YOU DON'T HAVE TO GREET... every ocotillo and lizard and palo verde tree and prickly pear cactus with a kind word, but finding your way along a desert path can put you in a certain frame of mind. You want to connect, not just with the companion who may be at your side, and your inner thoughts and feelings, but with every living thing you stroll by (and, yes, the occasional rock, too). Call it desert bliss, or a loftier state of mind, or a state of sublime thought, if you wish. But definitely call it one of the winter's most wonderful activities, a pursuit that can be found on several trails in and around California's desert cities.
THESE TRAILS... are made for solitude, or at least serene spurts of mind, for while you may pass other hikers now and then, you'll definitely be treated to a nice share of enjoy-on-your-own vistas and cloudscapes and valleys, too. You can find such trails around The Living Desert in Palm Desert, trails that are open from Oct. 1 through May 30, but determining the length you'd like to leg it along is an important initial step. The Discovery Trail is an easy-ish quarter mile, while the far longer Wilderness Loop "traverses a very rocky canyon if you traverse the loop in a counter clockwise manner, or a desert mountain ridge if you travel in a clockwise manner." Exploring your tempting options is the first step.
PALM SPRINGS, La Quinta, and some of nearby cities also boast a plethora of trails, from some loops and a through hike around the Big Morongo Canyon area to the Ancient Lake Cahuilla Overlook. Lace up your lucky boots and begin here, while the weather is brisker, the trails are wide, and there are cactuses, trees, and lizards to bid good morning the way.