BLTC Press Titles

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The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

The Bhagavad Gita


California desert trails

by Joseph Smeaton Chase


— Tahquitz the Rumbler — Cave-life in Andreas Canon — Indian relics — A palm temple — La Reina del Canon — Cave-company

— A winter storm — Narrow escape for Kaweah — Marooned — Not drowned as reported — Tahquitz Canon, a desert Colosseum

— Magnesia Spring Cafion — Tropic luxury — A night vigil for cougar — Bighorn — A cached oUa — Deep Canon — The ocotillo — Animal and bird life — Palms and flowers — Rattlesnake company — Thousand Palm Canon — A palm forest —

— "The Twelve Apostles" — Seven Palms Oasis — Harried by wind — Two-Bunch Palms — Unique landscapes — Wagnerian moonlight — Palm Springs Village — Its medicinal spring — Romantic Palm Canon — "Movie" vandals — Suggestion: a National Park.

THOUGH the palm is certainly not the most beautiful, it is perhaps the most poetic of trees. In symmetry of tapering shaft, fountain-like burst of crown, and play of glossy frond, it is the ideal of gracefulness in plant life. Incidentally, there is the charm of its "atmosphere" of literary allusion, of which it probably has more than any other tree can claim. To dwellers in cold or temperate climates it brings also alluring thoughts of tropic warmth, skies normally sunny, and a life emancipated from winter flannels.

Spreading up from Northern Mexico, a number of groups of the fan-palm, Washingtonia filifera, are found in the canons and oases of the Colorado Desert. They are known to but few, and those are mainly prospectors and such stray characters, whose business or hobby makes them wanderers in that harsh region. Such human life as the desert has — that is, the actual desert, the unconquered and unconquerable wastes of burning sand and mountain — drifts and circles about these spots: necessarily so, since the presence of palms means the presence also of that rarest, strictest necessity, water. The Arabs' axiom regarding the date-palm, that its foot must be in water and its head in open sun, is true of its relative the fan-palm. Thus, in the talk of desert men the palm figures constantly. You hear of Dos Palmas, Thousand Palms, Palm Springs, Twenty-nine Palms, Seventeen Palms, TwoBunch Palms, and so on; and the names mean to the traveller not only water, but shade, with the chance of grass for his animals, and the relief of verdure for his sorely harassed eyes.

Some of the groups occur about the boundary of the sea that anciently filled the great depression which is now partly occupied by the Salton Sea, and whose beach-mark is to-day startlingly plain at the base of the encircling hills. Such groups, probably, represent the indigenous growths. A number more are found at higher altitudes, but of these many are known to have been planted by the present or former Indian inhabitants of the region.

The westerly limit of growth is a rocky defile on the south side of Snow Creek Canon, which is a rift of San Jacinto Mountain, about opposite Whitewater Station on the Southern Pacific Railway. This group marks the nearest approach made by the wild palm to coastal conditions of climate, for the spot is within a few miles of the crest of the San Gorgonio Pass, which here forms the dividing line between California barren and California fertile. A thread of tepid water moistens the roots of the trees, while not a mile away rushes the icy brook that gives its name to the canon.

I camped, at various times, in most of the considerable canons of the upper part of the desert. Each has its special charm, while those that come down from the high mountains that shut off desert from coast possess a dual beauty — the characteristics of a true mountain canon, such as trees, cascading streams, and the varied life that goes with them, together with the features of a land made savage by torturing sun, unblessed by the mercy of rain. The mingling of the two elements gives often a fascinating result.

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