Hiking with Joyce at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve

000 PS Sand StormToday Joyce and I did a hike in the area of Big Morongo Canyon. A day of hiking with Joyce is a great day. She doesn’t have the slightest interest in backpacking, but that is okay. For the past 4 weeks I have been away from home almost every day. Finally was able to spend some time at home with Joyce and promised to do some hiking. When I got up from bed this morning and went outside, the sky was overcast gray. Looked like smog. It is spring, and with spring come strong winds as the desert heats up. The gray was sand and dust in the air, and the Palm Trees were bending in the wind. Not great hiking weather.

A few weeks ago I had recommended we go check out the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve for hiking opportunities. Even though it is only 18 miles from our house, I had never hiked in it.

I have hiked near it, up above on some ridges. But never dropped down into the canyon, although there is usually water available. With the wind we were being battered with, I expected the same in Big Morongo. Only one way to find out… drive up and see.

001 PS Sand Storm

On the way out on Indian Canyon Avenue the wind made it hard to keep our SUV on a straight course, and gusts would pound the car with sand. Not a great start. But to the northwest is the Little San Bernardino Mountains, and the small town of Morongo Valley is on the other side, so I had high hopes the wind wouldn’t be as bad. Arriving at the preserve, temperature was around 80F and no wind at all.

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve

From the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve website (http://www.bigmorongo.org/)

Nestled among the Little San Bernardino Mountains, the desert oasis at Big Morongo Canyon is one of the 10 largest cottonwood and willow riparian (stream) habitats in California. The upstream end of the canyon lies in the Mojave Desert, while its downstream portion opens into the Colorado Desert.

The Morongo fault running through the canyon causes water draining from the surrounding mountains to form Big Morongo Creek and the marsh habitat.

We decided to hike east and up above the preserve, head down Big Morongo Canyon, then return and complete a loop that would take us through the interior of the preserve. What is unique about this hike is we would start our hike in the high desert (Mohave) cross through the transition zone and drop into the Lower Colorado Desert, and then return.

We had missed the spring flower bloom, as most of the flowers had dried out, but the consolation prize was there were few people in the area. I like the consolation prize better.

Our Hike

002 San Jacinto

Above: Mount San Jacinto.

003 San Gorgonio

Above: Mount San Gorgonio is visible too.

004 Preseve

Above: Looking down into the preserve with the town of Morongo Valley (population ~ 3,000) just behind it.

005 Contrast

Above: Contrast of the high desert and the marshy preserve.

006 Contrast 007 Heading Down Canyon 008 Green 009 Flowers 010 Stream

Above: The steam has water in it.

On previous trips in the area I never tried to descend into the canyon for water. The canyon is so overgrown with trees and brush, that getting to water would be quite the task.

011 Trail 012 Marsh 013 Marsh

Thoughts about hiking with Joyce

I mentioned earlier that Joyce isn’t interested in backpacking. But she truly enjoys hiking and is a great hiking partner. We have done some rather strenuous hikes in the mountains (up to 20 miles) to include large portions off-trail and with some difficult cross country navigation. She just isn’t interested in sleeping on the ground. That is why we have a tent trailer. I will never try to get her to go backpacking — we have too much fun camping and hiking with the popup.

I guess I just don’t understand the evangelists who try to get people to backpack, or try to get backpackers to go ultralight, or try to get people to change their religion or politics. When Joyce and I go places I want to do the things both she and I enjoy. And if our hikes take us to high mountain streams with trout, she is even happier. To be honest, it is a great feeling to come back to the camper and take a shower, have a drink, cook a gourmet meal (at least by my definition), sit outside in clean warm clothes, and sleep in a bed with a gas heater. Makes for a great trip. Below is a collage of some of our camping, hiking, and fishing trips.

014 Joyce Collage

Don’t get me wrong, backpacking is still one of my passions — just something I shall continue to do solo. All of it is good — backpacking, camping and hiking with Joyce.

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