Santa Rosa, San Jacinto, San Bernardino

Wrapping up the desert trip, we took one final day trip from Palm Springs, this time to the west. The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains are a National Monument. When we stopped at the visitor center, I was thrilled to see a sign warning of rattlesnakes around the parking lot, but no such luck. We picked up a great pocket field guide, which we put to use along with the desert tracks guide Cora found at the Joshua Tree visitor center.

Fun with field guides!

As we had in Joshua Tree, we just hit the road and stopped where it looked interesting. I was very pleasantly surprised that we actually saw lots of interesting tracks, though identification was tough and they don’t photograph well. At our first stop, we saw tracks that were definitely feline, canine and hooved, but not from any kind of domesticated animals.

View from somewhere along Route 74

As we meandered through the mountains, we bumped into a section of the Pacific Coast Trail and had a late lunch at a spot full of hikers from around the world. I had read that a number of roads were closed due to flood damage from an early spring storm, but we were able to get further than the websites predicted. The terrain changed completely as we headed into San Bernardino National Forest. Suddenly we were surrounded by towering pines, as well as evidence of sizable brush fire that had swept through earlier. We made it all the way to Idyllwild Nature Center, which was unfortunately about to close. It was a lovely spot and they were so friendly there. We were able to park outside the gates and enjoy the trails a bit before heading back. I even heard a frog call and searched for the source for a while, but the only wildlife we saw were more lizards and some lovely white-headed woodpeckers.

Idyllwild

As evening approached, we headed back into town to come at the San Bernardino Forest from the other direction. There is an aerial tramway right up the mountain from town. It was beautiful at the top, but I was not into the ride myself! It’s a slow but extremely steep ride, going up about 5,000 feet in elevation over 10 minutes, and each time you pass a tower, it shimmies.

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