Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Some Secret Places

The motto here at VCC is, “Searching for Lost Secrets.” In the past few months I’ve found a few of those secrets. I’m willing to share some pictures of these places, but I won’t be giving out any clues to their specific locations. It only takes a few moments for some greedy idiot to destroy something that has been around for centuries.

Some chipped paintings I've seen.

A few months ago Frank and I drove up to Santa Barbara to hunt down a couple of caves I had read about named Condor Cave and Pool Rock. They both are in Campbell Grants’ book The Rock Paintings of the Chumash  as plates SB- 17 and SB-11 respectively. The only information I had about these sites was the trailhead to start at, a few pictures of the rock formations the caves were in, and a cryptic clue I had found on the internet.

We got lucky and were able to figure out the clues that led us to the first site, Condor Cave. This cave has some very nice, very large paintings. There is also a hole in the cave wall that may or may not be Chumash made. I certainly don’t have the expertise to tell.

A "Condor" painted over a bear paw petroglyph

Hole in the cave wall and a couple of bedrock mortars

High off that victory we wanted to find Pool Rock. I knew it was relatively close by, but I had no idea what direction to start looking. We looked at the pictures I had brought and inspected them closely. Some of the rocks in the background of the picture looked a lot like some the rocks we could see from where we stood. Based on that we decided on a direction and headed out. By this time the sun was really blasting us. We were able to persevere, and eventually we saw Pool Rock in the distance.

This is a huge rock formation with a couple of small caves around the base. This site has paintings as well as petroglyphs.  All around the entrance to the main cave are small circular recesses. They look like miniature mortar holes.

A few months went by before we went out looking for more lost secrets. This time we went looking in the Ventura backcountry. The next cave we found had just a few simple paintings in it. None the less it was a very satisfying find. 

 This circle is about four or five inches in diameter

The last cave I’ll tell you about took me a long time to find. I’ve been out searching for it many times before with no luck. This time I was really motivated to put some miles under my feet and find this sucker. I covered a lot of ground this day hiking up one drainage then another. Then when I had less than five minutes to go before my self-imposed turn around time I saw a Forest Service sign-in post that meant rock art was near. I then ignored the turn around mandate and I proceeded to take some pictures and enjoy the satisfaction of finally finding this long hidden secret.

 I'm not sure if this Chumash painting or not

 This sure is

I've been trying to figure out where these sites were for a few years now. It's really nice to have been able to see these mysterious enigmas.With some more luck I'll be able to show you some more of these in the future.


  1. I can tell you that on the winter solstice, at sunrise, the light shines through the hole that looks like it's pecked into the wall at Condor Cave.

  2. Great Post!
    I love looking for these old sacred sites; a few years back I did the pool rock/condor cave exploration and was blown away. These places are amazing, hard to find, and in a constant state of deterioration. I know about many more that I am looking for clues as to their location. Part of me is glad that people are so tight-lipped about these sites, for as you say, some people love to destroy what they don't understand.

  3. I haven't been to Pool Rock / Condor Cave since the mid-1980s. These are spots that are very thought provoking, to say the least. To add the Ventura County sites really does enhance the story and the sense of mystery. I was wondering when we would see another blog post. It was worth the wait.

  4. It was funny for me to visit that last site you mentioned a few weeks ago or whatever the time frame was and to see Stillman signed in and right after him you had made your mark.

    A question for you: I recognize that cave in the photo just before the red circle. I've sat in there, but I had no idea it was painted. Is it indeed painted? Right when I saw the cave for the first time it looked like an old Indian site and so, of course, I walked over to take a look. It is interesting to see your photo here. When I was there I looked brieftly at its walls but didn't see anything and in my usual neglect in not looking too closely at these things I moved on without much inspection.

  5. Well, scratch that question. After posting that first comment I had a vague recollection of seeing the red circle after all. I just checked my photos and zooming in on one of the photos I took I can indeed see the red circle. I recall now that at the time I thought that it was drawn by somebody recently and so didn't mention it when I wrote about my trip.

  6. The three pics below the cave picture are from that cave. There's also some engraved initials in there that I didn't post a picture of. The sandstone there is very flaky and of poor quality. I think that's why the paintings there aren't very intricate. Now that I think about it, I guess they could be post-Chumash. I hope that's not the case. There wasn't a FS sign-in post there. Food for thought.

  7. Cool shots. Thanks for sharing discreetly.

    The small circular indentations around the Pool Rock are called cupules. They're fairly common around other Chumash rock art sites deep into San Rafael/Cuyama. I thought I recalled reading they have some sort of fertility significance.

    The hole in the eastern wall of the Condor Cave shelter does indeed align with the winter solstice sunrise. There's another shallow cave shelter in the area with a similarly positioned baseball-sized opening in the eastern wall. Hard to say if they were naturally caused and the Chumash just took advantage of them or if the Chumash created them intentionally. I like to think they found it that way.

  8. I like to travel and see the secrets of our earth, it doesnt matter where I set foot on, always i do it with much respect. Looking for a place to go today, I found your blog, I have one of my own that I recently posted. Its about the lava tubes in mojave national preserve. Today Ill try and go find this caves... good journeys for you!

  9. hope to one day find these paintings.