SoCal’s LGBT community takes pride in the desert


Last week, ahead of Palm Springs annual pride weekend, I led a large group of Great Outdoors Palm Springs (GOPS) members on a hike down Big Morongo Canyon, part of the proposed Sand to Snow National Monument in California’s desert region. The hike was all about connections.

Explaining the significance of the proposed Sand to Snow National Monument. (Photo by Scott Connelly/GOPS.)

The hike gently descends 1,000 feet over 5.5 miles from the beginning of the boardwalk in Big Morongo Canyon Preserve in the Morongo Valley to the mouth of the canyon in the Coachella Valley, connecting the high Mojave Desert with the low Colorado Desert. The Canyon itself, connects the San Bernardino Mountains with the Little San Bernardino Mountains, beginning in the former, crossing the Morongo Valley, and ending in the latter.

On the Boardwalk
Setting out on the hike on the boardwalk in Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. Established in 1982, the preserve protects 32,000 acres of wetlands and surrounding desert. (Photo by

The proposed monument also connects mountain ranges. The north-south trending mountains of the peninsular range, that connects Baja California with San Gorgonio Pass, converges with the east-west trending transverse ranges, that connects the desert interior with the Pacific coast off Malibu. And the oasis at the beginning of the hike is located along the interior Pacific Flyway, connecting South America with North America and providing a crucial stop in annual migrations that attract 254 bird species and thousands of birders in the Spring and Fall.

Big Morongo Oasis
One of the largest Cottonwood oases in California-it’s location along the interior Pacific flyway attracts hundreds of bird specieds and thousands of birders, during annual migrations. (Photo by Scott Connelly/GOPS.)

In short, Sand to Snow is a huge ecological freeway interchange, where plants and animals converge in a hotspot of biological diversity. And in the face of climate change, this interchange will enable both plants and animals the ability to move elsewhere, if their current ranges become uninhabitable.

On the trail in  Big Morongo Canyon
Big Morongo Canyon, in the Little San Bernardino Mountains, connects the high and low deserts. (Photo by Scott Connelly/GOPS.)

Finally, the hike was an opportunity to connect the LGBT community of Southern California, and the Coachella Valley in particular, with the awesome natural beauty that surrounds us. Enjoying and protecting these places is everyone’s responsibility, including the growing LGBT community here in the desert. And preservation of our bountiful natural resources, and protection of our quality of life, are two of the many reasons so many desert residents support the establishment of Sand to Snow, Mojave Trails, and Castle Mountains National Monuments.

Postscript: On February 18, 2016 President Obama issued proclamations establishing the three national monuments ending a decade long campaign.

Mati Jatovsky was the California Desert Representative for the Wilderness Society during the campaign.

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