Mark your calendar for May 11 when Moments in Time discusses a Russian trans-continental flight that landed in San Jacinto
■ By Matt McPherson / Columnist
Tribal Ranger Michael Herman gave a presentation at the Valle Vista Library focused on the famous Palm Canyon area of the Aguanga Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, where he gives guided tours Sunday through Thursday. Herman discussed a variety of topics related to the extremely busy tourist attraction just south of downtown Palm Springs. This beautiful recreational area ranks in the Top 20 things to do in the Coachella Valley and Palm Springs on TripAdvisor.com.
The presentation touched on such topics as the area’s biology, ecology, geology, archaeology and native ethnobotany. Herman explained that a wide variety of diverse plants and animals can be found throughout the more than 60 miles of popular hiking trails. The trails range from low desert to high desert, through the chaparral and high into the alpine. Big horned sheep are a common sighting this time of year during the transition from winter to summer and entice many animal enthusiasts to snap photos with their cameras. Desert tortoises, mountain lions and the elusive ring-tailed cat also attract zoologists from all over the world.
The unique geology and rock formations, such as granite outcropping and metamorphic strata, create a breathtaking backdrop for the creeks, streams and waterfalls to wrap through and over. Tahquitz Canyon 60-foot waterfall culminates into a refreshing pool, which has become a popular destination for the locals to cool off in during the hot months of the year.
Mike went on to explain about human habitation in the area, which stretches back 10,000 years. Early habitation is thought to be mostly migratory until about 3,000 years ago when a large migration of Cahuilla Indians from the Lakeview Nuevo area west of Hemet and San Jacinto ventured into the area. Overpopulation of the San Jacinto Valley and the need for more food and resources resulted in an expansion toward the eastern San Jacinto Mountains and into the Coachella Valley Desert, with Palm Canyon becoming the stronghold of the region.
Overpopulation of the San Jacinto Valley and the need for more food and resources resulted in an expansion toward the eastern San Jacinto Mountains and into the Coachella Valley Desert, with Palm Canyon becoming the stronghold of the region.”
An abundance of food and settlements resulted in more than 2,400 villages and human habitation sites scattered throughout the landscape. The knowledge of medicinal plants and ethnobotany goes back thousands of years and also has made the area very sought after by botanists the world over. This year the wildflower blooms are an amazing as a result of the heavy rains and resulting snowpack.
Palm Canyon, Murray Canyon, and Andreas Canyon contain the largest oasis in the nation and provide an abundant water source for the surrounding wildlife. Although during the drought years, the five remaining wild horses were relocated to the hills above Banning due to lack of water. One interesting Cahuilla myth explained was that if a roadrunner crosses your path it’s very good luck. So if you decide to venture into the hills for a hike and a roadrunner crosses your path, continue on for good fortune.
Herman is an extremely knowledgeable ranger and guide for Palm Canyon who fell in love with the area when he first visited it 12 years ago. He immediately applied for a position as a Tribal Ranger and has been integral in maintaining and sharing its allure with all who venture in.
The park is open from October through July every year and closes for the extremely hot months. No camping is allowed due to potential vandalism and sometimes disrespect for the fragile ecosystem. A minimal fee (under $10) is required to enter the park and children under the age of 6 are free. Free guided tours are offered everyday at the visitor center. Herman advises to always having a plan before taking on the labyrinth of trails and make sure to bring a map, flashlight, snacks, and plenty of water.
For more information or to reserve your ranger-led hike, call (760) 323-6018 or visit indian-canyons.com.
If you have an interesting local story or know of an interesting local person, please contact Diane Verdugo at the Valle Vista Library to take part in her “Moments in Time” presentations. Diane can be reached at (951) 927-1664. On May 11, Jack Warneke will discuss the 80th anniversary of the Russian trans-continental flight of a plane that flew from Moscow to San Jacinto in July of 1937.