|close up of 1948 Auto Club map|
I have lived in the shadow of Gavilan Mountain for thirty eight years. I thought I knew a little about it but it turns out I don't know much. I do know that they have found beautiful pink tourmaline on the mountain in the past. And I know that it is a wonderful place to live. Click on the map above for a zoom on the names of some long lost and forgotten ranches in the area.
Someone has borrowed my prized copy of Tom Hudson's book A thousand years in the Temecula Valley and not returned it but I seem to recall the author saying that the local Indians would camp up on the top when confronted by fierce rains. They told the settlers that their railroad tracks were not high enough to thwart the raging torrents of the Santa Margarita River but of course no one listened. Three times they told them and three times the tracks were washed away.
You see, the Vail Dam had not yet been built in 1916, its completion seriously restricted the watershed and the current flows are but a fraction of the once mighty power of the River.
In any case, the Santa Margarita Valley and Gavilan are a beautiful and close to pristine ecological habitat, rich in native oak riparian flora and fauna. I have seen lion, deer, bobcat even a bighorn on one occasion. Lots of raptors of all kinds including golden eagles, ospreys, hawks and kites.
I did a little research on the name Gavilan or Gabilan and for some reason I had thought and assumed that it was the name of an early spaniard resident to the area, perhaps an owner of a land grant. Don't ask me what I based this supposition on, I simply don't remember at this point, may have been something I read, maybe it was a raw assumption. The Temescal Mountains, not that far to the north of us, have an area called Gavilan Hills and also a Gavilan Plateau.
As a somewhat proficient spanish speaker, I am embarrassed to admit that what I did not know was that Gavilan is also the spanish name for hawk, specifically a European Sparrow hawk, our closest corollary being maybe a Cooper's hawk.
I was on a forum recently where a man said that while the word gavilan denoted the smaller hawks, the word aquilleras or little eagles was used in reference to the noble red tailed hawks which are such frequent guests in our valley and which I have chronicled for so many years with so many thousands of photographs.
It is pretty tough for me to admit that I didn't know that but I didn't.
But now I do.