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FODM: Interpretive Guided Hikes Program

I should have known something was up in October 2021 when Ada from Friends of the Desert Mountains asked me to spend the day hiking with her. The excuse she used was that we hadn't hiked together in over a year. We met at the Hidden Palms trailhead in Palm Desert and she spent the next 3 miles explaining why this would be an excellent new trail to include in the FODM guided interpretive hike program. She ended the hike with a request that I spend the fall training with other FODM hike leaders and then take responsibility for leading hikes on Hidden Palms during the 2022 winter hiking season. She is an incredibe sale person and there was no way to say 'No' to her. Since that fall hike, I've continued to participate as a hike leader in the guided interpretive hiking program and have helped to expand the number of hiking options that we offer.

Hidden Palms Guided Hike

On February 11, 2022, I led my first interpretive guided hike on the Hidden Palms trail. It was an 'OK' start in my opinion. I felt like it took leading three or four hike before I found my voice and felt confident leading a hike. Hidden Palms was a great training ground since it allowed me to speak about subjects I'm passionate about: San Andreas Fault activity, the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, the critical role of desert palm oasis and hiking in general. I've written a separate blog about this hike. Click here to navigate directly to the Hidden Palms hike.

Little did I know that I would continue running into some incredible people on these hikes each winter and fall.

Chuckawalla Trail Guided Hike

Since I was the newbie hike leader I was chosen to also lead the Chuckawalla Trail in Rancho Mirage. It's more of an urban trail and that just isn't the type of hike that I enjoy, but since other people love the trail, I agreed to lead the hike every other week.

Carrizo Canyon Guided Hike

Carrizo Canyon is one of the best short hike in Palm Desert. This 2.7 mile gem has outstanding geological points of interest , however because it's critical habitat for the Bighorn Peninsula Sheep it is closed each year from January through September.

In October 2022, I had the opportunity to lead a private hike for two Canadian visitors who reached out to FODM with their special request. They were short on time and wouldn't be able to attend the scheduled hikes so they offered to make a substantial donation if we would provide a private hike.

Dead Indian Canyon Guided Hike

Similar to Carrizo Canyon this trail is only open from October through December because of its role as a critical habitat for Peninsula Bighorn Sheep. What makes this hike special is it provides a wide variety of desert flora and provides a great spot to view a desert palm oasis. I tend to lead people over a rock scramble and get them a little closer to the oasis than others!

For more information click on this link about Dave and my hike in Dead Indians Canyon.

During the winter of 2023, Dave and I led a some new guided hikes for Friends.

Indio Hills Guided Hike

Dave and I have always enjoyed hiking in the Indio Hills Badlands, so we were more than willing to lead guided hikes in this badlands environment.

Mission Creek Guided Hike

Mission Creek is one of my favorite guided hikes in the late winter. I often team up with Susan, another FODM hike volunteer, to co-lead this hike. Susan is a walking encyclopedia on desert flora. She is so passionate about the topic and it's inspiring to watch her interact with people who sign up for these hikes. In addition she and Tom are friends so we have a lot of fun hiking together.

Susan on the left in this photo holding the invasive Sahara Mustard plant.

Here's a more typical photo of Susan, not looking at the camera since she her head is buried in a plant explaining something to some of the hikers.

Oswit Canyon Guided Hike

Our guided hike into Oswit Canyon was a first for FODM. It's a wonderful hike but a bit more challenging than some people expect. Unfortunately, in 2023 this hike was cancelled due to Bureau of Land Management concerns about accessing this unofficial trail.

For more information click on this link about Dave and my hike to Oswit Canyon.

Vargas Palms Guided Hike

Dave and I attempted to add another new guided hike to the program in 2023. Vargas Palms located west of Palm Springs is more of an off-the-beaten path type of hike that not many people have heard of or experienced. As usual, we always do a prep hike a day or two before any new hike. On these days we familiarize ourselves with the trail, landmarks, points of interest, and important flora and fauna. Unfortunately, this week was scheduled after an exceptional number of rain events. We were greeted with this sign at the place which was located about half a mile from our proposed meeting spot.

Not to be outdone by nature, we decided to park at the road closure sign and try to hike to the trail. Although we reached the planned trail, we encountered one water crossing after another. What was typically a low flow stream had turned into a hundred foot wide river. Although we were up to the challenge, it wasn't necessarily what others might consider 'fun'.

We didn't complete the hike and after returning to the car called Friends and asked them to cancel the hike for safety reasons. Unfortunately, we weren't able to reschedule the hike this year. Hopefully next year we can introduce this hike to the Friends community. Click on the link about Dave and my successful hike to Vargas Palms.

Painted Canyon & Ladder Canyon Private Guided Hike

A small backstory to this hike. I met Josh and Peggi in 2022 when they joined me on a Hidden Palms guided hike. During the hike, they talked about wanting to complete the Painted Canyon/Ladder Canyon hike in Mecca but they were nervous about doing the hike alone. Nothing came of that conversation. However, fast forward to 2023, I met up with them again on a guided hike and we made plans to connect for a private FODM hike of Painted Canyon/Ladder Canyon. It was great spending the day with them, sharing stories of family, travel, work and retirement. Two wonderful people with amazing life experiences. The day after our hike they sent me this email.

Hi Steve.

In a life that has had many highlights. Today was truly memorable.

Thanks so much.

Josh and Peggi

This is why I love leading hikes for Friends. My response to them,

Hi Josh and Peggi,

The pleasure was all mine! It was a great day packed with loads of memories for me as well. Looking forward to hiking together in 2024.

THXS Steve

Dolomite Mine and Horsethief Creek Guided Hike

My last two winter 2023 hikes provided another opportunity to team up with Susan and Tom on a guided hike in the Santa Rosa Mountain Wilderness. We had started hiking at higher elevations at the request of the National Monument Manager who wanted the guided hikes to 'follow the wildflowers'. During April, the warmer weather had triggered wildflower blooms in the mountain and our Dolomote Mine & Horsethief Creek hike was perfectly timed.

Susan gave a great talk about fire ecology and how plants were responding after a wildfire hit this area in 2020. Everyone agreed they had never seen the Wilderness area looking so green and full of blooms before.

The first time we conducted this hike in April, 4 people completed the longer 5-mile hike.

Later in April we scheduled the hike again. This time 4 people signed up for the longer hike, but it was cut short when we encountered a Red Diamond Rattlesnake about a mile into the hike. I spotted the snake about 10 feet in front of us. We were immediately greeted with the distinct rattle sound. After everyone recovered from the initial shock, I used this moment as an educational opportunity to talk about rattlesnakes and rattlesnake safety. Not surprisingly, I was peppered with questions about how to respond to a rattle snake bite. The hike may have been shortened but no one was disappointed based on their chatter on the way back to the trailhead. It was a fitting way for me to end the season's guided hike program.

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