Anyone who meets Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage’s longtime recreation attendant Frank Sheckler truly has the pleasure of meeting the man. Tall, blond, and handsome—with a pacific air as soothing as, well, the pacific air—he is the wonderful expert who guides resort guests on complimentary nature hikes adjacent to the pristine property. Meeting interested parties (there is no limit to the size of the group) at 7:00 a.m. in the hotel lobby, Frank takes them out for 90 minutes on one of either two trails—the Chuckwalla Trail (upper loop) or the Roadrunner/Big Horn Overlook Trail (lower loop). Each hike is a total length of 2.5 miles and rated moderate in intensity.
Thanks to his B.A. in recreation and leisure studies from Cal State Dominguez Hills, and an A.A. degree in recreation from El Camino Junior College—not to mention his more than 30 years of experience in the field, including two years as a seasonal National Park Ranger in Joshua Tree National Park—Frank, 57, can answer pretty much any flora- or fauna-based question lobbed his way. On his Rancho Mirage guided nature hikes, Frank loves sharing his expertise about wildlife (big horn sheep, snakes, roadrunners, coyotes, jack rabbits), plants (creosote, cactus, ocotillo, palo verde, date palms, California Fan Palms), geology (San Andreas fault, Salton Sea, mountain ranges, water tables, types of rock, hot springs), nature destinations in the area (Joshua Tree, Indian Canyons, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Sunnylands), and human history (Native Americans, European settlers, mining, Hollywood influences, Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage history). And you thought all you were going to do is walk around and try to break a sweat in the desert sun!
“Hiking with a guide who has local knowledge is a huge advantage,” says Frank. “Exposure to the California deserts, for most people, is along interstate 15 between Victorville and Las Vegas, and that’s it. The nature here and all that it entails is sometimes not as obvious as, say, standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon…. It’s my responsibility to unveil those treasures.”
For Frank—and surely, for his attentive audience—the human interaction outdoors is the most rewarding part of the work. “Bringing this wonderful desert to life and seeing the looks of fascination on their faces tells me they are making the connection,” he says. “What usually follows is a barrage of questions and comments that keeps the conversation flowing throughout the hike, and we all feed off everyone else’s energy!”
All I can say to that is, “Where do I sign up, Frank?” www.ritzcarlton.com/ranchomirage