• Palm Desert hiking
• Joshua Tree hikes
• The other side of happiness

San Jacinto mountains rising above Palm Desert (click to enlarge, then back-arrow to return to blog).

San Jacinto mountains rising above Palm Desert (click to enlarge, then back-arrow to return to blog).

TO ESCAPE THE COLD OF WINTER, I drove from Albuquerque to Phoenix to Palm Desert, where it’s usually 15-20 F degrees warmer. I was a temporary snowbird! Palm Desert is really a suburb of Palm Springs, California. It’s what you call low-desert because the altitude is close to sea level. But the mountains are impressive….. rising over 10,000 ft straight up from the sandy plain.

We took three hikes while we were in Palm Desert, and these are described below with pictures (to enlarge, click on a picture then hit back-arrow to return to blog). When I say we, I refer to Mary Ann my good friend from Kansas. She loves to hike too.

At the bottom of the mountains are three canyons close together, called Indian Canyons. We did only one, Palm Canyon, which begins at the Agua Caliente Indian Trading Post. We were stunned by the luxurious growth of native palm trees, called fan palms. The locals call it an oasis, because these palm trees demand a lot of permanent water. This oasis is the largest in the USA, and the water in the creek was a joy to see in this parched desert country.

Lots of birds were flitting about, and some were eating the small fruit of the palms which hangs down like bunches of dates. The only canyon I’ve seen similar to this was in central Australia, called Palm Valley.Indian Canyons 3Indian Canyons 6







No palm trees here, but steep canyon walls and clear flowing water in the creek. Despite four years of severe drought, California had decent rains one or two weeks before we got there, which accounted for the water. This beautiful hike was steeper than the previous one, about 1 mile up and 1 mile down. The highlight was a 60 foot waterfall at the top.

Tahquitz Canyon waterfall

Tahquitz Canyon waterfall

Tahquitz Canyon

Tahquitz Canyon







This is a big park with many hikes. The park is named after the peculiar Joshua tree which is a member of the yucca family. The other feature of the park is the ubiquitous occurrence of jumbles of large rocks. One hike, the Barker Dam trail, went through a maze of rocks and ended up at a dam which contained the only water we saw in the park. One young man with extensive tattoos and a winning smile told us he jumped into the dam for a swim, but jumped out just as quick because the water was very cold.

In between the rock piles are tortuous trails, and we found one at sunset which meandered through a kind of slot canyon. We became nervous and decided it would be easy to get lost in the maze, especially as the sun was going down!

In Joshua Tree National Park

In Joshua Tree National Park


A Joshua tree

A Joshua tree

Jumble of boulders

Jumble of boulders


We planned to check on a lifelong friend who had told us she was dying from cancer. She lived near Joshua Tree Park. We called several times and left messages, but our calls were not returned. Puzzled and worried, we drove to her home, which was empty. Enquiring of the neighbors led us to a senior center, where she lunched frequently. The locals, who happened to be there for lunch, told us she had died four days previously. That sad event led us to examine our hearts……could we or should we have done more?

In Joshua Tree National Park that same afternoon, we had parked while I searched for one more hike. As I pulled out and drove away on my side of the paved road, I was aware of a car which had been parked and seemed to be pulling out in my direction. Suddenly this car, which was driving the wrong way in his lane, accelerated toward me and I had to realize that he was not going to give way to me. I hit the brakes heavily, my car jolted to a stop, and the other car just missed me as he cut into my lane in front of me. Our hearts were thumping at a near miss which could have been a bad accident. The other car didn’t stop.

As we recovered from the shock, we tried to understand what had just happened. The only explanations seemed to be that the other driver didn’t see me, or misjudged my speed, or anticipated that I would give way to let him into the right lane in front of me. Or else the lone driver of that old beat-up car was on drugs.

• This trip seems a parable of life. In the midst of beauty and excitement and exploring new things lie accidents and death. Life is indeed fragile, and we don’t know how long we can guarantee that we will live, even if we drive and live defensively.
• I plan to continue to enjoy the wonders of God’s creation. And to seek security in a personal relationship with God, which is the greatest wonder.
• I want to live constantly in gratitude – that I can see and hike and dance and think. And I want always to be grateful for good friends. And last, to allow this gratitude to spill over so that I keep mindful to help others to hope when I see an opportunity.

Please forward this blog to folks who might receive an uplift from this story. Email or Facebook is fine: just click on the appropriate box on the far right side of the screen.

Comments? Your comments are always encouraging, for me and for other readers. Please add a comment to the Comment box at the bottom of the blog.

The Gray Nomad
Probing the practice of Christian believers……

Thus says the Lord, Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool…. For all these things My hand has made and so all these things have come into being, says the Lord. But this is the man to whom I will look and have regard for: he who is humble and of a broken or wounded spirit, and who trembles at My word and reveres My commands. [Book of Isaiah, chapter 66].

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

6 Responses to Hiking Toward Heaven — in California



  2. So glad you are both ok!! And that you have had a terrific trip. It is true, God is to be revered, and we should tremble at His word. He is the One we will all stand before when we die, whether by accident or illness. This should really cause us to tremble if we have not settled in our hearts that He is the One and only Way to eternity with God. We all have eternity. Jesus said “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father, except through Me.” I tremble at those words, and exalt with thanksgiving that He met me many years ago, and that my spirit was willing to believe in the evidence He gave to me. Still, I am grateful your lives were spared for more life and witness to His love and goodness.

    • I am glad Nancy that you are settled and secure in your relationship with God. Its a great place to be. And I think it starts with a reverence for God, as my Dad used to say. And for me the life of Jesus provides the best info on the nature and character of God.

  3. Mary Ann Pollock |

    Ian I love the blog and brings back great memories . Your pictures are all upside down on this blog that I opened. Don’t know if it is this way on others.

    • I checked the original website and the pics are okay. Maybe the pics are distorted during transmission by email or Facebook. I’m dreadfully sorry, because the pics look so good enlarged. You might try entering in your browser the website to see if that works, altho it may not. Thanks for letting me know.

  4. Hi Ian, I wish I had known you were in my neck of the woods (desert), I would have loved to say hi or join in a hike. I live 50 minutes SW from Palm Springs and have done all three of your beautiful hikes – wonderful choices. You and your friend are welcome to rest your heads at my house if you come this way again.

    • Hi Ellyn, I’m sorry I didn’t realize you were this close……it would have been great to get together. I was pleasantly surprised with these hikes, because we didn’t know anything about any of them. Warm regards.


Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox: