Indio Hills HP P500
Mecca Hills Wilderness HP
Mecca Hills HP
Point Happy
Peak 638ft

Thu, Mar 15, 2018
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 Profiles: 1 2 3


Some days aren't so great and this would qualify as one of them. It started the night before when I had bedded down in Berdoo Canyon NE of Indio & Palm Springs. Sometime around 11p a car drove by and then set up target practice in the Berdoo Wash. The pop-pop...pop...pop-pop kept up until midnight at which time they packed up and drove off. I wondered if they might start using my van for a target. Would I have any warning before the first slug came through the side panel? Who does this sort of thing in the middle of the night? When I awoke in the morning I found that I had parked in the middle of the largest informal shooting range I have ever seen. The ground was covered in colorful shotgun shells, targets, beer cans, assorted electrical and mechanical gadgets that made it to the Most Wanted List, and endless amounts of trash, acres and acres of open desert land left like this, baking for decades, and piling up for future archeologists to ponder our existence and lifestyle. Sigh. It had started raining lightly a few hours before dawn and the sky was heavily overcast when I got up. I had planned to hike some peaks in Joshua Tree NP by hiking up Berdoo Canyon, but the clouds obscured the summits and it didn't look all that fun. I needed a new plan.

Indio Hills

Across to the west from the Little Berdoo Mtns are the lowly Indio Hills, its highpoint crowned by a dozen summit towers. Since the clouds were above the summit, I made this my first stop. I parked in the rural community of Indio Hills off Dillon Rd, north of the highpoint. There is no way to make this comunity look good. It's simply row after row of shithole homesteads. It sounds bad, but our president said it's ok to use that term. I parked in an empty lot and walked through another empty one between two aforementioned shitholes, hoping not to get shot. Two ferocious-looking dogs took offense to my presence and I felt lucky they were behind one of the fenced homes. The wash I walked through behind the lots were used to dump all manner of trash and debris. Such an ugly bit of desert. It took about half an hour to hike the mile and a quarter to the summit up rock-strewn slopes. I found the North Indio benchmark by one of the towers and took a few aphotos before starting down. The weather was starting to clear nicely and would have cooperated with the original Berdoo Canyon plan, but too late now. On my way back through the neighborhood, I was unhappy to find the two dogs had been let out of their yard and came running once they spotted me. If ever there was cause to carry a firearm... They circled behind me and came closer, barking non-stop. No owner came out to call them off, undoubtedly finding it all humorous. I looked around for anything to defend myself with - rock, peice of wood, whatever. I picked up a broken piece of PVC piping that was virtually useless, having rotted so in the sun. It had an immediate impact on the dogs, though. Tails suddenly between the legs, they backed off and let out not a peep. Evidently they've been beaten by their owner enough to know what picking up a rod or stick means. I carried the thing back to the car before dropping it on the ground. These people suck.

Mecca Hills

East of Indo and south of Interstate 10 are the Mecca Hills, another low set of hills overlooking the desert cities and the Salton Sea. The Mecca Hills Wilderness covers a portion of the range, minus the highpoint which is crowned by telecom towers. There are two points about a mile apart vying for the Wilderness HP and I visited both in a six mile loop. Others have done them much more easily with a bit of driving from the Cactus City Rest Area. Unfortunately, the rest area was closed so I parked on Interstate 10 and walked from there. It would have fit with the day to have the car ticketed or towed, but I was happy to find it unmolested upon my return three hours later. I walked much of the road out to the telecom towers, shortcutting the road in a few places. I found the Blink reference marks outside one of the fences, but it appears the benchmark at the range highpoint was covered in concrete. Nearby is one of the Wilderness HP candidates, only a few minutes away. Dan Baxter left a register there in 2016 and it already had 5-6 entries.

Getting between the two Wilderness HP candidates is a bit tricky if one is trying to minimize elevation gain and loss. I simply did the straightline navigation, dropping into two canyons intervening between the points. The total elevation gain for the outing was less than 1,000ft, so I felt like I could afford a little gain & loss to make it seem worthwhile. The second point had a John Vitz register from 2013. Only a few names appeared in both registers. The best view appears to be to the southwest and the Salton Sea. With more time and motivation, one can pay a visit to Painted Canyon to the west about a mile. I had the time but not the motivation. Instead, I returned to the rest area via a pretty good route that had none of the earlier ups and downs.

Point Happy - Peak 638ft

It wasn't yet 1p so I drove back west to do a few easy summits between Palm Desert and La Quinta, south of Indian Wells. The Indian Wells Tennis Classic was about to get underway with all the surrounding shopping areas putting up signs for No Tennis Parking. At least they didn't say, No Hiker Parking. There is a very strange mix of rugged desert and money, lots of it, on display here. The Santa Rosa Mtns drop down from over 7,000ft to almost sea level. The foothills end sharply on the ancient sea floor that once filled Coachella Valley. Golf courses and other upscale developments run right up to the granite boulder-strewn slopes. Point Happy lies at the very northern tip of the ridgeline separating Palm Desert and La Quinta. SR111 cuts Happy Point off from the rest of the ridge, leaving Happy Point sadly squeezed between a shopping center and the La Quinta Cliff House Bar & Grill. The scrambing is on chossy granite, class 2-3 but very short - about a minute to reach the summit. One is surrounded by a whole lot of human development and it hardly feels much like the desert. Peak 638ft is about 3/4mi to the south along the connecting ridge, but there are a few obstacles. I got around the state highway crossing by going under and along the Deep Canyon Stormwater Channel (ala the LA River). I had to walk though another shopping center before climbing up to the ridge, only to find a home tucked in a saddle on the way to Peak 638ft. I went back down, hiked along the edge of a neighborhood, then up to a flag-topped summit on the other side of the saddle home. More ups and down eventually led me to the top of Peak 638ft around 2:15p. By now it was getting pretty warm (about 80F) and the next summit on the zig-zagging ridge, La Quinta BM, looked like too much work. I rested on a granite block near the summit and took in the bizzare views all around me. Golf courses with the greenest of greens. Homes with docks and boats. All sorts of things one just doesn't associate with desert. A bit too much, really. I decided to call it a day and head down. I dropped west onto the exclusive properties found there. A few golfers wondered what I was doing walking along the cart path. I eventually found my way back to the concrete wash (my escape route) and my start by Happy Point. Not the best of days...


Scott Hanson comments on 03/16/18:
How does target practice person see his target at 11pm? I had a similar daytime experience on my remote Silverton tree farm (which has no dwelling). I was doing some forest management work and heard rapid gun fire. Sounded like it was on my land. It was a neighbor's kid and friends who claimed they did not know they had crossed on to my land. Sure. Kind of a freaky experience. Dumping trash in rural areas is pretty common. I have found an old washing machine, tires, trashed sheet metal, 100's of glass bottles, etc, etc. Sad if you have to pickup and dispose of all this junk.
Mark McCormick comments on 03/16/18:
Congratulations on Point Happy, it's one of my favorites. Gotta love a peak with a Del taco at the trailhead.
Shane Smith comments on 03/18/18:
I went to the Indian Wells Paribas Tennis Tournament last Friday the 9th -- being a tennis fan and ex college player -- I try to go once a year. I drove around Point Happy not knowing it's name and saw the restaurant built into the side of it wondering about climbing it. Interesting Bob had it in his sites for just a few days later. Bob didn't immediately come to mind for having possibly climbed it as there is something difficult for me in mentally processing a bay area climber getting to every single spot around in California from zillions of miles away; especially this little peak-let. I'm embarrassed for the underestimation. I should know better by now. I won't make that mistake again. Now I have the beta -- Will get to it next year after game, set, and match....
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