A Journey of Self-Discovery – Desert Hiking

Perseverance - A Flower Blooming in the Desert
Perseverance – A Flower Blooming in the Desert

“A flower blooming in the desert proves to the world that adversity, no matter how great, can be overcome.” Matshona Dhliwayo

As we continue our preparation to hike Vernal and Nevada Falls in Yosemite National Park in June, we are encountering our own brand of adversity such as injuries. Seeing this flower blooming on our hike up the desert mountain, we were reminded that having a clear intention and the commitment to do whatever it takes can help overcome the obstacles that may occur on the journey.

Desert Hiking in Indian Canyons
Willis at Desert Oasis
Willis at Desert Oasis

South of Palm Springs is an area of amazing hiking opportunities. The Indian Canyons are the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. As the highlight of hiking for the month of February, we visited vacationing family in Palm Springs and chose to explore this area.

There are multiple canyons available for hiking. We had chosen a loop trip rated as “moderate” with a little “strenuous” starting with the Palm Canyon trail to the Indian Portrero Trail to the Stone Pools. There was currently water in the stone pools and we were so excited to do this 7-mile hike in the beautiful early spring desert weather.

We scoped it out on Sunday, 2/20, and loved the row of fan palms lining the first mile of the hike. Our plan was to hike the next day, Monday, before we left on Tuesday. When we awakened Monday and checked the weather report, there was a high wind advisory until late Tuesday evening. We headed out anyway and when we arrived at the Indian Canyons toll gate, we were advised the loop we had planned  to hike was experiencing high winds and hikers were advised not to hike it. Bummer!

Willis on Trail
Willis on Trail

We hadn’t come this far to be thwarted in our desert hiking plans so we headed to another canyon where winds were nominal. The problem was those trails were short – 1-2 miles – and rated as “easy.” We felt we were past that and wanted more of a challenge as we prepare for our June hike in Yosemite.

Desert Hiking Challenge

 

Trail?

We found a trail sign for the Maynard Mine trail – 6 miles total out and back with over 2,000 foot elevation gain – rated as “strenuous.” Although we preferred “moderate” with some “strenuous” thrown in, we decided to check it out. As we approached the trailhead, an employee of the Reservation asked what hike we were doing. We told him and his comment was “Good luck!” We asked what he meant by that. He said it was straight up the mountain and hard. We looked at each other and decided to give it a go.

It started out okay – a good path, stunning views of the desert and surrounding mountains, the perfect temperature for hiking – we were excited! Within about one-half a mile, the trail(?) turned to rock. We had never hiked on anything like this. It was very slow going – both steep and daunting.

Desert Hiking Surprise
Long-horn sheep rams
Long-horn sheep rams

Here was one reward for our perseverance – two long-horn sheep rams. The rock they were on was directly in our path. We decided to wait and see what they decided to do rather than risking being perceived as a threat to them. After about 15 minutes, they wandered off.

Desert Mountain Terrain
Desert Mountain Terrain

We continued on ever so slowly due to the rockiness and steepness of the trail. It took us almost two hours to cover 1.61 miles and nearly 1,000 feet elevation gain. We continually watched as storm clouds raced over the tops of the mountains near Idyllwild. It was spectacularly beautiful and menacing at the same time – wondering what weather we might expect. When we felt the wind pick up, we decided it was time to turn around. We were out a total of three hours and covered 3.24 miles. Definitely not our longest hike in either distance or time. It was, however, the most challenging trail we have encountered since hiking on Mt. Fuji when we were in our 40s.

Joan on Desert Mountain the
Joan on Desert Mountain

We are glad we did it and survived and are stronger for it. The beauty of the desert in the spring is breath-taking – unlike any other place we have hiked. If you’ve never hiked in the desert, we can highly recommend the experience in the springtime.

14 Comments

    1. Yes, fascinating is a great word for what we are experiencing on this journey of self-discovery. Thanks for joining us by commenting.

  1. Beautiful description and pictures of this challenging and strenuous hike! It made me miss the dessert — such a special place. I’m afraid I’d be looking at the ground the whole time tho; I love to search for unusual rocks there. Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

    1. Hey darling daughter Jasmine. Yes, we did a lot of looking at the ground just to find secure footing on this hike. And we agree, our experience of the desert on this hike was truly special.

  2. Thank you for sharing your hike . I bet it was really Beautiful. The desert is a special place.

    1. Thanks, Karen. Yes, the desert is a special place and I am so glad we had the opportunity to experience some of it in the springtime.

  3. Sounds like your type of challenge for hiking. Those dark clouds you witnessed dumped 4 inches of snow on our desert dwelling and was extremely cold in the evening hours. We are at about 5100 feet, but beautiful wild flowers are definitely in bloom. You are fast approaching your goal date for your Yosemite hike. My cousin that lives just outside of Yosemite just sent me a beautiful picture of Bridal Falls, always stunning even when frozen.

    1. Hi Ruth. Yes, it was a great challenge and we learned a lot. We believe that experience contributed a lot to building more muscle and working our balance. Yes, we are getting excited as the time draws closer.

    1. Hi Judy! I am so appreciative of you and how you read each post and make comments. Look forward to seeing you in town one of these days.

  4. Excellent article … brought back many memories of my youth growing up in the Imperial Valley and experiencing the Superstition Mountains, Painted Gorge and the general areas you were in … we, as a family, were fortunate to be able to enjoy the wonders of nature long before they were discovered and advertised as such.

    Thanks for sharing your interesting exploits … those winds can be very, very intimidating … glad you changed your hiking plans …

    John and Jackie McCoy

    1. Thanks, John, for contributing to this post. Willis and I send you and Jackie our best, as always.

    1. I love my Altra Olympus 4.0 shoes for hiking. I have metatarsalgia and the 33mm stack provides the comfort I need. My concern now is that hiking Vernal and Nevada Falls in spring, there may be a lot of water and I know it is not unusual to get wet while hiking there. So I am now looking into zero drop waterproof hiking footwear. It looks like I will have to add some kind of padding to get as much cushioning as I have now. I will be talking to my podiatrist about his recommendations and will post about what I learn.

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