Hiked Saturday, January 3. 5 miles on the trail, plus mileage walking through the zoo to get to the trail. The "zoo" part is non-trivial, because it means you'll have to "pay" to get to this trailhead. Admission to The Living Desert Museum is a very non-trivial $17.25 for adults, or $15.75 for Seniors, AAA, or military. It's $8.75 for children 3-12
Too steep? Well, you have one of those 2-1 "Entertain-ment" books from somewhere in southern California, there's probably a 2-1 coupon in there. If you're a member of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association or similar zoo member, you're probably entitled to 2 for 1 entry, too.
But the best deal? If you have a Bank of America card of any sort (ATM, credit card, etc), The Living Desert Museum is currently one of many "Museums on Us" deals available to you as a card holder from Bank of America.
They'll let you in for free on the first weekend of every month.
I took advantage of the deal on the first weekend in December and toured the animal exhibits. I'll probably post some of those pictures later. This month, I came specifically for the trail, although I took plenty of animal pictures, again. I'll probably post those at some point, too.
From the LA area, take I-10 east to the Monterey Road exit, then head south (right). Follow the signs. You'll go straight for 7.3 miles. Along the way, Monterey Road turns into CA-74 West.
Turn left at Haystack Road. Follow this road about as far as you can. It'll eventually give you a curve to the right, which you should take. At the stop sign (Portolla), turn right. The entrance will be just ahead, on your left. All these turns are signed, so getting there should not be a problem.
This is a low altitude hike, and the zoo closes access to the trail at the peak of summer. This makes it a three-season hike. Obviously, avoid times of thunderstorms, as well. Assuming you do all that, the trail is relatively easy. The long loop is about five miles in length, and with about a 600 foot net gain in altitude (some up and down, though, so the gross gain is more).
I hiked it counter-clockwise, which I think would be the more interesting direction. You start out heading right from the gate, and observe a "San Andreas Fault" exhibit, to your right. There's a short bit of trail that takes you maybe 25 feet up the side of the hill, high enough to give you a view of the escarpment across the Coachella Valley. Site-tubes point out various objects of interest in the distance.
As you continue forward from the viewpoint, you walk right along side a small dune area. Nice, white sands, pouring off the hill. It's an interesting sight, and the only white sands I saw on this trail.
Once back on the main trail, I got to moving quickly, again. The first 1.5 miles or so is smooth and wide--it's smooth and wide enough for golf cart-like vehicles to drive, and is how the trail steward gets his tools to the base of the rougher, wilder parts of the trail. It's also how he dusts off hikers who underestimate the heat in the summer time. (I passed the caretaker as he was making his rounds and chatted with him for a while).
There are several partially-shaded verandas along the way, with benches, and some information kiosks. There were also several water fountains, although the water pressure was too low to actually get a drink unless you were willing to wrap your mouth around the outlet.
Since I had some water and it wasn't very hot, I avoided that disgusting alterna-tive.
The counter-clockwise approach leads you towards a "V" in the mountain. Once in the "V," you're getting about as much shade as you'll find on this trail. There's little vegetation anywhere, although in spring and winter, there are some potentially flowering plants here. I took pictures of a few I saw.
This short, 800 yard segment, has a partial trail and a partial rock-hop. During those infrequent rains, water obviously gushes through this wash, so the trail is not going to be well-defined. But, with no easy way out of the wash, it's not like you'll get lost. Just keep heading uphill until you see the sign for your trail, on the left.
Once there, you'll climb out of the ravine and discover that, although you thought you were in the middle of no where, there was actually a home practically overlooking the ravine. A bit more climbing and you see that home was just the last one on a cul-de-sac of numerous other homes. Higher still, and you start seeing other evidences of nearby residences and golf courses.
But most of that doesn't become visible until after you're reached your high point, another picnic area.
You're only maybe halfway up to the top of Eisenhower Peak at this point. This is just my way of letting you know this trail does NOT go to the top of the mountain. But the views are still magnificent, as long as ponds and golf courses in a desert do not offend your sense of propriety.
Eisenhower Peak was named after the former president, who wintered in the Palm Desert and Indian Wells area. It's a 1952 foot tall mountain, which is appropriate, considering that's also the year Ike was first elected President.
Again more great views from near the top, with Mount San Jacinto and Mt. San Gorgonio often in your view, and desolate desert peaks much closer. The contrast with "civilization," down below, is striking.
It's a quick decent, and before long you're back on the flats. Then it's a more or less straight shot back to the zoo. Additional informational displays provide plenty of opportunities to be distracted.
There was practically no wildlife visible to me on this trip. I saw a literal handful of birds, and no mammals or reptiles. Not even many insects, though I can't say that bothered me.
I assume the reptiles are in hiber-nation, waiting for spring. Not sure about every body else.
Once back at the zoo, I wandered a bit, taking pictures of the cheetahs, giraffe, and bighorn sheep. The exhibit spaces for those animals create many opportunities for good, natural-looking shots.
Those are the displays I saw back in December. I'll have to post my animal shots from both this trip and the December trip in short order. I also have a number of hikes from last year that need to be blogged. I'll do my best to take care of that in the future.
I also ate some over-priced chicken tenders, french fries and a drink at a cafeteria on the premises. I figured it was the least i could do, considering I hadn't had to pay to visit. Last time here, my wife bought numerous souvenirs, so we didn't have to eat here. But, on this trip, I ate. $12 for what I just described. It tasted fine, and I got a souvenir cup out of it, too. :D
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