Day Tripping in the Desert

the blue route we took today in the bigger context of this part of Southern CaliforniaThe sunshine has been a welcome gift here in the desert.  The days have been in the 80’s, but I have never felt uncomfortably warm.  Long lazy afternoons are spent relaxing in our lounge chairs in the shade of the MoHo with a book or some knitting and sporadic conversation now and then.  Our plans for this day were simple. We wanted to go on a nice hike early enough to avoid the mid day heat. The Gabby Hayes trail was Paulette’s favorite so we decided to give it a try.

Abby started slowing down a bit on the ups, but of course we didn'tThe route to Palm Desert is familiar to us now, and once again we trundled off west on Dillon Road to turn south to cross the interstate to the more populated side of the Coachella Valley.  The City of Palm Desert has an extensive trail system, and the Gabby Hayes trail is one section that is dog friendly. 

and that silly thing on my chest is the Cotton Carrier for the cameraThe trail was marked well at the beginning, but not so clearly on the trail, so I was glad that I paid attention to the general route since the several forks are not marked and lead into areas where dogs aren’t allowed.  We hoped for a three mile hike but I don’t think that the loop we did was quite that far, maybe two miles or so.  It was a nice trail, however, with view of the valley below and a well worn path with comfortable switchbacks.

fresh water, even fresh doggie water at the shelterBy the time we reached the Engstrom Point shelter, Abby was ready for the cool bubbling water just at perfect doggie height.  Sitting in the shade of the palapa we enjoyed the view of the city below us.  There are a LOT of palm trees in Palm Desert, and they are not the native palms at all.  We could see a road leading south into the mountains, and our friendly local, also sitting in the shade, told us it was Highway 74.  Ding! Both of us suddenly remembered that the Pines to Palms Scenic Byway was on our list of things to do when we were here last year; a plan that was completely thwarted by the heavy rains and snows in the mountains that closed the road.

more switchbacks over Palm DesertThere was no such problem this year, and in minutes we were traveling south to the infamously curvy, steep road.  I didn’t bring any maps, but we had the phone, and the garmin was tucked away under the seat from the last local outing.  I was really glad that we weren’t trying to go up that road in the MoHo!  It was seriously steep and narrow, breathtaking views of the Coachella Valley below and even on a Wednesday morning, the traffic was fairly heavy.

glad we weren't pulling this hill in the MoHo!We really had no idea where the road led, except I thought I remembered something about Idyllwild.  Sure enough, we went right through the tiny mountain town.  As a kid in the 50’s I would come to church camp at Idyllwild and as we passed through town I saw the old sign for Idyllwild Pines Camp and Mo pulled in. 

a short side trip to Idylwild Pines Camp, where I went to summer Bible camp in the 50'sThere were the old bunkhouses, and the main hall where we ate meals and did crafts.  I think I was ten the first time I camped here.  It seemed so exotic and remote, so wild and mountainous to me then. Actually, where I live now in Rocky Point is much more wild and remote.  56 years ago, though, I had no clue what life was going to bring my way, I just knew I wanted to get out of LA, somehow, anyhow, I knew that even at ten years old.

more crazy winding narrow road, but paved with two lanes.  would be fine if it weren't for the super fast sports car driversOur route led us in a big circle, and we stopped at the overlook toward the south and west to see San Diego in the distance and then marveled at the south facing cliffs of Mt San Jacinto, the same beautiful mountain that we see from our spot in Desert Hot Springs.  The ride down the hill toward Banning was also breathtaking, with a drop of a few thousand feet in just a few miles and some more narrow, winding highway.

We took Abby to dinner with us and kept her off the chairs and tablesWe reached the Palm Springs exit in late afternoon, hungry of course since the trip was unplanned, and decided it was time to try out Rick’s recommended Palm Springs Deli, Sherman’s. The sun was still hot and we couldn’t leave Abby in the car so I planned to pick up something to go.  Instead, the patio on the shady side of the restaurant was dog friendly, and we settled in to a nice table with a great view.  Of course, the view wasn’t of mountains or valleys, but of local colorful folks having a late lunch/early supper right along with us. Palm Springs is definitely a great place for watching people.

the famous cakes at Sherman's Deli in Palm SpringsSherman’s was delightful as well, with New York style pastrami and corned beef, but I only had the free pickles and a small scoop of potato salad so I could try one of the mile high cakes.  The desserts at this place are huge, and the carrot cake was quite delicious, although I think there was more frosting than cake!  I will say I took home a berry cobbler for breakfast that was a pretty big disappointment, so don’t expect all those desserts to be as good as they look.  However, the pickles are the best I ever ate, bar none, so don’t miss them.

No matter how we try to get back across the valley, there always seems to be construction slowdownsBack on the road crossing the valley, we tried a different route.  Somehow, for reasons known to no one, the overpasses of I-10 have been under construction for a very long time.  Last year when we were here, it took forever to get back and forth between the two sides of the valley.  We attributed it to the weather.  This year, all the main roads across the highway are STILL under construction.  Ah well.  We aren’t in any hurry to get anywhere at all.

That’s how it goes in the desert sometimes.  Start off on a morning walk and who knows where you might end up.

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

16 thoughts on “Day Tripping in the Desert”

  1. Isn't it great to just meander? We enjoy exploring new places as well…it must be the”never die” gypsy in us. Your pictures are great. I am looking forward to making our way to the desert.

    Just BS! (Bob and Sue)


  2. I'm impressed! Glad you got to hike the Gabby Hayes Trail and take some great pics as usual.

    The Pines to Palms Hiway drive is always one of our favorites as well. Those scenic views of Banning are pretty awesome.


  3. Thanks for the information about the dog-friendly trail. We are always looking for places to hike with our dogs. We have not stayed in that part of southern California, yet. It looks like a good place to spend some time.


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