Tuesday, August 7, 2012

HIke 2012.054A and B -- Desert View Trail and Round Valley Loop, Mt. San Jacinto State Park

Hiked Saturday, August 4. Walked these two hikes on Saturday, although I apparently took no pictures once I got on the loop. Of course, I had covered most of the area on the Round Valley Loop on previous hikes, here and here.

A friend of my wife (Laura) was visiting from out of state, and we all decided to make it a desert day. After the drive and ride up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, we took in Grubb's View and ate lunch. Pricey food up there, even with the discount they gave me for my seasonal tram pass.

On a semi-related note, I was informed by a snooty little clerk that my pass did not entitle me to a discount on any gift shop purchases. So now I have to go back to an earlier post and amend that.

I don't care much about the discount, because it would have been less than a dollar on our small purchase. I did care that I was informed of this in an extremely condescending and gratuitous manner, treated like an idiot and a liar. I guess, in that respect, they could have bought themselves a lot more customer goodwill than they cost with the dollar *they* saved. Because, guess what? Next year, I'm not riding the tram. Just out of spite. Yeah, I know the sales clerk won't know about this, won't care, and will still get paid whether I visit or not. But what can I do when an employee pisses me off, but refuse to patronize his company?

On the positive side, it was a great day to be hiking up around 8,500 feet. The temperatures were well into the 90s back in the San Gabriel Valley, and well over 100 down in Palm Springs. But up at the top of the aerial tramway, it was a pleasant 70 degrees.

Our first hike of the day (after taking the short walk up to Grubb's View) was the Desert View Trail. I had not taken this one before. It's one of two trails (really, one and a half, since you will almost certainly choose to either come or go along a portion of the Nature Loop Trail) up near Mountain Station where you do NOT need a wilderness permit.

You leave Mountain Station, take the winding concrete sidewalk down to the west, and then turn left. Signage will direct you to Desert View. The name promises desert views, and it delivers.

There are five notch-points where the Desert View Trail pops out for views to the east and south. Along the way, you also skirt portions of Long Meadow. I like this area because it is very Sierra-like. The meadow (at least now--don't know what it will look like in September or October) is lush and green. Not too many wildflowers in or on the way to the meadow, though. I did pass a number of lupine, many of which were in bloom, but many others were not yet blooming. Lupine have a long season, so I somewhat expect them to be part of the scene for at least the next month or two.

Also some yellow flowers that I can't identify, but which I think I have seen at similar altitudes above Ice House Canyon, in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Finally, along near the first notch, I saw some pretty, low-growing California fuchsia. They were almost ground-hugging here, quite different from how I have seen them in the past. However, the flower shape, color, and structure was unmistakable. They added a nice splash of red to the dirt, pebbles of granite and pine cones of Long Valley.

There's also a very impressive granite dome visible from several of the overlooks. Again, it was very Sierra-like.

To the southwest, Divide Peak towered in the distance. I headed that way on my last visit to the area, on the way to Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

After the fifth notch that's the official end of the Desert View Trail. However, a short but sweet descent to the west takes you to the Nature Loop. It was our impression that the grade heading up from the south end of the Desert View Trail is steeper than the grade coming in from the north, so we recommend heading out on the Desert View then returning via the Nature Loop, not vice versa.

The funniest thing I had heard in months was spoken by a young boy (probably five years old or so) as he was climbing up towards the south end of the Desert View Trail: "This is the baddest day of my life!" I could not help but laugh, and respond, "Oh, no it's not!" But he insisted, "Yes it is."

I suspect he is not a future outdoors-man in the making.

While he struggled up the grade, we quickly dropped back down, and were back near the beginning of the trails in no time.

With Laura apparently deciding this hadn't been enough walking for a day, she decided to head out into the Wilderness (capital "W," because it's statutory Wilderness). So we made a left when we got back to the backcountry trails and picked up a Wilderness permit on the way out.

My initial plan was just to take an easy mile or so out, but we wound up doing the whole Round Valley Loop (about four miles). That means one mile south, on the Willow Creek Trail, then 1.1 miles west, on the High Trail, then back 1.8 miles, on the Low Trail. Added to the 1.5 miles or so for the Desert View and Nature Trail segments we walked, and the .3 miles each way from the tram to the trail split for Low and Willow Creek trails, that makes it between 5.5 and 6 for Mount San Jacinto State Park. It actually didn't seem like that much.

We had the benefit of cool temperatures overcast skies, and several periods of large-drop drizzles, accompanied by some impressive-sounding thunder. Despite the thunder, the skies never looked really dark, so I was pretty confident that any rain we would get would be short-lived and not necessarily very heavy. Fortunately, I was correct.

This extended bout of hiking had the advantage (along with our relatively late start) of not getting us back down to the Valley Station until about six o'clock. I think Joshua Tree looks best in the late afternoon and twilight, and the timing for that was perfect. So, after our adventures in Mount San Jacinto State Park, we made our way to the north and east, and the West Entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. More on that part of the day's adventures in my next post.

In the meantime, I was very happy to have gotten a fair amount of hiking in, especially the short little Desert View Trail. It being so short and close to the tram, I probably would not have bothered walking it if not for the company. I'm glad I did. There were many great views on that short bit of trail. In fact, all of the pictures I've posted with this blog were taken either at the bottom or top of the tram, or along the Desert View and Nature Loop trails.

It's some serious payoff for such a small amount of effort. Take my word for it: Walking this trail will not be the baddest day of your life!

One other thing I learned that day was just in overhearing people walking around (who did a better job of reading the little flyer on "Conifers of Long Valley" than I did): The bark of Jeffrey Pines smells like vanilla. Nice texture to that bark, too.

Looks I have only one more free weekend-day I could head here before the end of the month, when my pass expires. Debating what hike I will do, or if I will visit, at all.


  1. If you mean the picture at the top of the post, that's looking up from the Valley Station towards the where you'll be arriving. Kinda looks like looking up towards Mt. Whitney, but, fortunately, you don't have to hike it.

  2. Which methons do you use to find information for your new posts, which search resources or techniques do you commonly turn to?

  3. I'm "old school." I like to go to visitor centers and get paper maps. I'll grab their free handouts with trail information, and, if they sell them, basic topographical maps of hiking areas. On the first trip to an area, I'll walk something that's suggested. But, on later trips, I can consult the map myself and decide on what's feasible.

    However, for some places, there may be no actual visitor center I can go to. Then, it's mostly google. There are also a number of hiking blogs I try to read. When one of their write-ups looks intriguing, I'll try to make a note of it and do that hike at a later date.

    Usually, I don't want too much information about where I'm going, though. I like to be surprised by what I find. Occasionally, this means I mess up and fail to see all I could have. That's a tradeoff I'm willing to accept, particularly for nearby hikes where I can always go back and revisit.

    After I hike an area, I review my photos and my maps (if I have them) and try to reconstruct my route for the write-up.

    I used to be better at finishing write-ups in a day or two. But now that I'm working two jobs, the blog posts sometimes fall a week or two behind.