I finally made it out to Coachella Valley Preserve in Thousand Palms CA (near Palm Springs) to check out one of the hikes, the McCallum Trail, which in only two miles takes you through two palm oases, across the San Andreas Fault zone and through a desert wash. The flowing water is so refreshing, especially considering the area normally gets only 4-5 inches of rain.
You leave from one of the largest groves of desert fan palms (Washingtonia filifera) in California and end up at another, the McCallum Grove and it’s beautiful pond. It’s a flat terrain so relatively easy but you’re hiking through sand for most of the trail, which is slower than a dirt trail.
Several agencies have worked together to set aside this land for we humans — and the hundreds of plant and animal species that call it home.
What I liked:
- Grab a trail guide at the nature center, from which I learned how endangered these native palms are — the only palms native to California — because they’re only found in areas where water is at or near the surface.
- The richness of the life they support: Far from being a wasteland, this Coachella Valley desert alone supports over 500 species of native plants, 200 species of birds, 25 different species of reptiles and over 30 species of mammals, ranging from bats to bighorn sheep. New species are being discovered.
Wildlife sightings: There were lots of birds in both the palms and the washes….but I suggest you take one of the weekly bird walks where they identify dozens of birds. A favorite I saw was a male phainopepla doing his upward whistle call (the whistle you use to call your dog), and the raven with the Thousand Palms Oasis behind it (see photos). Red-naped sapsucker, verdin, cactus wren, ruby crowned kinglet were among the dozens of birds sighted on the weekly birdwalks. The area also hosts gray fox, bobcats and several endangered or rare species such as the Desert Pupfish (cyprinodon macularius) a minnow-like fish that now occurs naturally in only two creeks and the fringe-toed lizard.
Distance/Trailhead: The McCallum trail is two miles roundtrip and the trailhead is north of Interstate 10 off of Thousand Palms Road. There are eight other trails in this beautiful area that I want to go back and try. The Pushawalla, Horseshoe and Hidden Palms Loop is a 6.5 mile loop that takes about 4 hours.