The highlight of our last trip with my sister Elaine was a mountain lion warning at the preserve entrance. Indeed, we saw what appeared to be muddy mountain lion tracks on the boardwalk entering the Marsh Trail and, sure enough, about 100 yards ahead, I was shocked and amazed to actually see one - a young, but good-sized male (gender later confirmed by the preserve host). My first mountain kitty sighting!! Kitty (and I say that facetiously) and I locked eyes momentarily before I began to gesticulate wildly in mute disbelief to Gil & Elaine, but he disappeared into the vegetation in a nanosecond before they could catch a glimpse of him. To this day, Gil and EE are not sure if I was making it up or hallucinating. I don't have a vivid imagination and, as far as I know, am not prone to hallucinations, so I'm pretty sure I saw what I saw.
As a postscript, the Morongo Valley/Paradise Fire on June 22, 2005 destroyed over 3,000 acres of vegetation, most of it on the preserve. Many of the trails were damaged, along with signs, benches, 1000 feet of the wooden boardwalk and, very sadly, the historic barn. We were lucky enough to visit the historic barn back in 1997 and have a few photos of it, which I've posted below. By now, I'm sure that most of the damaged areas have been restored and the trails reopened to the public. So, by all means, and especially if you're a birder and/or just love the desert, do stop by for a leisurely hike through this amazing preserve. It's only about 15 miles north of Palm Springs and an easy detour off of Hwy. 62 en route to the north entrance of Joshua Tree National Park.
June 2000. Mountain lion tracks. They resemble bobcat tracks, but are more than twice the size. Marsh Trail.
The Marsh Trail is wheelchair accessible and leads through marsh & stream habitat.
Map of the trail system: http://www.bigmorongo.org/a7WalkTrails.htm. No bikes, no pets, and no motorized vehicles. Ticks, rattlesnakes and mountain lions are always a possibility.