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Laguna Beach is Southern California's premier seaside destination, midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. A year-round retreat for art lovers, nature enthusiasts and beach goers, Laguna Beach features seven miles of soft sand and surf.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cultural Resource Hike

When you live in the OC (Orange County, CA) like I do, and are constantly driving on freeways looking at miles of concrete, you sometimes forget that there are amazing areas of preserved wilderness right in your backyard . South Coast Wilderness Park consists of 20,000 acres or 31 square miles of preserved land.  And right here in Laguna Beach, we have The Laguna Coast Wilderness Park (6,800 acres), which is part of the South Coast Wilderness Park system.

On a bright and brisk Sunday morning some friends and I visited the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park for a hike about Native Culture Resources. Our guides on the hike were a husband and wife team, Adele and David Heuer, both extremely knowledgeable on plant life, geological markings, and the culture of the Native American tribes of the area, the Apachimine. The Apachimine were a migratory tribe that occupied land from Long Beach down to Northern San Diego and as far East as Lake Elsinore. 

David and Adele explained to us how this area of Southern California is considered a Mediterranean climate, with the spring currently happening (November).

Flowering Coyote Bush

The Apachimine were adapters to their environment and were efficient in how they used the resources around them. They were also known as a coastal sagebrush community. With three varieties of sage growing in the area, it tended to be a large part of what they forged and used.

California Sage
All the sage varieties give off a strong scent, the California Sage, White Sage, and Black Sage. The Apachimine used them in purifying ceremonies and also for medicinal and practical purposes. They were ground into teas for all kinds of ailments and the seeds added to soup and the leaves used for flavoring. They would line their baskets with sage to repel pests. Later the cowboys used sage in their bedding for the same reasons, a repellent, and were rumored to have rubbed the leaves on their bodies as a deodorant when going into “town.”

Live Oak Acorn
Nearly 45% of the Apachimine diet consisted of acorns. The acorns were collected from the oak trees, with families taking ownership of specific trees in order to collect its bounty. Although the acorn is very tannic, the Apachimine would leach water through them to get all the tannins out. They accomplished this by using baskets or digging sand bowls on the coast. The meal left over was then stored for the winter and later cooked and made into puddings, cereals and soups. When storing the acorns and the other seeds, silos were built out of brush and grasses.

Cactus needles were used in tattooing, an important part of the Apachimine culture. Red tips have a fruit that is sweet with a gelatins mass substance. There is also a red fungus that grows on the cacti that was used as a dye (later the fungus was used as a dye in lipsticks.)

Throughout the entire hike both Adele and David had pointed out interesting tidbits and facts about the plant life, the animals in the area and geological markings. One interesting point was about how much of the soil is sand-based, since the entire Los Angeles basin was once underwater. The Santa Ana Mountains were a result of volcanic eruptions and are actually considered young mountains when speaking in geological terms.

Above is a picture of a Topanga formation showing the various layers of the flood plane.


Another fun fact our guides shared, was about the Toyon plant. When settlers came to the area from the Midwest they saw this beautiful plant with red berries and thought it looked much like their holly berry plants back home. They began to harvest the berries to use as ornamental decorations during the holidays. The plant was abundant in a particular hill area that they nicknamed “The Hollywood Hills.”

After a 400-foot elevation climb we reached the top of the hill…and we had a 360 degree view! We could see out to the Santa Ana Mountains and Santiago Peak, over into Aliso Viejo and Laguna Beach. Then out to Long Beach, Los Angeles, and the Hollywood sign. The day was so incredibly clear and bright that we could make out the Hollywood sign with our naked eye. One hiker had binoculars so we could all read the sign. Turning a bit more we could see the snow capped San Gabriel Mountains with a few clouds gathered around its peaks.

View out over central Orange County, Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Mountains.

The hike was wonderful and we all learned so much about this unique and amazing area we live in. In particular, how resourceful the Apachimine tribe was in utilizing the plant life in the area.  Thank you to Adele and David who are volunteers with the Laguna Canyon Foundation. The Foundation is committed to preserving, protecting and enhancing the park. They offer hikes regularly and you can find the schedule here.

As we exited the park, I caught a glimpse of this fitting quote….

Those who traveled before you have connected with this land in varied ways. What relationship will you forge with this land?”

Parking is $3 and a donation of $2 is requested for each hike. – this differs depending on activity

By Anne-Marie S.

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