I love the desert in cooler months, so I was thrilled when I found out one of our close friends was planning a birthday bash for her fur baby in Joshua Tree last fall.
Due to the photo schedule during September and October, I didn’t have much time to explore. I started to feel claustrophobic. Xena, too. We were so ready for the change of scenery. I packed my Subaru for the weekend, and we headed out to the desert for the Halloween weekend.
We spent the festive weekend at a dog-friendly glamping destination with other dog lovers and the pups with personalities and eating a potluck brought by the guests. What a blast! And I got spoiled with my favorite part of the desert – dramatic sunsets and sunrises.
Since dogs are not allowed on trails in national parks, I had to find other options for us even though Joshua Tree National Park is right there. So, we happily returned to the Sand To Snow National Monument. Each day on the trip, I cut out a few hours in the morning to explore a new place in the national monument.
The first place we explored was Stone House in Mission Creek Preserve. Well, we attempted…
Stone House in Mission Creek Preserve
- Hike Date: 10.31.21
- Distance: 3.2 miles RT
- Elevation Gain: 328 ft.
- Difficulty Level: Easy
- Fee/Permit: None
- Trailhead: 60550 Mission Creek Rd, Desert Hot Springs, CA
- Notable: Wildlife, washed out, no shade, out and back, restroom at the Stone House, no cell phone reception
Driving to the trailhead requires 2 1/4 miles of off-roading, but you don’t need a high clearance vehicle.
There is a small dirt parking lot at the trailhead. There was a couple of cars when we arrived mid-morning, but we didn’t run into anyone on the trail.
Start the hike behind this gate.
Soon after the sign, we reached a row of stone houses. This is not the Stone House Picnic Area.
It was cooler inside, so Xena made herself comfortable.
The trail is flat and wide. This hike is suitable for beginners and kids.
At the end of October, Mission Creek was dry and was still too warm for dogs without any shade. The best time to visit here with your dog is in winter. There is even water in the creek this month.
When you reach here, follow the Stone House sign.
After I took the photo below, we ran into a coyote. We were close to the Stone House based on the mileage, but I decided not to continue on the path.
The coyote was taller than Xena. It came out onto the trail in front of us and stopped us on our path. It didn’t seem to notice us and crossed the trail to the other side. We already had an encounter with a coyote last summer, which spooked me, so I didn’t want to go further just in case this coyote was traveling in a pack. I turned us around while making sure the coyote wasn’t following us.
Did you know there are increased sightings of coyotes in urban settings?
That is exactly what happened to us last summer. It was early morning around 7 AM. We’d been using this local trail for long walks for a couple of years.
One tall young coyote, which resembled a 7- or 8-month-old puppy, came onto the trail in front of us about 50 feet away. It stared at us for a few seconds. The energy in the air was tense, so I instinctively knew it wasn’t curious. The stare felt intentional. Then, it started to move toward us slowly.
I didn’t know what to do at first and felt panicked.
Quickly I decided to show that I wasn’t scared. I stayed grounded and yelled at it, “Shoo! Go away!” while I stretched my arm out and waved at it. I thought I should make myself look bigger. The coyote stopped in its trek and watched me.
Good, it’s working! I thought.
I yelled at it again, “Shoo!” Louder this time.
It turned around and started walking away. But after a few steps, it turned back and moved toward us again. My heart started racing. To make things worse for me, Xena was intrigued by this coyote and wanted to meet it. She is usually careless about meeting new anybody, people or animals. At that moment, I knew that the coyote was part of a pack, and the rest of the pack was nearby waiting for this coyote to lure Xena in. I held the leash tight in my hand.
I knew not to turn my back toward the coyote and run because it would make the coyote chase us. After yelling Shoo to it again, I slowly began retreating while facing it until the gap between us got big enough for me to feel safe. By then, we were close to the streets and I could hear the cars on the street.
What to do if a coyote approaches you and your dog…
If you have a small dog, pick it up. If your dog is too big to pick up, keep him on a leash and close to you. And then what? As soon as I came home that day, I googled suggestions for the next time. This is what I found:
- Stop and Stand Still
- Make Yourself BIG
- Be Loud and Assertive
- Slowly Back Away
- NEVER turn your back and run
It also said to stand tall, make yourself look big, use a noisemaker, wave your arms, and shout but not scream while walking in the direction of the coyote until it runs away.
If retreating isn’t a feasible option for you, try to scare it away by following the suggestions above.
I am glad I had some level of survival instincts in me that day. Thank goodness for the peaceful ending. That coyote was not scared of me and I’ve heard some stories about coyotes attacking a leashed dog. A small dog, but still. It seems there were more sightings of coyotes in the area. Now there is a warning sign for the trail users. Coyotes seem to be moving into the urban settings for food sources, for sure. Please don’t feed them if you see one.