[Originally posted on October 2] Yesterday was our day to stay at the Oasis Resort and relax. We sat by the pool, did some reading and swimming; Jane liked the hot tub in the late afternoon. We limited ourselves to shady lounge areas rather than the direct rays of the desert sun.
This morning, however, we decided to see one of the sites offered by the local Indigenous Peoples (e.g. Indians). They are the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians. Their ancestors settled in this area more than 2000 years ago, but they were restricted to a reservation by the US Government in 1876. Today they have a visitors’ center at the mouth of a very ancient and impressive canyon that runs up into the foothills of the mountains, Tahquitz Canyon. We got there about 9:15, hoping for a guided Ranger Tour, but that was not available this morning, so we took the self-guided option.
We bought a large water bottle, having been warned in many forms that dehydration is a principal form of danger in this region. We also took advantage of the offer of free walking sticks, which came in very handy as a “third leg” on the uneven ground. Armed with these things and an interpretive guide map, we set out on the loop trail to the head of the canyon, 2 1/2 miles long round-trip, with a 350 foot rise.
Hiking on, over, and around rock, we found the path well-trod. We could verify the
direction because most of the footprints in the desert dust were going the way we were. The bottom of the trail was unshaded and rocky, close to the base of the steep and stony canyon wall. The points of interest had to do with Indian legends and local lore. As the trail got steeper, there was more shade, and a couple of indications of how the Indians used the stream as a water source. More of the trail was in the form of high-rising rocky steps, and lizards skittered off rocks and into shady crevices. The trail circled rocks and outcroppings; it was not a straight path. Flora and fauna changed a bit with the altitude. If one were to go to the top of San Jacinto Mountain, one would travel through four distinct climate zones.
Just as we were beginning to poop out we reached the summit, where a 60-foot seasonal waterfall was still active now in early autumn. Its water skimmed over rocks and then free-fell into a shady pool. We doubted that the sun ever shone there directly. We spent a while reveling in the cool air, the refreshing sound of the water, the amazing eroded rock formations. No wonder this spot was thought to hold sacred power.
The first part of our downward trek was even shadier, because we were hugging the steep mountain slope. We encountered none of the larger mammals that live here–kit foxes, mountain lions, longhorn sheep, rabbits, or squirrels. But we saw more wild, sacred country. Back at the ranger station, we watched an interpretive film about the Indian deities, and particularly the shaman Tahquitz, who was said to steal souls of those who entered his mountain domain, and who abducted an Indian maiden.
Back on the valley road, heading for lunch, we finally saw our first Roadrunner. He was walking, not running, across the road. Beep-beep.
Then came another afternoon of cloudless sun and pool-slumming.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2013.