Hiking SoCal: Big Morongo Canyon Preserve & Coachella Valley Preserve

After an exciting day in Joshua Tree National Park, my cousin and I were dying to see what other secrets this area held.  A not too distant drive proved we were in for some more desert treats.  Not to be confused with dessert.

BIG MORONGO CANYON PRESERVE

The views in Big Morongo Canyon were quite stunning and we saw lots of birds along our hike.  I’m used to seeing bear warning signs when I’m in the mountains, but this trail has many mountain lion warnings posted throughout, which was slightly unnerving.  This area looks like the perfect habitat for them and would definitely be a challenge to spot one against the camouflage of the hills.  The trail goes along a really gorgeous ridge where you can see for miles…more snowy peaks in the distance.

COACHELLA VALLEY PRESERVE: THOUSAND PALMS OASIS

Next up was Thousand Palms Oasis in the Coachella Valley Preserve since we really loved Fortynine Palms the day before.  Plus, we decided we needed more palms.  We stayed in Twentynine Palms, hiked to Fortynine Palms, and who wouldn’t want to add Thousand Palms to the list?  This was worth every minute of time it took to get there and was the highlight of our short trip through the desert.  There is actually water in this oasis and it is filled with life.  The visitor center has maps, old photos of how the area once looked, and information on the wildlife that survives here.

We did the McCallum Pond Trail which is a 2 mile, mostly flat trail that meanders through one stand of palms, traverses across more desert, and leads to a separate stand of ponds that surround McCallum Pond.  We saw lizards, saw birds flying overhead, and watched a school of fish warily eye some crayfish living in the pond.  The spot was as serene as could be, with palpably cooler temperatures next to the water beneath the trees.  The palms sit on the San Andreas fault, which allows water to escape through cracks in the fault line.  This area must be a geologist’s dream.

I can’t think of a better way to end a sojourn in the desert than with a cool oasis.  This place has a magic all its own, and even though I am ready to go back to my Smoky Mountains, seeing this place has opened my eyes to the wonder of life that survives here.  There are so many metaphors in life related to deserts, but a new understanding comes when you stand in the middle of that space with the unforgiving sun beating down and gentle trees offering shelter from the open.  Streams truly do flow in the desert.

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