Place: Dead Indian Canyon, Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountain National Monument, Palm Desert, California
Coordinates: 33.66804, -116.40830
Difficulty: moderate to strenuous. Involves considerable rock scrambling in the narrow part of the canyon.
Our day started with much excitement and anticipation. This day would be the height of our winter vacation: hiking in San Jacinto State Park.
At last we unpacked the special bag where we kept our snow gear and dressed for real winter. We made it to the tram early enough and managed to take the third one up. The tram ride is not cheap but is definitely spectacular. For residents of the area it is a short-cut to snow and fun winter activities.
Indeed, this was the scenery that awaited us at the top:
|Fresh snow on San Jacinto|
They were much less excited to go hiking in the snow and started complaining almost immediately. The walk was not easy and the chikas kept dragging behind. I tried all kinds of prompts and even cookie bribery but to no avail. We planned a 4-miles loom. I don't think we made it far beyond even 1 mile before their complaints killed all of my excitement. Also, the weather took a turn for the worse. Clouds came in and it started snowing. The temperature dropped and despite the snow boots and the double wool socks our toes begun to freeze.
|Winter in action on Mount San Jacinto|
|A Steller's Jay braving the weather|
I wasn't very hopeful regarding the sheep, but hiking was a far better idea than to sit in the hotel and mop for the rest of the day. So there we went, back to Palm Desert.
|The entrance to Dead Indian Canyon. The green bushes are Tamarisk.|
|Dead Indian Canyon Oasis|
Finally! Our wish to view Bighorn sheep in nature was fulfilled, and the quest that begun a week before in Anza Borrego State Park has succeeded. All of that morning's woes were gone from my mind as well. The day has turned out to be climatic after all :-)
It was a nice herd. We counted two rams and five ewes, one of which wore a numbered collar. Two days later the entire area would be closed to people to allow these magnificent animals to breed unhindered.
I was floating with elation all the way back. The chikas played 'Bighorn sheep', bleating and jumping on the rocks. I finally was able to appreciate the beautiful desert rocks once more.
Before reaching the parking lot I stopped to pay closer attention to the vegetation at the canyon mouth.
What I saw was a large area where trees have been cut down and removed. Normally this kind of sight would have made me sad. However, these trees are Tamarisk - an invasive species in the US and a very aggressive one too. It thrives in arid climates and high salinity soils. The scenery I witnessed was no doubt an effort to remove the Tamarisk for the benefit of the native plants in the area. Tamarisk, however, is very difficult to eradicate and there were quite a few that bounced right back.
This was our last day in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument until next time, which I don't know when it'll be. Soon, I hope! After all, there's that mountain there that I didn't get to hike properly yet :-)