Willis Palms and Herman’s Hike

We start from the Thousand Palms Oasis parking lot trailhead and cross the street to hike to Willis Palms alongside the Bee Mesa.

Indigos bloom.

Insect galls grow like pom-poms on creosote bushes.

Desert trumpets swell.

Pencil cholla spread.

I’m not sure what this is…

Or these leaves…

Dodder colorfully covers smoke trees like an ill-fitting toupee.

We cross the street again to reach the parking area and trailhead to Willis Palms. Broken glass warns visitors not to keep valuables in their car.

We head toward the palms looking for the trail that bisects the grove.

Cat’s claw… Notice the thorns pointing downward.

Willis Palms has survived 2 fires, one in the early 1980s and the other in 2010. As long as the crown of the “grass tree” survives, the palm is still alive and continues growing fronds that fold into skirts.

The black trunks, green and yellow fronds, and blue sky make a beautiful picture!

We never do find the trail through the grove, so we continue along the wash heading west, on a gorgeous, sunny, and warm day where blooming creosotes pose against the blue sky.

These sand-colored hills are remnants of the ancient seas that once washed the valley. If you dig deep enough, you will find seashells.

We hike through the wash and follow it as it curves to the north. We’ve taken this segment of the trail before, but from the opposite direction, so we know it leads up to a ridge that loops back to the trailhead. Trail signs are scarce as we wind (what feels like forever) through an enclosed valley searching for the trail leading up to the ridge.

At last…

We reach the top and have to make a decision. Do we head back to Willis Palms and retrace our steps? Or do we take Herman’s Hike back to Moon Country and Simone Pond and then proceed to where we started at the parking lot trailhead?

Jeff and I make an executive decision and turning around is no longer an option. We’ve reached the halfway point now, so Herman’s Hike it is and up we go.

Behind us you can see the valley wash we just hiked through.

Desert verbena crawl in the desert soil.

Almost to the top of Herman’s Hike, you can see San Jacinto and San Gorgonio Mountains.

On the top we rest beside a pile of rocks and eat a mix of cashews and raisins and drink water.

Heading down we encounter lots of blooming desert trumpets with very tiny yellow flowers. These striated curly green leaves with red veins eventually send out tall shoots.

We reach the switchbacks overlooking Moon Country Canyon.

Four and a half hours later we arrive back home, tired, sweaty, and thirsty. We have no idea how many miles we hiked or how hot it is temperature wise. We just know we had so much fun and enjoyed glorious views. The desert is really growing on us!

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.