Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hiking into the Past


Modern trails in the Coachella Valley, like most places, have history. While there are trails that are purely of modern origin, a good many trails in the areas were at one time Indian trails. These trails were the only means of transportation for the people who lived here. They had no roads, no vehicles, no horses. They walked wherever they wanted to travel and travel they did. The Indians were largely nomadic and traveled throughout the area, establishing campsites in varying elevations depending on weather and food supply. They also engaged in trade with other tribes throughout Southern California. In addition to trails that have been reworked and utilized by modern hikers, there are still trails in their natural state that haven't seen much use for decades. I love to go out and try to find them.

Today I thought I'd go out and see if there might be a trail that connected Devil Canyon, south of La Quinta with the area near the Martinez Landslide. I know there was a Cahuilla Village in the area and there must be a profusion of trails reaching into the high country. I'm sure when the weather got hot, the Indians headed up the eastern face of Martinez Mountain. The question is, where?

It's obvious that this VW bus never made it out of this area but I wonder how on earth it ever got back here. This terrain is extremely rugged and no place for the predecessor to the mini van.

I don't have to go far before I hit a trail. This probably connected the trail where the modern Boo Hoff Trail makes its way into Devil Canyon with other trails heading east, or at least I hope.

The trail dumps into a wash and I cannot locate another trail heading east. I find a trail I previously hiked that heads south but that's it. Maybe my hunch is incorrect and the Indians just walked down the wash to get to the Landslide area.

I decide to walk along the alluvial fan instead of in the wash because even without a trail it's easier going. Plus, if there is a trail that heads from the wash area up toward the mountains I will be able to spot it from up here.

While I don't find a trail I do come across this interesting rock sitting on a boulder.

It's travertine like down by the Salton Sea. Someone had to transport this up here.

A close up of the rock.

There's a section of heavily varnished boulders on the hillside that stands out. To me this would be a good place to meet or to hang out if I lived out here but I explore around and don't find too much of interest. There are no fire pits or petroglyphs or anything that would suggest anyone had much interest in this area. I guess there are plenty of brown rocks to choose from around here, so why should these be special?

I realize I'm not going to make it to the landslide today because my light is fading and I want to get back before it gets too dark. I have a headlamp but would rather not travel off trail through rocks and Cholla in the dark. I figure I'll head down to the wash and walk that back up to where I started.

But as I head down to the wash I find these two odd rock piles. There's nothing else in the vicinity, no fire rings or litter of any kind, just these.

Not too far away I see this rock pile that has a grave-like shape. It could just be a naturally occurring pile of boulders but it doesn't look to be. It looks as though the rocks were stacked here and the size is similar to graves I've seen elsewhere. OK, now I really want to get back before dark.

Heading down toward the wash what do I come up upon? The trail I'd been looking for in the first place. It heads straight toward the landslide area but now it's too late to head there now. Thankfully, cooler weather is on the horizon and I won't have to start my hikes so late in the day to avoid the heat. This area will be high on my list of places to come visit.

The trail heads right up to Devil Canyon and now I know where it meets the wash near my starting point. Now I can follow it to the landslide area and, from there, who knows where? This adventure is only beginning.

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