CA Desert Hike Reinforces Importance of Preparedness!

We set off to visit Coachella Valley Preserve on a 4.4 mile loop hike: Hidden Horseshoe Palms and Pushwalla Palms Trail. It seemed like a perfect plan. We each had snacks, water, lunch and appropriate hiking gear for a moderate hike. We followed the recommendation: best hiked September to April, yet November and December temperatures were still mid to high 80 degrees.

The heavily-trafficked trail at the entrance of the preserve was an uphill well-trenched path with a sign indicating the direction for Pushwalla Palms, but no trail sign for Hidden Horseshoe. So we hiked the main trail believing we would see a side trail to Hidden Horseshoe. In time we were at a high point looking down on palm trees and thinking, that may be the Hidden Horseshoe trail down there! My guess, at this high point, was the unnamed side trail near the entrance of the preserve was the loop trail. How were we to know that I am not sure. I am never on an outdoor adventure walking and watching my location on any app each step of the way, but maybe if I had been I would have known early on the unsigned trail was the one for us! It did not look like the trail we were on would hook up with what we supposed may be a Hidden Horseshoe trail since we were on a high point and seemingly an endpoint. Since trail signs were few and far between it now became obvious we should not have hiked to the high point, yet this social trail to the top surely had been popular!

The problem with any social trail appearing to be a main trail is it may not be the correct trail to be on at all. In the desert especially, people can wander and walk almost anywhere; through the years others will follow and a trail becomes worn and looking like a main trail. (If you are a hiker, please use designated trails in a park.)

With some thought and use of the All Trails app, because I had downloaded this loop trail before coming here, we were able to orient ourselves to some degree. The downside was no consistent GPS in the desert! Thankfully when we stood at the high point GPS marked our location; we knew where we were. With the downloaded map and compass on my iPhone, we had a good idea the direction we should head. Did it seem unsettling at times? Yes! But we had water, snacks and daylight to figure it all out. We eventually hiked through Pushwalla Palms and along the foothills of a ridge. I knew we needed to get to the other side of this particular ridge and we should see a road and possibly even our car. At least an hour later we saw our car in the distance and could breathe a sigh of relief in knowing we would be fine.

As with all hiking, it is important to always be prepared! I remember a friend of mine in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains telling me she’ll hike a trail that looked to her like a parallel path of the main trail. To me, it looked like a fork in the trail. I made my decision and she made hers. Long story short, hours later I saw her again! I was on the main trail and she was on a side trail to elsewhere before she realized her error. Things can happen so quickly when in environments with so many unknowns. I got thinking about that NY situation realizing I forgot to pack my headlamp and long sleeve shirt even on this hike. My habit was to have a headlamp and a wool long sleeve shirt, but in the desert hike I sometimes forget to be as prepared as I should be. Nights get cold in the desert, and I was glad to not have that experience with this hike! Our loop hike was an adventure and good reminder to take the desert seriously. The sunny blue sky and almost barren landscape does bring challenges different than a forested area. All require preparedness and as hikers it is our responsibility to be safe!

Hike safely everyone! 

Photos from the hike:

Why you carry plenty of water; this is the only water we saw all hike!