Coachella Valley Preserve
One of the Best Road Trips
One of the best road trips in California is to the
Coachella Valley Preserve
. There is a hiking trail there, where you can walk a pathway of old wooden planks, while shaded by gigantic palm fronds from California palm trees. You know the movies where the characters are lost in the desert and dying of thirst, and they see something far in the distance that looks like it might be trees? Alas, it's only a mirage. Not always! You see, the
San Andreas fault
runs right through here. That's that crack in the earth that's going to cause earthquake mayhem one of these days. That'll be fun. Meanwhile, it creates an oasis for water to collect, and a unique ecosystem of plants and animals to make it's home in the middle of the desert.
When you arrive, you will park on the dirt parking lot. The first place you will want to visit will be the visitor center, which is a very cool building that was built in the 1930's. The visitor center is open 6am to 7pm all year except for the summer months, because it's too ridiculously hot for anyone to be outside, let alone hiking.
Twenty-eight Miles of Hiking Trails!
There you can obtain guides to the 28 miles of hiking trails all around the preserve. The trails range from very easy to moderately difficult. When I was there, I saw families hiking with young children, so that's certainly doable. There are picnic tables to the left of the visitor center, and an outhouse a little ways past it, to the right. You can start on any of the hikes from this point.
You Won't Find This Little Guy Anywhere Else In the World
While your hiking, look for the
Coachella Valley Fringe Toed Lizard,
which is unique to the area. This little guy needs the unique “blowsand” here for its habitat. Blowsand is simply fine sand blown in from the wind. It “swims” through the sand for protection from predators or to cool down from the heat. It has special scales that are long and cover its ears to keep out the sand, and a special wedge shaped nose, excellent for burrowing. Saving this species is one of the purposes of the preserve.
Meet the Pupfish, Extremophile Extraordinaire!
While your hiking on the neat paths beneath the palm fronds, over the wooden planks, you will cross over some wonderfully mucky, yucky ponds with the endangered species,
swimming around in there. You will have to bend down and look for them, but they are in there swimming around. I wouldn't think there would be something referred to as a “desert fish,” but these extremophiles can survive in water from 32 degrees all the way up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit! I have new found respect for these little guys. Not only that, but they can survive in water with a salt content four times that of the ocean, and very little oxygen.
Click here to return to California Road Trip from Best Road Trips Include Coachella Valley Preserve!