Thursday, April 02, 2009

Hiking Adventures

I did say that I had adventures last week in Palm Springs. I was remiss in not posting yet, but it has been a very involved week. Happily I am re-organizing a temporary loom space, which includes a handy 'by the loom' mini-bookcase... ok, I digress...

So my knight in shining armor and I went hiking leaving the un-cooperative, unenthused teenagers at home. We were on the Cahuilla,Agua Caliente Lands just on the very edge of Palm Springs. It was truly lovely there. Spring in the desert is beautiful. Coming from the mid-west & east coast I have gained an appreciation for the very different kind of landscape, the intensity of a different kind of green, the sculptural hand of rock, and for a subtlety that is not definable.

There is some incredible and varied hiking in this area. I did my reading and we went on a trail where Big Horn sheep are known to sometimes make an appearance.
What can I say ...I'm a fiber geek. I like sheep. Actually, I adore them. I love their history, their fabulous faces, oh yes, and their FLEECE... Of course I know as well as you that the Big Horn Sheep are not known for their fleece, but they are sheep, they are fabulous children of the rock and If I'm somewhere where a fiber critter might be, I'd like to see them. Ok, we didn't find a sheep. I'm just telling you now, so you don't get too excited and anxious waiting for me to show you the picture of the sheep we didn't see. We did find this:

But sadly, when we later identified it... It was a mule deer track -- NOT -- a big Horn sheep.

So we took this trail into Murray Canyon:

This is one of my favorite flowering bushes right now, The desert mallow.

Creosote and Desert Lavendar were two others that we loved (and of which they were plentiful. Creosote being the desert medicine cabinet for those that know how). We did see the bush that ephedrine comes from(remember phen phen), but we more or less left it alone. And lichen is here too! Living, but it is unclear whether the people who lived here once used this as a dye. The tribal ranger I talked too did not know.

This one however, is an Indigo Plant (although I don't know which sub-species). The Tribal ranger told us (on the Tahquwitz Canyon hike) that they put the leaves in hot simmering water to produce brown dye! I have to follow this one up. I have many questions.

There were lots of folks out hiking that morning (go figure... hiking in the desert ... morning might be the best time). There were the local residents of Palm Springs and enviorns. There were folks on horseback (lots of the trails are horse friendly) and families ... more or less prepared... The less prepared were out for fun in the desert with little water and flip flops... Darwin at work. Seriously, no water in the desert makes little Jack or Jill dehydrate and flip flops???? Let me tell you why flip flops are NOT a good idea for hiking (ok, I'm not talking about twisting an ankle and breaking a leg on rocky uneven ground) Nooooo, there are other hikers on the trail, who are not happy for our company.

This little guy (above) pretended he was a nubby rock. I loved his colors. Doesn't he say 'Tapestry' to you?!

This Brown gentleman, really didn't care who was on the trail as long as we didn't interrupt his sunbath.

So when we are hiking, generally my Knight in Shining Armor is in the rear, because I am the slowest. Most of the time hikers move to one side or the other to let someone pass, but of course one has to see them... or hear them. so there I was walking down the trail and I was taking in everything, looking for what might not be seen and listening to what is true quiet, when I heard a small sound. I stopped and looked down. There was my new friend... Not at all happy to be sharing the rocky trail with me.

All I could think of was, be still and move back. So I did one and then the other. I have never seen a rattlesnake that was alive. I have seen many dead ones, taxidermified rattle snakes, but never a live one. I kept thinking, 'Do we have a snakebite kit with us?'. Well, good sense not to poke the snake and a listening ear and neither of us got to know the feeling of a snake pumping venom. My husband did tell me to remember to take some pictures.

These gave me new appreciation for the size of snake and I think I counted 8 plus a small rattle ... is that 8 1/2 or 9?

It is very very well posted that this is wilderness and to beware of rattlesnakes and mountain lions (the latter of which I didn't see). One other hiker, who lived in town came up as my friend was slithering away and told us, he lived here and had never seen one before. I have to tell you all the other hikers were jealous that we got to see the snake and they didn't. One teenage boy was up on the rocks poking around looking for one. Actually, I feel honored by the snake. It was cranky, but very kind to meet me on the trail (and of course not bite me). It was a superbly lovely and well fed snake. The designs on its back reminded me of cardweaving I had done. The scales were pretty incredible. It is quite the mosaic. Inspiration is everywhere if we are open to it. So I didn't get to see a Big Horned Sheep, but I did get to meet a rattlesnake.

All of the canyons in that area have a great water source (that's why The Cahuilla settled there) and it really like the stereotypical oasis. Palm Trees and the spring. There are also Sycamores growing and lots of other life abounds in the area because of the water and the springs. The Palms are fan tailed palms and are native to the region, although later in the 1800's or 1900's (you know give or take a hundred years)lol, date palms were imported and planted as an additional food source.

This is Tahquwitz Falls in Tahquwitz canyon. It is a great hike and right in town. Just drive south and take a right. Kind of blows the mind how 'right there' the wilderness is.

I think it is a good way to live (except of course for when the fires burn). (You know, California, land of natural disasters, earthquakes, mudslides, and forest fires). This is what a Palm that survives a fire looks like years later; scarred, but live.

And yet there is a reason we don't move. It is an inspired place to live both in the wide and varying landscapes (desert, mountain, and coast) as well as the feeling of relaxed openess around me.


Spindlers2 said...

Thanks for pointing me in the direction of your blog! Wonderful photographs of the wilderness. I have yet to meet a rattlesnake, but pete and I did see a big horned sheep - in Arches National Park, Utah, on 9/11. I don't think I will ever forget *that* trip!


Astrid said...

Thanks Carol! Did you get any pictures of the Big Horned Sheep? They live in the area I was hiking as well, but I didn't see them.

I will have to put Arches on the list!