Tread Lightly in a Sacred Place

Toward Little Sycamore Canyon

Toward Little Sycamore Canyon

Photos and Story by Ron Chilcote, Special to the Independent

In the Sycamore Hills of Laguna Canyon, now known as the James Dilley Greenbelt Preserve, the majestic old oaks and sycamores form magnificent groves.

Near the entrance the trees stand in sharp contrast to the nearby toll road. The path up the canyon leads to the sycamore and oak groves. The walk to the ridge reveals the groves below in beautiful back lighting of the green, yellow, and reddish leaves and the soft lighting of the brown and parched grasses.

Dilly Preserve sycamore grove

Dilly Preserve sycamore grove

Walking through this canyon, often in fog and the rising mist of early morning, one is overwhelmed by the beauty of the place. The patterns of twisted tree limbs against the background of blue sky or clouds yield magnificent images. At the end of the canyon, nestled in the hills, are caves that once housed native Americans and their artifacts and perhaps their burial grounds. During my initial visit in the presence of native Americans, I learned of their legends about this place and observed their respect for it. Four ravens and then four red-tailed hawks circled us, reminding us that we were intruders and demanding our respect for a sacred place, telling us to keep our distance.

These occasional photo essays will introduce readers to the vast lands surrounding Laguna Beach known as the Laguna greenbelt or what Ron Chilcote, photographer and writer, calls the Laguna wilderness. Chilcote is a longtime director of the Laguna Greenbelt, a founder  of Laguna Wilderness Press, and author of “Nature’s Laguna Wilderness” (2003).  An expanded and revised edition of the book, to be retitled “The Laguna Wilderness” will be published next year.

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