Going on a Ghost Hunt

And Stopping to Smell the Flowers!

All we know is that the ghost flower is somewhere near Horseshoe Palms and the last time we looked for it we ended up on a goose-chase of a ghost hunt.

So we start on the Pushawalla wash and head down to Horseshoe Palms.

Before we even get to the wash trail, however, wildflowers slow us down as I stop to take pictures.

Purple Notch-Leaved Phacelia and white Chicory…

Cryptantha or Desert Forget-Me-Not…

Golden Poppies…

Bladder Pod…

On the wash trail we encounter red Woody Bottle Washer Primrose and white and pink Brown-Eyed Primrose.

Some type of Box Thorn…

Sandblazing Star…


A Pincushion and Desert Dandelion…

Little Golden Poppy…

Brown-Eyed Primrose and Woody Bottle Washer Primrose…

Our Secret Garden… on the Pushawalla wash…

There’s a lot going on here. Rock Daisies and Whispering Bells bloom amongst old favorites.

California Evening Primrose…

Such tiny delicate yellow flowers…

A beautiful picture of an opened Sandblazing Star…

Arizona Lupine…

Desert Sunflowers and Lupine…

More Desert Sunflowers…

Not sure yet what this prickly little guy is yet…


We find the ghost!

There’s a patch of Ghost Flowers hugging the side of a hill right before we descend into Horseshoe Palms! Sooo beautiful!

As we descend upon the plateau into Horseshoe Palms, a desert bouquet awaits us.

And then I look up and see movement in the hills below Pushawalla ridge and above Horseshoe Palms. How did these folks get off trail here?

The arrow in the picture below shows where the trail is. Right after I take this pic, the 2 people start sliding down the hill.

I will never find out how they got off trail or what possessed them to venture off trail to begin with. This is an example of what NOT TO DO when hiking in the Coachella Valley Preserve.

We take a social trail back to the Visitor Center.

And then we discover a new surprise as we ascend out of Horseshoe Palms toward Pushawalla Ridge…

Desert Five Spot

It’s not open yet but I can hardly wait!

When the flower opens, it looks like this:

 picture courtesy of a Preserve visitor 

So, this is my new wildflower goal: find and take a picture of an open Five Spot!

Horseshoe Palms

A Goose-Chase of a Ghost Hunt

Harlan tells Jeff and me about the elusive ghost flower and where to look for it. So, off we go toward Pushawalla and head for Horseshoe Palms. We cross the Pushawalla Trail at the ridge and take the Hidden Palms Trail until it intersects with an unmarked but clearly defined social trail.

We hike parallel to Pushawalla and then descend into the length of the grove.

Actually you can’t get close up and personal with Horseshoe Palms, even on the social trail. The photo below gives you a good perspective. Also notice snow-capped San Gorgonio in the distance.

We reach the length of Horseshoe Palms and I capture a close-up of the greens and tans of palm trees sitting in front of the bright blue sky.

We encounter Cheese Bush with blooms…

Purple Notch-Leaved Phacelia poking through the rocks…

And this plant we cannot identify yet…

A friendly reptile basks in the January sun.

Barrel Cactus up close…

Even the desert has dandelions!

This notched white wildflower is Desert Chicory.

But, yes, we find no ghost flowers!

So… we take the Pushawalla Ridge Trail back.

Before we cross the street to return to the Visitor Center, look what I see… orange dodder on a mesquite tree against a deep blue sky.

Dodder is a parasitic plant that needs a host plant to survive. It may be a “user” but it sure makes for a gorgeous picture of color!

We didn’t find any ghost flowers, but we sure enjoyed a beautiful hike.

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. (calscape.org)


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?

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!