From Southern California's Tahquitz Canyon, it's possible to see the ancient past, the recent past, and the robust here and now as it impatiently nudges forward the future.
I hiked into this desert canyon alone, a few days after I participated in another hike that included upward of 40,000 people. That one started at the Washington Monument, wound its way around the White House, and returned to the National Mall for the Sierra Club's history-making Forward on Climate rally over Presidents' Day weekend.
The human current that carried me through the streets of the capital included a throng of young people who, at one point, broke into "This Land Is Your Land." Back at the monument, college-age marchers mingled with those who might well have seen Woody Guthrie perform that song live. As a few snowflakes fell, young and old danced to bone-thumping hip-hop.
In Tahquitz, a stream, its frogs, and ravens created a more serene music that was almost certainly heard by the Cahuilla Indians who scratched petroglyphs into the canyon walls millennia ago—and by the back-to-nature tribe that moved into this sycamore-shaded oasis in the '60s and strung prayer flags from the rocks.
I defy the most hard-core rationalist to spend an evening in that massive geological gash and still smirk at those who claim to hear in the wind the banshee wail of the legendary Tahquitz, guardian of all shamans. In fact, I almost suspect that the mythic witch of Tahquitz cast a spell on me, because as I strolled back out of the canyon at dusk, the past and future seemed oddly compressed.
Looking down on the desert, I could envision the Cahuillas' simple thatch huts and the tents of the nature-loving hippies, some of whom, no doubt, were soon marching at the first Earth Day gatherings. I didn't need to imagine what was there on the horizon, just past the town of Palm Springs: hundreds of modern wind turbines and rooftop solar panels that are already powering the clean energy future today's young people are so insistently making happen as they seize responsibility for the planet. —Bob Sipchen, editor in chief