In the Midst of the Storm

About to board the tram for Mountain Station

About to board the tram for Mountain Station

It’s the holiday season and work has slowed down for many of us, so what is the best thing for outdoorsy people to do? Go out and take a hike, of course! Rain or shine! It just happened to be stormy Tuesday morning, so my friend Kim and I headed to Palm Springs for a scenic ride up the Aerial Tram and a short 1 1/2-mile hike on the Desert View Trail. I had always been curious about that trail, but never had time to do it since each time I’d been up there was to hike to San Jacinto Peak. We didn’t even consider aiming for the peak in the storm, but felt it was pretty safe to hike around Mountain Station at 8,516ft.

View from the tram

View from the tram

The ride from Valley Station up to Mountain Station wasn’t very scenic as visibility was limited due to the weather. When we arrived at the top, we took a few moments to get our bearings. I had never been to the tramway during the Christmas season, so it was really neat to see all the decorations.

Christmas decorations at Mountain Station

Christmas decorations at Mountain Station

After we had seen everything, we looked outside and contemplated when to go out. We didn’t ponder IF we should go out; we already knew what we were getting ourselves into and were prepared. We wanted to see snow and possibly experience getting snowed on. It was cold, rainy and windy outside. The very sign on the door warning that the door had been secured due to high winds caused us to shudder. We bundled up and braved the elements, along with several familes with small children.

Wind advisory

Wind advisory

I knew this would be a great opportunity to test out my new Ossipee Women’s Midweight Crew base layer from Minus 33, which I wore underneath my synthetic down jacket. The merino wool base layer did well on a previous hike a few weeks ago, but I started to get a little toasty with warmer temperatures. This time, it was cold, rainy and windy, so the base layer was perfect for the conditions. I stayed warm and dry, despite the blustery weather.

Once we entered the Desert View Trail and hiked away from Mountain Station, we had the trail to ourselves. There wasn’t a soul around. The trail makes a short loop with five notches that allows for incredible views of the Coachella Valley below. However, we had no visibility because we were socked in by the clouds. Still, it was pretty rewarding to hike up to each individual notch.

Beginning of the Desert View Trail

Beginning of the Desert View Trail

At Notch 1

At Notch 1

We definitely saw snow on the ground as we had hoped, but it wasn’t the type of snow we expected or wanted to see. This snow was hard, packed and slippery in spots, so we had to be very careful. Kim put on her microspikes, but even though I brought mine, I didn’t use them. My backpacking boots have pretty good traction, even in icy conditions, but I still had to be careful.

My legs usually don’t freeze, but I’m sure they would have had I not worn a pair of midweight bottoms under my thin hiking pants. The Franconia Women’s Midweight Bottoms kept my legs nice and toasty, even with the high winds and chill factor. The fabric was very comfortable and the fit non-restrictive. Most of the time, I forgot I was wearing the bottoms under my pants.

The view from Notch 5

The view from Notch 5

After visiting Notch 5, we continued on the loop and crossed the wooden bridge that took us to the Discovery Trail, a short 3/4-mile loop that passes the Adventure Center, which was closed at the time. I love bridges, so crossing it brought out the kid in me. We saw a snowman on the way back and I noticed that Frosty was missing an arm, so I performed a brief surgery and replaced his limb with a nearby stick. He was all better after that.

"Frosty" before his limb replacement

“Frosty” before his limb replacement

I took a few more pictures and then we made our way up the long, winding paved path back to Mountain Station where I warmed up with a rather spicy cup of chili. It was much more crowded than before and we almost couldn’t find a place to sit. We lucked out and secured a spot near the entrance.

Mountain Station Chilli

Mountain Station Chili

Overall, we were very happy that we went on the journey into the storm. I couldn’t help but wonder why we did it. Why did we leave the safe, cozy comfort of our homes to deliberately go out into the elements where there was potential danger and unpleasant conditions? Why do we adventurers do what we do?

Those are questions I can’t answer right now. But my tales are still being written. I suppose someday it will come to me on one of my treks in those conditions. For now, I’m happy with not knowing.

At V.W. Grubb's Viewpoint

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