Current Location: Catalina Spa and RV Resort, Desert Hot Springs
Midnight: I have been lying around listening to the clock hands turn. Not very entertaining to say the least. The silence was broken by the pit pat of raindrops on the roof of the rig, so I jumped up to bring in the towels and swim suits draped around the chairs and tables on our patio. I think the 3 percent chance of rain might not do much damage to our drying swimwear before morning, but why take the chance.
We began our day as usual, with swimming and soaking, breakfast with the news, fresh orange juice. Although the weather predictions were for cooler temperatures and cloudy skies, by the time we got in the car around mid day to go hunting for our hike, it was sunny and again quite comfortable in the high 60’s.
Our plan was to drive south into Palm Springs and explore the Palm Canyons that are behind a toll gate on lands owned by the Cahuilla people. It was worth paying the price, I though, to see these beautiful canyons and to try out a few of the hikes that are well reviewed by folks who have visited.
As we emerged from the driveway, toward the north and east the skies were blue and clear, but toward the south, murky smog was obscuring the San Jacinto’s. It only took us a moment to make the decision to drive north and east rather than into the brownish bands of gooky air that seemed to be coming filling the entire western part of the Coachella Valley, slipping in like a dirty fog through the canyons into Palm Springs. I guess that is the price we pay for calm air and no winds. Smog.
A short distance east on Dillon Road, the major east west road bisecting the lower end of Desert Hot Springs, is the huge Caliente Springs Resort. I know folks who love to stay here so we thought we would once again check out the digs and see what we thought. It certainly is big, and the large three sectioned pool is quite lovely, and under a shady structure to keep it from the glaring heat.
There is lovely landscaping and several ponds, a golf course, a huge recreation room with posted entertainment venues and several pages of craft classes and activities. It is beautifully landscaped and seemed quite upscale, at least on the surface.
Quite the spot. Most of the sites are very nice versions of park model homes, both for sale and for rent, with a very few RV sections mixed in. Problem for us, however, is that the RV sections are a long way from the pool, a long way from anything. I guess that is why most everyone seemed to have a golf cart. It is a very nice place, but not our kind of place.
I checked out the four hot tubs and the hottest one smelled strongly of chlorine, and the rest of them were about the temperature of our swimming pool. Chemicals and chilly. Not my kind of hot mineral pools. The biggest drawback, even more than the distance, was the posted hours of open pools from 8am to 10 pm. Nope, no way. It really made us appreciate our little park with trees and shrubs between our sites, and our beautiful very warm pools that smell of nothing but pure clean hot spring water.
Whipping back out on Dillon Road, we continued east toward Thousand Palms Highway…actually spelled 1000 Palms on the street sign to keep it short enough to fit I guess. The Thousand Palms Oasis is in the middle of the Coachella Valley Preserve, operated by the Center for Natural Lands Management in Thousand Palms.
I knew of the hiking trails in the preserve, having hiked the Pushawalla Loop on the eastern side of the preserve a few years ago with Laurie and Odel. Once again, at the time, our hiking was limited because of Abby, and Mo stayed home while Laurie, and Odel, and I spent a lovely sunny Christmas Eve hiking the trails.
Today the parking lot was almost full when we arrived, it is amazing how many people are out hiking on a weekday. With the sun shining so brightly, it was magical to slip into the thick darkness of the ancient palms. Some are as much as 150 years old. This palm is the only native palm in California.
We stopped in at the small visitor center to enjoy the displays, including some very detailed information about the San Andreas Fault which runs right through the preserve, and bisects the area in front of the center. The water that is visible at the surface here, comes from the aquifer beneath that emerges due to cracking and fissuring in the fault. Thousand Palms Oasis is one of the largest groves of desert fan palms (Washingtonia filifera) in California.
The trail we chose was a short 2 mile round trip toward McCallum Pond, also formed by a natural earthquake seep. The trail meanders through the riparian forest, up to the desert wash, where plants that can survive with less water than the fan palms but which need more water than is available in the open desert thrive.
Once we reached McCallum Pond, we decided to take the Moon Country Loop for the return trip, adding another mile or so to our walk. I was glad I had the GPS with me, however, because we managed to get on a longer section of Moon Country than we planned. The afternoon was progressing and we were still walking north on a very lunar landscape. I finally tried to double check our location to discover that we had a long way to go before the turnaround. Enuf!
We decided to backtrack, and then cross the wash off trail to reach the other returning leg of the Moon Country Trail, a great decision. The hike was only a bit longer than yesterday, but because of the deep sandy washes where the trail goes, we were much more tired when we finished. Much of it was like walking on a beach. Best part of the Moon Country section of the trail, however, was the lack of people. Most folks seem content to stay on the lower trails near the oases, and we only saw a single man hiking out in the direction we had traveled into Moon Country.
By the time we ended our hike, the murky smog was thinning and was replaced by dark clouds to the west. We hadn’t bothered with lunch, and had a couple of diet pepsi’s and some fritos in the car. Perfect food after not eating all day! I know better than to drink pepsi any time after 2pm, which is why I am still sitting here wide awake writing a blog! Next time I’ll be sure to have a snack bar and an orange and more water in the car.