Week 146: Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park

September 16, 2018

Vasquez Rocks, Famous from Westworld and Planet of the Apes, 2 miles

Barbara and I drove 30 miles north up the 5 and the 14 to the "rock star" location of Charles Fleming's hike in the October 14, 2017, Los Angeles Times. This amazing park merits its standing on the National Register of Historic Places as a prehistoric site for the Shoshone and Tatavian peoples from 200BC to the 18th century (we saw their pictographs along the trail,) but the rock formations date back 25-33.9 million years. Of all the places Barbara and I have hiked, at this one you can feel the history—knowing those towering rocks have been here for eons, through Indians, outlaw folklore, a century of motion pictures, and contemporary hikers like us, and will remain here long after we've come and gone. The scenery is downright breathtaking—repeated "wows" dominated our conversation, and our photos barely do it justice. Named for Tiburcio Vasquez, ladies man and California bandido who used the rocks as a hideout to evade capture circa 1870. Meanwhile, in 1862, miner William Henry King filed a claim on the property through the Homestead Act, put up tourist cabins, and eventually rented out the area as a film location—its first role, Tibet in 1935's Werewolf of London. King's idea made the rocks into Rock Stars. Vasquez Rocks' resumé includes setting or walk-on roles for hundreds of films, TV shows, commercials, and videos. You may recognize it as the alien planet in the Star Trek episode "Arena," or from Blazing Saddles, Planet of the Apes, Westworld, Nike commercials, Outer Limits, Michael Jackson's "Black or White" video, the A-Team, McGyver, Friends, New Girl, and more, more, more. With several hiking options to choose from, we followed Fleming's map along the Nature-Heritage Trail and around the "Kirk's Rock" to a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (that runs from the Mexican border to British Columbia), and back down the Geology Trail. Signs marking plants, views, and points of interest along the way kept us on the path. Sometimes flat, sometimes catch-your-breath hilly and rocky, always "wow"-amazing. One of the most awe-inspiring areas to hike in SoCal. Will-go-back-memorable. 

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