3 July 2020
Basecamp near Junction Meadow to Tamarack Valley to Long Valley to Hidden Lake and back
(14 miles, +2,600/-2,600 feet).
Today we decided to hike over to the area by the Palm Springs Tram, which is closed due to COVID. We weren’t sure what we would find, but it’s exactly what you might expect. We saw absolutely no backpackers in any of the popular areas. Zero!
The only people we interacted with today were a pair of rangers and a couple of workers who were helping them at the ranger station near the tram.
Nice to have the solitude….
We awoke after a warm and calm evening to a gorgeous sunrise.
I made some delicious hot chocolate which was enjoyed by all.
Soon we were on-trail enjoying lovely wildflowers in Skunk Cabbage Meadow.
Our hike took us into the burn zone from the Mountain Fire, where the starkness of the tree bones stood out against the verdant chaparral in the background.
We came upon a fun, nonsensical sign.
The hike was flat until we headed up to Hidden Divide.
I had always wanted to visit this area because it receives special protection.
At the top of the Hidden Divide we saw a use trail heading over to what, on my topo map, looked like a seasonal lake. This is EXTREMELY rare in SoCal, so we headed over to have a peek.
There were signs everywhere saying you need a special permit even to walk the maintained path along the shore. So we thought we should put it on the list for when the world is normal again.
Soon we were in the big backpacker areas of Round Valley and Tamarack Valley. But there was nary a soul to be found.
They had an interesting system for campsite selection that I had never seen before. The last entry appeared to be at least a week ago.
From Tamarack Valley we took a path to Long Valley that is on some maps and not on others. It was a bit of a bushwhack in some places, but nothing too bad.
We went over to Long Valley and the tram and talked to the ranger there. He was worried that we wanted to see the tram because apparently some other people had arrived a few days before who were interested in “buzzing” the cables of the inoperative tram back down to Palm Springs. We assured him we were just curious to look around.
I thought the tram had a view of the valley, but it does not, so we turned around and went back to the ranger and I remembered Hidden Lake. I asked him for a permit and he gave it to us! (Probably the first one he had written in quite some time). He told us the area is protected because there is a species of flower that grows ONLY at that lake!
After a nap on a picnic table, we headed back to Hidden Divide and this time we took the path to the lake. It was lovely!
And even better, the ranger told us the best view of the Coachella Valley lies at the end of the maintained path just beyond the lake.
We took a good long break and then headed back by the lake for some more photos.
The rest of the way back to camp was downhill and uneventful.
We stopped at Willow Creek to fill up all our bottles to take to base camp.
We then passed back through Skunk Cabbage Meadow to our lovely tent site on the ridge.