From the literature, we learned that they did clean up this trail from graffiti and transients (using the canyon illegally) as well as maintain the trail. Before 2001, this trail was closed to the public…
LONG TIME TO GET STARTED
Julie and I were getting restless last night, and we had every intention to bring our daughter along to another local waterfall. However, our little excursion to Belmont Shore (involving all three of us) to enjoy a little walk on the beach was cut short by blustering winds kicking up lots of sand and interrupting Tahia’s afternoon nap. Even though the winds brought out the kitesurfers en mass, it might have been a bit too ambitious to bring out a newborn under these conditions.
So we paid for it the rest of the evening as she was fussy the rest of the afternoon. We couldn’t even enjoy dining at La Creperie because the majority of the time was spent feeding her at the lounge area while our food was getting soggy and cold. On top of that, she later screamed bloody murder when we bathed her, and that was unusual since she usually enjoyed bath time.
Anyways, we didn’t want to press our luck by messing up Tahia’s schedule on back-to-back days (once a week was enough we figured) so if we were to go waterfalling today, it wouldn’t be with our daughter. And we were thankful that Julie’s mom was staying with us, which she was all too happy to look after Tahia. That enabled Julie and I to get a little more aggressive on our waterfalling (perhaps to someplace we hadn’t been to before) – just like old times.
So the place we picked out was Tahquitz Falls. We knew it was all the way in Palm Springs, and it was going to be a long drive (especially considering the relatively high gas prices again). But both of us were a little weary of night feedings, lack of sleep, periodic pumpings, and overall being slaved to Tahia’s needs. So this little getaway almost felt like temporary freedom.
Besides, waterfalling out in the local deserts was something we typically avoided in the past due to the perception of lack of water. But we heard that this year the snowpack in most of California’s mountains were way above normal so we stood an excellent chance at seeing this waterfall flow well.
The morning routine started off with Tahia waking up hungry some time around 6am. Then, we fed her and took her on a short walk around the block before she was tired enough for her morning nap. That enabled both of us to get prepared and be out the door by 8:30am.
As expected, the drive was long. We were amazed at how developed it was as we drove east on the 91 all the way until it merged with the 60 then the 10. I swore in my younger days, there were lots more empty space, but now it seemed like the sprawling suburbs have completely filled in these areas with concrete jungles at least until the mountains where the 60 narrowed and wound its way through them.
After passing by the familiar Cabazon, we finally realized where Morongo Casino was (after being bombarded by their advertisements during Lakers or Clippers games as well as during Sportscenter). Not that we were going there anyways since we’re not the gambling type.
Then, we took the highway leading to Palm Springs. Julie and I hadn’t been there since our early days of dating (I believe before 2000) so our recollections of this place was quite sparse. Though this town did seem to be a lot more developed than we remembered.
We do, however, remember some spa treatment (since that’s Julie’s thing) and some restaurant as well as a hike that kind of led nowhere. And now that we’re older and wiser, we knew exactly where we were going to hike this time around.
Even though today did feel like we were independent like old times, things weren’t totally like before. That was because it was time for Julie to pump.
So while she was doing that, I went to the Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center to buy wrist bands (to be able to go on the trail) for a pretty hefty price of $12.50 per adult ($25 total). When put in the context of going to the Rainbow Falls/Devil’s Postpile National Monument (which last I checked in 2010 was something like $7 per adult), it really was pricey.
When Julie and I tried to think of reasons that would justify such a high price for a local waterfall, we did reason that it was Indian Reservation land (more specifically the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians) so they could do what they want with it, especially after they were probably screwed out of their land by the government which was actively acquiring North American lands from Native Americans during the 19th and early 20th centuries (the so-called “Manifest Destiny”).
But perhaps more practically speaking from a pricing standpoint, $12.50 per person was one of the cheaper alternatives considering that most visitors to Palm Springs could blow off a lot more money on spas, golf, shopping (at the nearby Cabazon outlet), or trying their luck at one of the casinos, among other things. Day trippers like us (from nearly two hours away) didn’t fit their typical profile of a visitor.
From the literature, we learned that they did clean up this trail from graffiti and transients using the canyon illegally as well as maintain the trail. Before 2001, this trail was closed to the public.
EASIER THAN WE THOUGHT
Anyways, it wasn’t until about 10:50am when we finally got started on the hike. Even though I was wearing long sleeves, the temperature was pretty comfortable (I’m guessing in the 70s or low 80s). We couldn’t imagine doing this hike in the Summer when temperatures easily top 100 degrees F (even 120 F) especially this late in the morning.
We started off the trail by going clockwise on this loop because we figured there would be a little more shade from the desert sun by trying to hug some of the cliffs towering over us. But alas it turned out that there wasn’t that much shade at this time of day.
Much of the beginning of the hike gently went uphill past a couple of historical sites (like rock art or natural shelters), but since Julie and I tried to make it home by 4pm to ensure Tahia doesn’t run out of mother’s milk and to try to meet up with some friends who hadn’t seen us with baby for a while, we didn’t linger as long as we normally would to check out these points of interest.
After rounding a corner, the trail descended towards the surprisingly loud stream. As we descended, we could see the canyon’s end up ahead as the imposing mountains boxed it in. We figured the waterfall must be close to that enclosure.
When we made it to the stream, we had expected to rock hop our way across. However, we then saw there was a low footbridge traversing it. So there was some evidence of the visitor fees at work. Julie and I started to wonder if Tahia could have made it on this hike (slung to our backs in a bjorn of course).
From this point, the trail ascended some more alongside the southern end of the stream before crossing over a couple more bridges to get to its north side. After crossing the third bridge, we noticed a pretty nifty flat slab of rock that other hikers used as a resting spot with a view in the direction of Palm Springs.
Not long after this interesting attraction, we noticed a natural rock shelter or cave that a handful of other hikers were checking out. It definitely looked like this could’ve been a spot where natives (or even transients in more recent years) sought refuge from the stifling heat.
Beyond those interludes, the trail started climbing in earnest up rock steps. The visitor center and the literature out there had warned visitors of the ruggedness of the trail (even saying there could be 12″-18″ steps and people in flip flops or high heels would be not allowed on the trail). But as Julie and I negotiated these steps, it seemed like a normal average trail even bordering on easy.
The whole time we were mentally measuring the trail hazards and discussing whether Tahia could’ve accompanied us on this trail. But we decided this was probably better left to a toddler who could at least hold her head up reliably. So that’s something we’ll keep in mind the next time we decide to visit the Palm Springs area.
And we didn’t have to wait much longer for the real deal because it was only seconds later when Julie exclaimed, “There it is!”
So with that we hastened our steps and made it to the busy viewing area at the edge of the Tahquitz Falls’ plunge pool at 11:20am. We showed up just in time for a couple warmly embracing each other in the icy cold water in front of the falls.
There were lots of people at the falls despite the high price of admission. It just goes to show that practically any Southern California waterfall will attract a crowd, especially on the weekends. In this case, it was pretty common to be accompanied by at least a dozen people at a time, and this doesn’t count the periodic groups of ranger-led hikes every two-and-a-half hours or so.
From the common viewing area where most of the people checked out the falls, we could only get an angled view. In order to get a more frontal view of the falls, we had to rock hop into the stream. And given the volume of water, there was some mist that made it to the spot where we could get a direct view of it.
Aside from spending time taking photos (I even brought my tripod so we could take our own personalized mommy and daddy couple shot just the way we wanted), we took the time to snack on some fruits. I was coming down with a cold (no doubt from all the time spent working overtime and weekends this past month or so) so I was also sucking on some Cold-EZs.
As we were checking out the falls, we were trying to mentally measure up the height of the falls. We saw a wide range of numbers from as little as 25ft to 60ft. We were apt to agree with the latter number since it was definitely taller than 30ft. We also figured there were probably more unseen tiers further upstream of this main falls, but for all intents and purposes, this was the end of the line for us.
So it was back out into the sun and away from the cool shade for us as we descended along the trail amongst blooming wildflowers. It was during this stretch that we did notice some taller steps spaced in between long stretches of sloping trail, which would’ve been a bit more difficult on the way up than on the way down. Perhaps this was what the lady at the visitor center warned us about the high steps.
The trail was quieter along this stretch, and it was serene enough for me to notice an attractive black butterfly with some spotty colors on its wings. Always nice to know Nature is going about its business and I was fortunate enough to sit back and smell the roses so-to-speak.
In any case, we breezed through this section, chanced upon another series of attractive small cascades near some kind of contraption that I believe was a USGS gauging station. I’m sure the stream readings today would yield numbers that were probably in the higher percentile range when compared to the rest of its readings historically.
Once we got past that section, we were back at a familiar part of the trail before it branched once again for the final stretch towards the visitor center. It was during this stretch that we could see downtown Palm Springs down below backed by some wind farms in the distance.
By 12:45pm, we were back at the car. Some folks who hadn’t started on the trail yet and saw me finishing up gave me a funny look like I was overprepared for the hike. One guy in biker leather gear asked if I was hot in my Les Stroud hiking shirt and long pants. But when I thought more about it, I didn’t think I had sweated for much of the hike and told him as much. Perhaps it was the dry desert heat or something, but then again it didn’t seem too terribly hot either. I guess that further reinforces the notion that we came at the perfect time.
In any case, Julie and I were looking to have a lunch before returning home. After trying to find some last minute place in town to sit down for a lunch and not deciding on anything (we were trying to look for that place we ate at the last time we were here but didn’t find it), we decided to go to Cabazon and look for something at a food court there. The drive afforded Julie some time to pump while we were in motion.
At about 1:25pm, we had overshot some of the off ramps we could’ve taken and ended up getting off at Fields Rd. And something that got our attention right at its offramp was this place called the Crazy Coyote. After Julie yelped it on her iPhone, we decided to give this place a try. One of the reviews said world travelling foodie Anthony Bourdain ate here before. I guess that was enough reason for us to lunch here instead of one of the generic food court cafes at the neighboring shopping outlet.
All I could say was that the tacos were surprisingly good. At least that was the case with this chicken taco with what seemed to be some kind of curry sauce in it. We also tried their fish taco and grilled steak tacos as well, but the chicken was the bomb. All the while we were dining in the shade in front of their kitchen, we were staring at the snow of the San Jacinto or San Gorgonio mountains surrounding us. I wasn’t used to seeing this much snow out in this part of the low desert, but then again, maybe we should get out here more often…