Friday, January 27, 2017

New Year, New Horizons

Edgar's mother and father are caught unaware in a postcard perfect picture
- By Edgar Bernal Sevilla, Curation/Education Staff

As comes the New Year, so too do the winds of change breeze through the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. Since 2016 was the last year of our five year plan, we spent the latter part of the year asking the community through various mediums what they want to see from us. The community responded, and an overwhelming number of them were interested in seeing a greater emphasis on desert hikes in the museum. Favorites included staff led hikes, more support for hikers (information, equipment etc.) and more outdoor exhibits on museum grounds. As such, we are declaring 2017 as our Year of the Outdoors.
Edgar surveys the upper canyon walls

It is a fantastic coincidence that this push for the outdoors begins as I myself have been pushing for the outdoors in my private and professional life. As the usual hike leader for field trips to the museum, I expect to be heavily involved in most of our outdoor projects this year. More information on upcoming projects will be out soon!

Edgar and his brothers Jorge and Carlos

As for this week’s hike (“this week” being New Years week, we have been very busy at the museum!), I decided to go somewhere a little unfamiliar. New year, new horizons right? My family and I visited the Painted Canyon in the Mecca Hills near Mecca. There, we did the Mecca Hills Ladder Hike, which, as the name suggests, is a hike through a rough slot canyon with ladders in several parts of the hike where climbing gear would normally be needed to proceed. My previous hiking experience centered around areas near the IVDM’s location in Ocotillo, so the landscape of Mecca Hills, despite being part of the same valley, seemed totally alien to me. The dull gray stone that formed the walls of the canyon was not one found around Ocotillo, and neither were the large pink tinged quartz nodes that occasionally jutted from the canyon floor. The mountains were shaped differently as well. The desert varnish was of the darker variety, indicating more manganese present than iron, unlike the varnish of the western valley. Those were the few differences in geology I noticed. As is obvious, I am not a geologist.The flora was different as well, but I am even less a botanist than I am a geologist, so all I can say is the shrubs were not creosotes and were, for the most part, larger than the ones we have in our side of the valley.

The view that mesmerized Jorge
The ladders were tricky, and by the end of the hike all of the adults (my mom, dad, and I) were exhausted. The spry young lads that are my brothers had an easier time on their first desert hike. Both fell in love with the experience of nature, something that they hadn’t really explored before like they were doing today. My brother Jorge was particularly stricken by the beauty of nature hikes. Once he reached the highest point of the hike, he sat down alone for 15 minutes taking in the view of the Mecca farming community and the Salton Sea, crowned by the Santa Rosa Mountains behind it. The moment that he had on that hill top was the same moment I had when I was guided by that crazy crow to the top of the Coyote foothills as I oversaw the entire southern Imperial Valley. Moments like that ensnare the mind with the splendor of nature. It’s hard to go back from there. It seems like my list of hiking companions has grown!