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!

Dollar Road

Beyond Pushawalla

Today we hike the ridge of Pushawalla, descend onto the plateau, and take a side trail marked, Dollar Road.

A new perspective of mountains, hills, and plateaus appear.

And we discover more wildflowers…

Sandblazing Star

Ground Cherry

… And a unique view of the plateau trail leading to Pushawalla Palms and/or the Ridge.

The picture below shows the trail that leads down into Car Wreck Canyon and Pushawalla Palms.

Basking on a rock is a zebra tailed lizard, I think…

We turn around and head back to the Pushawalla Ridge where we take the wash trail back.

The wash trail is alive with blooming wildflowers…

Lupine and Desert Dandelion

Woody Bottle-Washer Primrose

Sandblazing Star and Brown-Eyed Primrose

This spot is our favorite and we call it Our Secret Garden because it is filled with a plethora of desert wildflowers.

Below is a close-up of Sweet Bush and Golden Poppy.

As we continue through the wash we encounter more…

Pigweed or Amaranth

Fremont Box Thorn

Bottle-Washer Primrose in bloom

Burro Bush


Wow! You know we will be back!

A ”Wild” Hike

To Car Wreck Canyon and Back Again

Spring Blooms in December!

We start in the wash below Pushawalla Ridge and find it alive with colorful wildflowers blooming.

Below spindly Spanish Needle buds start to pop open in a natural arrangement of rocks, creosote, and primrose leaves… priceless!

Sandpaper Bush so aptly named for its unmistakable rough texture…

The fragrance tells all! Desert Lavender blooms pale but it’s smell vibrantly bursts out loud…

Lavendar and Desert Trumpet strike a beautiful pose.

This Desert Trumpet shows off from head to toe… tiny yellow flowers, skinny green stems, thicker red spines, swells of carbon dioxide, and a bouquet of lacy leaves.

Glancing up, I capture this surreal view of a dead palm and some desert mistletoe against a winter sky.

Purple Phacelia brighten the day.

Desert daisies rock!

But wait, there’s more!

Curly pods of Cat’s Claw…

Surrounded by the Indio Hills, the valley is awash with wildflowers.

The trail leads us up and out of the wash and onto a plateau.

Yellow creosote flowers fade into white fuzzy pom-poms.

We follow the trail signs and head down, in a  counter-clockwise loop, to  Pushawalla Palms and “Car-Wreck Canyon.”

Water still trickles through the grove of palms. But here’s where it gets interesting… Notice how the clear runoff suddenly turns orange.

Nestled in its own private canyon, Pushawalla Palms is off the beaten path.

We even encounter a dead coyote.

As we leave the palm groves a bright green bush with yellow flowers captures my attention.

I quickly identify this shrub as creosote with its yellow flowers. However, upon closer inspection, Jeff points out the pine tree-like leaves. Later we learn that, indeed, this is not a creosote bush but a Pygmy Cedar.

And here’s the old rusted car…

Someday we’ll follow the canyon instead of taking the loop.

As we climb back up onto the plateau a new flower greets us.

Usually the desert wildflowers don’t start blooming until March. What a fantastic time to be in the Southern California desert!

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!