On this sunny day, the varied textures of plants and boulders stood out against the deep blue sky, dotted with fluffy, white clouds, making this a pleasant hike, as we continued up to see the amazing sight of a palm oasis within a desert canyon.
Just a short way up from my resting-place log, stood a peculiar palm tree with three heads, or rather three trunks, sharing one root base. An additional log was caught in the base during a flood. (Sometimes I wish I had three heads; so did Amadeus.)
We finally arrived at our destination, a lush palm oasis with flowing water. The California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera), is the only native palm in the western United States. It was named after our first president by German horticulturist, Herman Wendland, in 1879. These palms grow to a height of up to 80 feet and may live 100-200 years, or until the next flash flood or fire. Their shallow roots and large leaf surfaces require that they live near water. Urban growth has threatened these trees by lowering the underground water table.
Palm groves are found along creeks and deep gorges. Last week Rich Luhr visited the only palm canyon in Arizona, located in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. The Cahuilla Indians had a village in Borrego Palm Canyon because it supplied water, afternoon shade, and shelter from the winds. The palm trees provided the Indians with fruit and materials to make sandals, matting, baskets, ceremonial effigies, and housing structures. Notice the palm frond skirts, which protect the bark from water loss and insect predators. Unfortunately, some of these trees have lost their skirts due to fires started by careless hikers.
On this New Year’s weekend hike, we were delighted to see beautiful yellow flowers on this silvery-gray BrittleBush or Incienso (Encelia farinosa), a relative of the Sunflower.
As we started back down, we could imagine the roaring sound of a flash flood as it surges down the canyon towards our campground and our Airstream with its raised Earth flag.
Our campground and nearby town of Borrego Springs came into view, and we could now appreciate how vulnerable we are to the natural elements such as water and fire. And we now have a renewed respect for our planet Earth and Mother Nature.