walk through the palm grove and take the trail to Pushawalla, cross over the ridge and return to the Visitor Center.

A Beautiful Day in the Desert

Another Hike in the Coachella Valley Preserve

Today we return to Palm Springs and head to the parking area near the intersection of Ramon Road and Thousand Palms Canyon Road where 2 trailheads begin. A few weeks ago we hiked the Willis Palms Loop Trail. Now we’re back for another desert adventure creating our own loop connecting segments of   3 trails: Hidden Palms, Horseshoe Palms, and Pushawalla Ridge, highlighted in orange on the map below.

The Hidden Palms Trailhead begins across the street from the parking area. Well placed rocks line the path and intermittent trail markers make the beginning of this hike easy to follow, although the thick loose sand makes it a workout to trudge through. Soon we reach a fork, one way leading to the Visitors Center and the other directing us to the grove of Hidden Palms.

We keep following the traffic of shoe prints. I turn around and capture the other side of Mt. San Gorgonio and the desert landscape.

I pause to take some close-ups that attract my attention.

Then the trail and tracks become confusing as we intersect a dirt road that leads to some fenced-off buildings, an old horse trailer, and what looks like some kind of elongated covered wagon used for driving sightseers. Oh, and 2 blue porta-potties…???… Out of options we head up the road and follow the truck tracks continuing through what seems to be private property. At last we see a hidden palm grove.

And we welcome the opportunity for some shade.

We find a small canopied lounging area with a fallen palm tree log to sit on, so we cool off, drink some water, and recharge with our cashew raisin trail mix.

Energized, our spirits are lifted and we’re ready to head for the Horseshoe Palms Trail.

Luckily, the Horseshoe Palms Trail corresponds with our map. Heading east out of Hidden Palms, we find the trail marker. But once again the trail becomes ambiguous and we are following truck tracks and shoe prints and slugging through dense sand.

Then, suddenly, we round a curve and 2 men are trudging toward us. They are returning from the Horseshoe Palms and warn us that there is lots more sand ahead.

Finally palm trees appear ahead of us in the distance.

As we search for more of a hiking trail than a vehicle trail, we discover an abandoned “campsite”…

An actual hiking trail pops up on the other side of the sandy dirt road and we decide this is the way to continue.

Confused, yet again, we choose to keep climbing up the hill. Distracted from second guessing our decision, I take pictures of Horseshoe Palms below.

But we keep hiking away from where we should be and the trail we are taking is not on the map. So, we head back. No problem, that is until Jeff suggests we hike up the rocky slope along a vaguely visible off-road trail. Are you kidding me? I don’t mind scaling up but good luck coaching me down! Jeff seriously thinks that there may be a trail back down to Horseshoe Palms.

Meanwhile, I document our out and back detour with an awesome view of San Jacinto and Gorgonio.

Instead of retracing our steps all the way back to the dirt road, we find a steep but short cutoff that lands us into the valley trail through the Horseshoe Palms.

Bearing left out of the valley, we head north toward the Pushawalla Ridge Trail.

We climb for awhile.

And then we make a decision. Do we choose to continue to ascend up the ridge or take the flat lower trail? Both will lead us back west to complete our loop.

We choose the high road.

So far, so good… We rise above the trails we just hiked.

And keep ascending.

As we pause to drink some water, I take a picture of Horseshoe Palms below.

Look closely, they’re there!

And then the real fun begins. The trail narrows as it cuts across the first ridge because on either side the drop-off is steep.

Before ascending again, I turn around and document where we just came from.

Onward and upward…

Here’s another view of the other end of Horseshoe Palms.

And now I can show you where we took the wrong trail and then backtracked.

Up and down we go.

Meanwhile, we get a bird’s eye view of the road not taken…

…and the other side of Hidden Palms…

Eventually we see the Visitors Center at Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve.

Soon, only a steep switchback separates us from the ridge trail to the trail back to our car.

As we descend our last few feet, I turn around and capture the moment.

We round the ridge and head back, once again on the Hidden Palms Trail, the loop we have not taken yet.

Large rocks line each side of the sandy trail again. Beyond the path, the sun highlights some cool desert rocks.

A large lizard scurries by and strikes a pose. Could it be the fringe-toed lizard?

We’ve been hiking for over 3 hours now. As we approach the trailhead where we began, I look behind and capture some photos.

What an amazing and beautiful day!