The Hidden Trail To Flag Mountain – Desert Hot Springs, CA
Not all those who wander are lost. –J.R.R. Tolkien
I’ve always been a huge J.R.R Tolkien fan all the way from the original 1936 novel “The Hobbit” to the 21st century “Lord of the Rings” movies based on his works. Many years ago we took the fantasy a bit further and went on a road-tripping, back-packing trip to southern New Zealand to hike the very hills where the films were made. What a trip!
Now, Desert Hot Springs is not exactly Fjordland but it’s got those same wild, open expanses that set your heart beating and run your imagination wild. What’s even better is there are a TON of hidden trails. These are the kinds of hikes used by generations of tribes and explorers, known only to locals and with cryptic directions such as “walk about a half mile to the dirt road, turn right at the elephant rock, follow the leaning lady to the barrel cactus by the old cairn….etc.”, inevitably always followed by the comment “oh it’s easy, you can’t miss it”. For a woman with the directional sense of a single-celled organism these kinds of things are, putting it mildly, always a challenge…and of course I LOVE challenges.
I managed to glean the info for such an adventure from my neighbours who’d heard it from some other guy that heard it from some other guy who did the trail several years ago and placed the flags.
The obscure path is known locally as “Flag Mountain” and ingeniously involves both entities -> a flag and a mountain. This was an encouraging sign for me since I figured that even if I completely missed the trail (which would undoubtedly happen), I would surely be able to see the mountain and possibly even espy the flag. In other words, there was hope of success!
The pooch and I loaded up on water and headed off exploring. In fact we spent the entire week wandering the hills while Paul flew away to Flint, MI for his buddy Matt’s wedding. We got lost (multiple times), bush-whacked (almost constantly), got side-tracked by many flag mirages and false trails, but eventually, through sheer stubbornness and dumb luck, we found the hike!
When Paul got back we completed the entire circuit and proudly posed at the flag that honors the hike. It may not have matched Frodo’s dark hike to Mordor, nor the tumultuous path of early pioneers, but it sure did feel like my own personal glorious adventure.
P.S. For those of you looking to re-enact this little adventure, here are approximate directions. From Sam’s Family Spa turn left at the main exit and walk ~1/2 mile along the road to a raised dirt road on your right. Follow that road approximately straight back to the mountain (last 1/3 will be bush-whacking). Then locate the ridge trail that goes slightly right and all the way to the top. Good luck!
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