Hiking at Whitewater Preserve

Three couples got together today for a morning hike at Whitewater Preserve.  Chris & I picked up Brian & Judy at 8 am this morning and headed west on I-10 from Thousand Trails.  Bob & Julie were on their way already from Catalina Spa and we agreed to meet in the parking lot of the preserve.  Another beautiful day with temps nearing 80F and not a rain cloud in sight.  Directions to the preserve are pretty simple….I-10 to exit 114 which is not far from the Hwy 62 turn off.  Turn left on Whitewater Canyon Road and proceed 4.5 miles to the preserve.  There is lots of paved parking available for cars.  The road into the preserve is a little rough in places so taking RVs into the preserve is not recommended.  
The first two photos are HDR shots (3 exposures) done up in Photomatix Pro.  The first shows the preserve visitor center behind one of two trout ponds.  Still some snow in the mountains.  The second shows the inside of the visitor center.  I’m a little disappointed the detail through the windows didn’t show better.  I guess I should have used one more f/stop to bring out the color….next time.
We headed off on our hike about 9 am.  We chose the south loop trail which followed the river bed for the first mile before heading up into the hills with lots of switch backs.  The view up the valley was breathtaking.  We continued on up the hillside and chose a spot overlooking the visitor center for our lunch break.  Tough scenery.  Not too many desert flowers out yet, only a few.  We did get a little scare from a 4 ft rattle snake out sunning itself beside the trail.  We heard the rattle and then saw it slither into a bush for protection.  Brian got a shot of it but my wide angle lens wasn’t up to the task unfortunately.
We followed the trail ridge back past the visitor center and eventually started to descend back to the valley floor.  Our trail joined back up with the main road into the preserve, about a mile from the visitor center.  An absolutely stunning day and we all had a great time.
We will celebrate Julie’s birthday with lunch at Five Guys tomorrow….the birthday girl’s restaurant of choice.  Bob & Julie head for points east on Monday while Chris & I pack up for the short drive to Catalina Spa while Brian & Judy have another week here at Thousand Trails.  We are all loving the hiking around these parts.