An Arrowhead, Fossils and Bear Tracks on Pine Mountain Or Return to Chorro Grande

The view on the way home. Highway-33 snaking its way up Dry Lakes Ridge during a foggy sunset. (click to enlarge)

I woke to the sound of slow dripping water from a heavy marine layer and decided to sleep in. I had no desire to get drenched while hiking through dripping wet brush.

Later, on my drive up HWY-33 out of Ojai, the fog thinned and finally cleared as I climbed out of Wheeler Gorge below Dry Lakes Ridge on the freshly paved ink-black asphalt. Should’ve been on the road at first light! I thought. I knew it was only a thick marine layer, that the mountain top would be dry and sunny while the lower elevations were socked in.

By 12:40, I was moseying up Chorro Grande trail with Pine Mountain looming over me, returning after my previous blistering. On this day I was richly rewarded.

The air was remarkably warm, too warm. Only a few bleached white clouds clung to the blue canvas overhead. I was getting my gear together roadside when I heard a strange noise and turned as a paraglider came swooping down onto the highway.

After huffing up the initial hillside from the highway to the creek, I carefully picked my way up one of the dry arroyos searching the well weathered sandstone outcroppings for caves and trace evidence of the historic Chumash Indian populations that once roamed these untamed lands in the Sespe Creek watershed.

A fork in the creek bed.

As I strolled past a fork in the creek bed, taking the west fork leading through a prominent sandstone ridge, I came into a small potrero. It was studded with a wide-spaced, coarse type of bunch grass, and bordered on the north edge by a stand of densely clustered oaks trees rooted against a sandstone bench. I recognized its potential immediately and stood analyzing the landscape, thinking what a terrific area for a campsite.

In the wet season, water seeped from the mountain running before the potrero in a shallow flow and into the actual creek forming the east edge of the relatively flat nook. I started to my left walking over to take a gander around one of the clumps of oak trees to see what I might see when, for some reason, I decided to walk to the right instead. As I stepped into an open patch of dirt my eyes locked onto a arrowhead. As soon as I saw it I knew it was a point. I could not believe it and stood there grinning.

The point as found. The last person that touched this was a Chumash Indian many years ago.

What are the odds of stumbling across a one inch bit of stone on the side of a mountain? To think of all the individual choices I made that day that added up to having stepped directly over the top of that arrowhead. Incredible.

A funny thing about the find is that it was actually laying in the middle of an old foot print from somebody that had passed a few weeks prior. I could clearly see a footprint, and the arrowhead was right in the middle, where the arch of the foot would be.

I continued up the dry creek bed to the foot of a waterfall and, finding nothing of interest, plopped down beneath the brush beside the wall of water stained sandstone. After snacking on some provisions I dozed in the shade for the next hour waiting for the sun to drop a mite and the temperature to cool.

The next (dry) waterfall, which I broke my way through the brush to reach, was much larger at about a fifteen foot drop or so. A gravel bottomed depression in the otherwise circular dirt flat beneath the fall showed just how far the water shot off the ledge in a rainstorm, which was a considerable distance. Thinking that the collection of detritus where the water hits the ground was a great place to search for treasure, whatever that may be, I squatted down and took a look. I did not find any more arrowheads, but I did spot a fossil within a few seconds. A near fully intact fossilized snail shell was just laying there, which is not surprising for the area. They are embedded in the rocks and washed out in the creeks all over the Pine Mountain, but whole specimens completely free from the surrounding stone are harder to find.

A tiny fossilized snail shell.

I poked around the surrounding area a bit more and then began making my way back down the mountain as the sun was falling low on the horizon. Following my own tracks down the sandy creek bed toward the trail, I came onto a set of, what I believe to be, bear tracks. Last I time I was in the area, about a mile away, I saw tracks that were about half a day old. This time the bear had crossed my trail sometime after I hiked in. Down the creek I went following the fresh tracks as they appeared intermittently in the sandy patches, but never saw anything. Until later on the drive home when I rounded the corner of the road on top of Dry Lakes Ridge and saw the spectacular sunset view of the fog rolling in shown in the photo.

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