Agua Caliente Reservation, Cahuilla Indian Tribe, Palm Springs, California
Chef Emile's Tahquitz Canyon Hike Trail Log
December 23, 2006
Tahquitz Canyon is at the northeast base of Mount San Jacinto in Palm Springs, CA. It is the peak that you can see from almost any place in the desert valley. It rises over 8,000 ft, and is referenced in many of the travel brochures. There is a fee for hiking the canyon, and there are senior and group rates available. This is all handled at the Visitor Center. BTW, the VC is one of the best I have seen. There is quite a selection of souvenirs, and a theater where they play a 10 minute video about the canyon. THIS IS A MUST SEE!! Also there are guides available at set times. We didn't want to wait, but now I think we should have, we would have learned a lot more if we had done that.
The canyon is named for a Indian shaman whom was banished to the canyon by the Cahuilla Indian tribe. Tahquitz, by legend, changed himself into a green ball of fire and flew to the top of the canyon where he lives in a cave. He eats the souls of the local Cahuilla Indians (and sometimes an occasional hiker), according to the video, hikers have been found dead just sitting on a rock.
The hike itself leads in a southwest direction mostly along the western side of the canyon (to the right in the second pic). The map that is provided for the trail is inverted, by that I mean UP is South. Many hikers use a compass or GPS, so this makes the map easy to read. You can also see in the second pic that most of the canyon was in the shade.
The 3rd pic is of Sacred Rock, by legend it is the spot whereby the Cahuilla Indians will not cross for fear of getting their soul eaten. There are several sites to see along the upwards path, an old sluice gate called "Place of Wasted Mescal" sounds like alcohol abuse to me, and a water level gauge. The latter is slightly visible in the pic. It was built in 1947 by the US Geological Survey (USGA) and supposedly is still in use today. It looked pretty ragged, so who knows?? again I guess we should have waited for the guide.
OK, now this is cool, we started our hike about 40 minutes before noon, and my guess is that the 5th pic was taken about 20 minutes after noon. I was hiking up to the falls, and the eastern walls of the valley were steep and to my left. The sun had just cleared the mountain top, and was passing between a tree and myself. I snapped this pic!!! Is this Tahquitz???? Well I still have my soul, so I guess I am not tasty!
From pics I have seen of the falls, the amount of water varies wrt the amount of snow and rain. So my guess is that it hadn't snowed in a long time, the falls were pretty dry. This is the maximum vertical height of the hike about 350 feet above the Visitor Center, and another 100 feet or so above Palm Springs. The rise was in about a mile plus, so it is pretty easy. The falls are quite lovely they drop about 30 feet to the pool below. From what we learned in the video this is where Frank Capra filmed a scene in Lost Horizon.
We had lunch at the falls, sorta a tradition with my brother. He likes to eat smoked oysters, sardines and crackers on a hike, Go Figure!! I like tequila!!
The return trail takes you down the eastern side of the canyon, you basically follow the creek. As I found in my Palo Duro Lighthouse Trail, many times you don't take the time to look backwards and many things are not seen. Also, we were in the shade and this was a welcome relief, even with the temperature in the mid 60's.
Just when you think you have seen everything, we stumbled along this half eaten mouse! That really brings you back to reality. Just knowing that a bird, bobcat or some other predator had had his lunch too that day. Well I guess it was a bad day for the mouse!
Towards the end of the hike we found several of the Chuarosa bushes in bloom. I thought they were pretty so I took the pic. Ya just gotta keep your eyes open, because I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a moth, but wasn't it was a hummingbird, then when I started to really look I found three of them. They were all attracted to the pollen from the Chuarosa bush. In the pic you can see the bird resting in the branch!
Another beautiful sight while walking downhill, again just when you think that you seen everything. This was a fantastic angle of the mouth of the canyon looking down upon the desert floor and Palm Springs. WOW, way cool. Across the valley floor and in the background you can see the Little San Bernardino Mountains this is where my next hike is gonna be.
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