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Desert Blooms

posted Apr 24, 2019, 4:14 PM by Justin P   [ updated May 13, 2019, 4:10 PM ]

Sunday night, we flew to Phoenix, arriving early Monday morning.  We got our rental car around 2 and started heading west on I-10.  Not much was open, but we stopped at IHOP for a very early breakfast.  In Quartzite, we went south in US-95 to Palm Canyon in Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.  On the way in, Venus was shining bright in the pre-dawn sky over the Kofa Mountains.  We arrived at the Palm Canyon trailhead right at sunrise.

The early morning light over the La Posa Plains and Castle Dome Mountains was beautiful.

The Palm Canyon National Recreation Trail leads a half mile into the canyon where the California fan palms grow, the only native palms in Arizona.  Although the trail is short, we hiked very slowly as the wildflowers and cacti were blooming in the canyon.  Beavertail cactus had purple flowers just starting to bloom.


The interesting Ocotillo has beautiful red flowers at the tips of its thorny branches.

There were a few saguaro in the canyon, but much more impressive ones were along the Palm Canyon Road.

Brittlebush is a desert bush with yellow flowers.


Desert wishbone has small white flowers.

We also saw some desert globemallow.


And there was lots of scorpionweed flowering; the small hairs on the plant produce an allergic reaction similar to poison ivy.

For reds, hummingbird bush was blooming all over the canyon, but we didn't see any hummingbirds.

The entire canyon was in the shadows, but the view looking out the canyon was great.

At the end of the trail, a sign pointed to the little side canyon where many California fan palms were growing high above.

For a closer view, we climbed up this little side canyon.It was mostly rock scrambling up and one part that was basically rock climbing to the first palm.

We couldn't get much further though due to a slick rock face with no hand or foot holds.  We headed back down and then started climbing further up the main canyon.  There wasn't much of a trail but it wasn't too difficult and the rock scrambling was lots of fun.  There were also a tremendous number of wildflowers blooming up here.

Desert penstemon had beautiful pink flowers.

There were several little Western whiptail lizards scurrying about.

We saw some desert tobacco in bloom.

The very wet winter has caused a super bloom here in the desert.

Coulter's lupine and bladder sage were two more wildflowers we saw.

There were even a couple palms growing up here, but not a bunch together as in the side canyon.

Soon we got about as high as we could go and rested for a bit to enjoy the view.

Then we made the climb back down and out of the canyon.

More ocotillo were blooming out here.

Soon we were back to the car.  On the way out, we made a couple stops to see cacti.

The saguaros were really impressive.

Then we continued west on I10 into California.  After a quick lunch in Palm Springs, we stopped at Tahquitz Canyon.  After paying admission, we hiked into the canyon.

With the wet winter, the water level was way up and the wildflowers were really blooming.

Brittlebush in particular blanketed the canyon in yellow flowers.

There was also some flowering hummingbird bush.

We saw a little Anna's hummingbird, but he was at the brittlebush.

There were also several common side-blotched lizards scurrying about.

The creek was up and we had to cross twice, but nothing too difficult.  About half way was a nice overlook with views of the valley below.

A little further was a desert blister beetle with a bright red head.

Soon, we made it to the Falls.  At about 60 feet high, it was very scenic.

It was getting later in the day, but we weren't quite done yet, despite being deliriously tired.  Our last stop was at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve.  From the parking area, we took Marsh Trail to Mesquite Trail and looped around.  About half way through the loop was the remains of an old car that looked like it had been swallowed up by the earth.

Just past here, we turned onto West Canyon Trail to enter the canyon.  There were a ton of wildflowers blooming in here.

One Yucca in particular had a flower stalk that was taller than me.

Its flowers were really beautiful.

Desert pincushion was a common white flower in here.

And desert dandelions made much of the yellow.

The desert trumpet wasn't flowering, but it had a really interesting inflated stem.

It was getting late, so we only went as far as the fence and stopped to enjoy the view.

Desert globemallow was lighting up the canyon with orange.

I'm not sure what these are, but I thought they were pretty.

The views into the canyon looked very scenic, but we didn't have a lot of time.  We headed back along West Canyon Trail, admiring the view as we went.

We could see the moon rising over the Little San Bernadino Mountains.

A white-lined sphinx caterpillar was crawling across the trail.

As we got back to the marshy area, we saw more California fan palms growing, the same that we had seen earlier in Kofa.

We finished up the Mesquite Trail loop, stopping at the overlook for a view of the marsh.

We also saw some bladderpod spiderflower along the trail.

Back at the start, we took Marsh Trail back to the parking area.  From here, we headed into Yucca Valley and checked into the Best Western.  We had sushi for dinner at Aki and then went to bed after a very long day.