Day 2 (February 11, 2017 – Palm Springs, California): “Taking What Mother Nature Throws At Us”
It was about 7:30am when I finally woke up. Since Julie insisted that I not bring the laptop to this trip (so I could focus more on our getaway together and not so much on blogging during our trip), I decided we mind as well sleep in. However, I knew that today was going to be the lone full day that we’d have of activities in the Palm Springs area so I had to wake up sooner rather than later so as to not waste precious time.
As Julie and I looked out the balcony of our room, we saw a pretty view of the San Jacinto Mountains looming over some golf course towards our right with some construction going on to our left. That parking structure that we had parked at for free was amidst that construction zone.
The morning had gone off to a rather sluggish start as Julie was busy getting ready for the day while also trying to heat up some healthy stuff she had brought from home and nuked in the microwave that the staff had brought up for us. At around 8:30am, that was when we finally went downstairs to the restaurant where they were offering some all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast for about $21 per adult, but we asked if they could do a la carte instead, and when they affirmed, that was when we decided on having the brekkie here.
We were probably the third couple that was here despite me thinking that we had gotten a late start. And throughout the breakfast, all of the sudden people started rocking up to the place for their brekkie, and before we knew it, the place was full. I guess we had beat the rush.
Anyways, Julie got some plain omelette given her dietary restrictions. Meanwhile, she talked me into ordering something that they do well locally, and I wound up getting this thing called chilaquiles, which was pretty much like a glorified nacho dish though the toppings were more suitable for a Tex-Mex omelette than a salsa of some sort. It was quite delicious though I’m sure the chips weren’t GMO-free.
When we were finally done with the reasonably-priced yet satisfying breakfast, we then went back upstairs to get our outdoor stuff, and by 9:45am, we were finally in the car and ready to roll.
The original plan was to do Tahquitz Falls in the morning and then shoot for Murray Canyon Falls in the afternoon, but given the overcast skies and threatening rain, I decided we ought to do the Murray Canyon Falls excursion first and see whether we’d have any time left to do anything else later in the day. After all, Murray Canyon was going to be a new experience, and I didn’t feel like starting off the day doing a re-hash of something we had done 6 years prior.
And so we continued heading south along South Palm Canyon Drive, and then veered right where the road had split off as it continued heading towards the Indian Canyons. The skies were dark enough to start sprinkling, which was totally unexpected as the forecast had called for partly cloudy skies on this day. Yet that pretty much reinforced the notion that perhaps Tahquitz Canyon on this day wasn’t going to happen anyways. I figured that I made the right decision…
But then at around 10am, we found ourselves in a long line of cars well before the kiosk that was up ahead. I guess this was where we were supposed to pay the expected steep entrance fee (at least steep in the sense that I recalled having to pay for the Tahquitz Falls excursion some 6 years ago when it was also just Julie and I).
Still, we were talking about entering Aguas Clientes Indian Lands, and they could do as they felt was necessary with their own land. So regardless of the short-term financial pain we were about to experience (which this line wasn’t making any easier), we were still going forward with our excursion regardless though we did see quite a handful of people turn around.
After around 20+ minutes, we finally got up to the kiosk, where the price was $9 per adult or $18 total for the two of us. The lady working the kiosk said that this admission did not work for Tahquitz Falls (in the event that we’d go over there, too). And so I was thinking to myself that perhaps we mind as well make our money’s worth by exploring this area for the whole day and punt the Tahiquitz Falls experience for another time when we could day trip to Palm Springs while bringing Tahia along.
At 10:25am, we finally arrived at the trailhead for Murray Canyon. At first, we thought we had to park at this really busy picnic area where there were quite a few big rock formations (I believe they were called Pride Rock or something like that), but after noticing and following the small signs for Murray Canyon, we eventually got to the end of the unpaved road where there were more palm trees interspersed amongst the handful of cars that were parked here.
After some more time spent getting our gear ready, lacing up hiking boots, bringing waters, and getting my handheld GPS all locked in, we were finally on the trail at 10:45am. The trail signs here also referred to the waterfalls here as the “Seven Sisters Falls”. That was the first time I had heard that this falls had this name, and so we made a mental note of this as apparently there appeared to be a handful of waterfalls to check out on this excursion (seven maybe?).
I brought the new rain ponchos that Julie had bought just in case as the skies were still somewhat dark and overcast and threatening rain. Yet I still found it hard to believe that we would be needing them.
The trail started off with a slight downhill towards a very wide and flat area. We could totally tell that we were in a desert as all the vegetation surrounding us were pretty much low to the ground. Besides the palm trees at the car park, there wasn’t a tree in sight. Even the slopes of the San Jacinto Mountains to our right looked rocky, craggy, and desolate. But there were also some interesting rock formations seen alongside the trail perhaps hinting at the geologic processes still at play in the area.
All this mountain presence along the trail brought back memories of Morocco. That mountainous country made me realize that desert oases by necessity must have a mountain range or big mountain near it. They could not exist in flat areas as water would be way too scarce. Indeed, the city of Palm Springs itself was next to the San Jacinto Mountains and other places like Desert Palms, Indigo, etc. must also be near the mountains so they could catch precipitation and then drain some of that water towards the unforgiving deserts in its rainshadow. As a result, you’d have water in the desert, which would create that illusion of a desert oasis.
In our case, we’d be walking the first half-mile along this somewhat flat desolate stretch with quite a few people going this way and that as this was definitely a popular trail. But eventually, the trail descended towards a concentrated grove of palm trees, and we knew that there must be a creek nearby to feed those palm trees.
As Julie and I got closer to the creek amongst those palm trees, we saw some people with wet shoes. One guy told us that you’re gonna get wet on this hike, and that we would be better off giving in to getting wet instead of wasting time trying to figure out how to stay dry on the creek crossings. He threw out a number like around 12 creek crossings, and as we got closer to the creek, we could already see that crossing this while trying to stay dry would be no easy feat. And that there were still at least 11 more of these to go!
Once we got to the other side (shoes a little bit wet but not too bad), we met up a lady who decided she wasn’t going to continue the hike after having soaked one of her feet. So she sat by some solar powered vane or something like that, and waited perhaps for the rest of her group to finish the excursion before heading back. And so the whole while, she’d sit there patiently while hoping her shoes and socks would dry by the time they’d get back as she wasn’t in the mood to hike with soaking feet.
Anyways, Julie and I continued with shoes and socks and all as we continued along a pretty scenic stretch as we followed alongside the palm trees lining Murray Creek. As we continued further, we could see the majestic San Jacinto Mountains up ahead (clearly Murray Creek was sourced by the rainfall and snowmelt coming from there) and we also noticed some interesting rock formations on the other side of the creek looming above the palm trees. One of the rocks looked like a huge chunk came off.
It didn’t take long before we reached the second stream crossing at 11:20am, but at this crossing, Julie and I couldn’t see how we could get across without getting our feet wet. So it was at this point that I decided to remove my socks and unzip the lower part of my hiking pants. And then, I’d proceed without socks while hiking in my hiking boots knowing that they’d be ruined (I figured that they were ruined anyways as they apparently didn’t last very long in the first place).
Sure enough, it was on this stream crossing that water started to enter the boots from the top. And almost immediately, I could feel my feet getting heavier as the water was collecting in the boots. Julie and I continued past this stream crossing and after a few more minutes, encountered yet a third stream crossing. Again, this stream crossing looked hard to cross without getting wet. So we figured by now that resistance was futile and it was time to just push on through.
Beyond the third crossing, the hike continued going past a few more stream crossings. We also started to notice that the trail had spots where it had split. On one side, it was a horse trail, where I’d imagine the creek crossings were flatter but deeper. Meanwhile, the hiking trail was a bit more uneven and the stream crossings there involved the chance of staying dry through rock hopping, but with the amount of water on Murray Creek on this day, it wasn’t likely.
As we kept forging ahead, we started to see a few more cascades within Murray Creek. The trail momentarily climbed towards a junction, where I was then overtaken by a long horseriding group that had to have had at least 30 horses or so. So while Julie kept pushing ahead, I had to wait it out as they were passing by and taking some trail that climbed up to a rock while deviating from the Murray Canyon Trail that we were on.
Once that caravan had passed, I managed to catch up to Julie at the next stream crossing as she took her time to roll up her pants and brace herself on the crossing as her bad eczema would most likely be affected with each time the cold water would get on it then dry out and irritate her skin.
Beyond that stream crossing, the Murray Canyon continued to narrow some more while presenting scenic views of cliffs closing in on the creek while also being backed by the San Jacinto Mountains in the distance. All the while, there were palm trees towering over us and providing some shade from the sun that was starting to come out amongst the cloud cover.
With each stream crossing that we had to perform, the crossings seemed to get trickier and trickier as the water seemed to be deeper. Even when we were determined to push through while getting wet, there were spots where we had to really pay attention to which submerged rocks we had to put our weight on so as to not get our waist wet or risk getting swept away. Periodically, I would have to lift my leg to try to let the accumulated water in my hiking boots spill back out of the high top since the Gore-tex prevent water from escaping out the sides (after all, it was design to prevent water from getting in the shoes in the first place, except the top). With each time I did this and let the water out, the boots immediately felt lighter, but with all the repeated water exposure, it appeared that the boots had also absorbed the water and would remain heavy for the entirety of this hike.
Eventually, we’d reach what appeared to be a significant waterfall but the trail kind of veered away from it as it climbed steeply up the cliffs. The view of that waterfall looking down was somewhat obstructed and I made a mental note to come back to this waterfall after we were done with the main waterfall.
Once we got up to the top of this climb, there were still more stream crossings to perform. By this time, we had lost count of how many we had done, but it certainly appeared to be more than the 12 that the guy we had spoken to earlier had warned us about. We also met up with a pair of hikers who had said that there was only about 15 more minutes to go with maybe three more stream crossings. They said we only had to round a bend before we’d finally arrive at the falls.
Well, we made it this far, and there was no stopping us now.
Finally, at 12:25pm, we made it to the signposted end of the trail. From this spot, we could clearly see up ahead that there were two tiers of the Murray Canyon Falls. The immediately tier was wide and we saw some people make a slide down it as a shortcut. Right behind this falls was another falls that appeared to be around 15ft tall or so. I wasn’t sure if there were yet more waterfalls further up ahead, but the scramble to even make it up past this first of the two waterfalls looked dicey.
I didn’t feel like taking the risk though it appeared there were quite a few other folks who did take the risk and pushed forward to that last waterfall. But an injury here would be bad news as it would be difficult to get out of here with say a broken leg or ankle or something if that dicey scramble somehow didn’t work out.
Bottom line was that Julie and I were content with the views from the end of the trail while watching larger kids and adults playing around the area. Someone was kind enough to take a couple shot of Julie and I as a return favor for Julie helping a foursome of people taking their group shot. And so we lingered here for a pretty solid 30 minutes or so before we headed back downstream as Julie was fretting about having a lunch that was too late in the day.
As we headed back downstream, we’d eventually go back down the steep part of the trail and that was when I told Julie that I would momentarily scramble back upstream to get closer to the first waterfall. Julie took this opportunity to rest a little bit while tending to her eczema on her shins.
As I crossed the creek and headed up to the base of that first waterfall, I encountered a trio of folks where the elder person appeared to be a Native American from the area watching over a couple of kids. He told me that there was another waterfall further upstream though I told him that I had already seen that one. He nodded knowingly, then asked where I was from. When I told him Los Angeles, he nodded and then pushed on to catch up with the kids after we exchanged smiles and parted ways.
Once I got to the base of the first waterfall at 1:05pm, I was pretty much here all alone.
This first waterfall was really a split waterfall as the creek appeared to have been split by a big rock. With the foliage all tangled up in front of the falls, it was hard to get a good contextual shot of it. Instead, I took close-up shots and videos before crossing the creek and checking out the thinner cascade on the other side of the rock splitting the creek.
After having my fill of this spot, I then scrambled back downstream and caught up with Julie. While the remainder of the hike seemed like it went quickly (I guess because it was mostly downhill at this point and we knew where we were supposed to cross the creek), there were plenty of other people headed the other way. And there were still yet more people who turned back at some of the earlier stream crossings incredulous that there were many more of these.
Finally at 2pm, Julie and I made it back to the trailhead. At this point, we were glad to let our feet breathe though my boots were also starting to chafe my shins and ankles. I knew that the boots were in pretty bad shape now, but I was also intending to ruin them some more on another hike later this year to Portrero John Falls, which I had read would also involve getting the feet wet. Julie was going to get me some new hiking boots anyways at REI on their next Spring sale.
Now that I was back in my comfortable Chaco sandals, my feet could breathe again while the gross boots were in the garbage bags as we were now hoping to get them drying on the balcony of our room sooner rather than later.
Still, with some protest from Julie, I wanted to check out the West Fork Falls, which I had noticed on the trail signs and on our own map that came with our admission to this area. Since we were already here, we mind as well see what that place was all about especially since it didn’t involve a major hike to reach.
And so we drove the 3 miles or so from the Murray Canyon and Andreas Canyon Picnic Area towards the Trading Post near Palm Canyon. The drive was pretty scenic as it climbed up towards the trading post where there were quite a few cars parked. I guess we showed up late enough in the day that we managed to score a parking spot right across from the trading post at about 2:25pm.
Julie decided to stay in the car while I went to see what the West Fork Falls was all about. But before I got started in earnest, I checked out the Trading Post area, which to my surprise, had a nice view of Palm Canyon immediately down below. It looked inviting to go down the switchbacks and amongst the towering palm trees below, but I knew that I couldn’t do it at this moment. Perhaps there might also be a waterfall on the trail down there further on, but that would have to wait for another time.
So after having my fill of the Palm Canyon vistas, I then headed towards the very end of the car park by the trading post, where I saw a sign near the restrooms for “West Fork Falls”. As I continued on, the trail rounded a corner and went between some rocks before descending towards the three-tiered cascade. It was difficult to get a clean look at the whole context of the cascade, but it was certainly no slouch as I could hear the rush of the water down below.
I took some photos (against the sun) and some videos of the falls as I was approaching it. But I also encountered a pair of hikers who told me that I should take the time to scramble up to this pretty neat secluded spot right between the top and middle waterfall. I thanked them for the tip and was on the lookout for it as I was exploring a way to best photograph and experience the mostly obstructed West Fork Falls.
Sure enough, I would eventually get to an area where there was a hole that appeared to be possible to climb through. And once I was past that hole (really more like rocks wedged against each other creating the appearance of a hole), that was when I knew I was in the spot those hikers were talking about. And so I documented this part for a few minutes before I was making my way out as another pair of hikers saw where I had scrambled from and saw for themselves that there was certainly a nice secluded spot to check out.
By 2:50pm, I returned to the parked car and rejoined Julie. Now for sure, we were going to have a later-than-desired lunch (especially since we had a 6pm dinner reservation at LG’s Steakhouse), but Julie needed to take her supplements and meds. And so we promptly made our way back into town where we were wavering between going with some organic place in the south end of downtown Palm Springs or this other spot called the Chicken Ranch, which was more closer to the north end of downtown Palm Springs.
We’d eventually settle on the Chicken Ranch, and we’d get into the restaurant at 3:20pm. Julie was excited to have the rotisserie chicken there as she was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to have anything in any of the other restaurants, including that organic place she had eyed earlier. Anyways, at the Chicken Ranch, we shared a whole rotisserie chicken, got some grilled veggies (while Julie got a steamed string beans dish to keep it clean), and I got a guilty pleasure of having some chocolate chip cookie a la BJ’s style with a vanilla bean ice cream scoop on top for dessert.
The food was very good and very clean. Julie asked if the chicken was brined, and the worker said that they brine it for two days. No wonder why the chicken was so moist. Even the usually-dry breast was moist. So we made a mental note of this spot and would definitely come back here when we’d bring Tahia here on a day trip in the coming weeks, I’m sure.
At about 5pm, we happened to make it just in time for some complimentary cocktails, which was sangria. The cocktail hour was only between 4-5pm. I ended up drinking Julie’s and my own (since Julie couldn’t have it but got one anyways), and then we finally made it back to our room, where we could finally put the disgusting wet boots on the balcony to let it dry in the desert air. I had a feeling it won’t dry overnight, but at least it was better to let the low humidity of the desert do its thing as opposed to the frigid AC in the room.
By about 5:40pm, we were dressed for dinner and opted to walk into the happening downtown area just to soak up the atmosphere while making our way to the LG’s Steakhouse. We’d eventually get right to the restaurant just in time for our 6pm reservation. Over the past few trips where we’d have to eat out for dinner, Julie would always pick steak houses so she could eat steak prepared without peppers or garlic or butter, and accompany that with steamed veggies to ensure she wouldn’t get a flare up from her gut condition. Meanwhile, I’d go with my rib-eye steak, which I’ve found would always have more flavor than filet mignons.
The service was a bit on the slow side and the menu was quite expensive, but that allowed us ample time to bask in our accomplishment for the day and be glad that our change in plans worked out. When we finally got our food, Julie thought that the steak at Morton’s was better and cheaper, but since we were talking about Palm Springs, it didn’t surprise me that the quality and price equation wasn’t on par with a Morton’s.
By the time dinner was over, I couldn’t look at having more food as I was totally stuffed. And yet as we were walking around downtown Palm Springs some more after having left the restaurant, we passed by this place called Great Shakes or something like that. Julie checked the Yelp reviews and decided we should go inside and check it out. Sure enough, we wound up getting some kind of Oreo cookie shake which also had whipped cream and a donut, while I asked to substitute out the salted caramel with fudge.
Indeed, the shake was quite thick and delicious, and Julie even said she had never seen a shake so thick before. I guess the good reviews were warranted. And I sure made room for this guilty pleasure despite being so stuffed.
As we continued meandering about slowly through downtown Palm Springs towards our hotel, we made another stop at some fine art gallery by Elena Bulotova or something like that. It seemed like a modern art gallery, but I had overheard one of the artists inside telling prospective buyers that the art pieces here were really made out of waste. In other words, they were ordinary waste products repurposed into works of art.
When all was said and done, it was about 8:30pm when we returned to our hotel room. The evening felt somewhat magical though I’m sure in our younger days, we could have spent more time out and about amongst the nightlife. But now that we were older parents, I guess those days have passed us by and we were content just to spend quality time with each other without worrying about keeping Tahia in line (especially at meal time when she would be picky and pull out all the stops to avoid eating the healthy foods).
Back at the room, we got cleaned up and finally crashed as we both were quite tired from our adventure-filled day.