Chumash Camp

I headed into the forest in late afternoon with three hours of light left. It was dead calm in the lower reaches of the canyon and I could see that it rained the day before. Upside down oak leaves still held water in their concave undersides.

Two miles along my way, I rounded a bend and spotted two backpackers a quarter of mile off. They stood ambling around apparently taking a breather. I caught up to them on a short, but steep incline, and followed a guy hiking in Wrangler jeans, cowboy boots and a big white cowboy hat to the top, where his buddy stood decked out in full fatigues and eight inch combat boots laced up tight. Each man, in their late twenties or early thirties, cradled a stubby, military-type rifle in their arms.

Neither one of them had spotted me approaching. And the guy in jeans I followed had no clue I walked up right behind him struggling up the gravely slope. His buddy commented in surprise, as did he, when we reached the top of the hill and they both finally saw me.

They were oblivious to their surroundings, which was a bit amusing considering their outfits and what they were packing. Guess it was all show. I blew by them with a clipped, “howdy,” and stomped on down the trail pondering what the hell they were doing. Or thought they were doing.

Less than a mile later, I was walking a flat section along the canyon floor at the foot of a mountain, just beyond the confluence of two creeks, when a shiny black pointed shape caught my eye. 

An arrowhead as found lying in the weeds.

Right on the trail, in the weeds that have been clipped short by constant foot travel, just inches from the bare dirt path itself, laid an inch long obsidian arrowhead. It had been cleaned of dirt from the rain and was lying there as if somebody had set it down.

It was a fairly well crafted point and in near perfect condition with only a slight chip missing from one edge, which was hardly even noticeable if the arrowhead was flipped over. Still miles from the old Indian camp that was my destination and I stumble across an incredible artifact during a trip I postponed and almost didn’t even take.

I pushed on and ended the day hiking the last thirty minutes by twilight and walked into camp just as darkness really set in. An ornery wind was blowing over the mountain, but the camp is well protected and only had a slight breeze by comparison.

The camp sentinel.

I made some quick grub and a cup of coffee by headlamp and then hit the light. I laid back and stargazed for an hour or so in total darkness, peering through a huge almond shaped window to the sky created by the surrounding sandstone formations.

The wind owned the night. A mighty river of air, it flowed over the mountain in a roar whittling away the monolith I was hunkered beneath grain by grain, which rained down and tinkled against my tent all night long. I lay in bed listening nervously. At the height of the gusts, it would reach an eerie howl and I waited to hear the sharp crack of a falling tree or section of sandstone giving way.

I woke at six o’clock to birds singing and more wind. A fine grit coated my face and covered everything else inside my tent. Ominous looking dark clouds were being sucked over the mountains and speedily flying through the sky. Geez, what happened to clear skies for Tuesday? I thought. Am I gonna have to hike outta here in the rain? But it soon cleared to blue skies and I spent a leisurely day wandering around the area near camp.

Late that afternoon while heading back on my way home, I passed the same guys I saw on the way in. They sat in camp aside the creek in full cammies playing cards. My curiosity continued. I walked the remaining two hours in the deepening shade of late afternoon, and timed it so I arrived at my truck at dark, squeezing every minute I could out of the day.

Water flows through the u-shaped hole in the rock on the upper right hand corner and falls onto the rocks below.

View from camp.

Another view of camp showing my tent. The water flows over a double fall.

A drip drop divot under the falls. How long does it take for single drops of water to wear such a depression in the sandstone?

A view from a trip last June.

A night shot from that previous trip.

Another camp nearby with its own waterfall flowing through it.

A line of three bedrock mortars.

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11 Responses to Chumash Camp

  1. Alan says:

    Awesome. I can’t wait to get back to this area and start exploring again! I wonder what those weirdos with the guns were doing…probably just “shootin’ stuff”.

  2. Nico says:

    That’s one of my favorite campsites and areas to hang out/explore. What a special place.

    Last time I spent the night there, I found a sand dollar at the upper waterfall camp. Kinda’ unexpected. The little tree under the upper fall was covered in a thick layer of ice… it looked like some kind of delicate crystal chandelier. Seen it like that a couple of times now.

    If any of your readers do visit this place, please encourage them to show some respect and leave it as clean or cleaner than they found it. I was a bit discouraged on my last trip to find one of the camps littered with empty cans and broken glass.

    • Jack Elliott says:

      Yeah, it’s one of my favorite camps, too. I’ve thought long and hard about sharing my experiences at some of these places on this blog, because I don’t really want to attract more traffic to them and I definitely don’t want them to get trashed by slobs. Two things that may, I know, indeed happen with increased exposure on the Internet like this.

      And I’m sure there are people who don’t appreciate me mentioning this place at all and I can understand that. Maybe I should keep quiet. There is a part of me that is still reluctant and feels like I’m exposing some secret surf break.

      I figure I’ll leave out specific directions of how to get there, unlike some other hikes I’ve written about, and leave it for the more adventurous people to find on their own, as I did. My hope is that anybody willing to put in the time to find it has a healthy respect for such places and will not ruin it.

      Hopefully anybody who may end up finding this place as a result of this blog will indeed be respectful and keep the area clean and pristine.

  3. **** you says:

    get all of this off the internet you *******

    • Jack Elliott says:

      Oh, real tough guy, huh? Too cowardly to use a real name? Why don’t you stand behind your words like a real man instead of acting like a foul mouthed child?

      You want to storm in here with your degenerate vocabulary defacing my property and making silly demands you have no authority, official or otherwise, to even utter let alone expect to be followed? Pwahahahaha. Thanks for a laugh.

      If those settlers that came before us had not forced the Native inhabitants of this camp off their land, then you would have never even laid eyes upon it. And yet you storm in here whining about a few photos of a place you possess some twisted sense of ownership over. It’s a rock and some dirt for crying out loud. Get real. Grow up.

  4. Anonymous says:

    hey there! thank you so much for putting this out there for earth honoring people like myself to find! i didnt see the name or directions to this amazing place tho…

  5. ChumashWisdom says:

    Westerners are a filthy group.

    • Jack Elliott says:

      Such a broad generalization doesn’t sound like a very wise statement to me.

      Shall we judge you and yours based on the less than desirable actions of those people of your own particular heritage? Or perhaps we should lump your own people into one monolithic group of generic Indians without recognition of the fact that there were, and are, many different tribes, which, historically, acted very differently. And form our judgement of your particular people based on the worst acts perpetrated by all groups of Native Americans. In doing so we could then, in a similar manner as you have here, castigate you and yours as vile thieves, rapists and murderers.

      On another front, you undoubtedly have no problem whatsoever making full use of all the innovations developed by the “filthy group” of Westerners; technology which provides a quality of life unprecedented in the annals of history. I suspect that you are not only totally dependent on the inventions of the very group of people you apparently despise, but greatly appreciate the comfort and convenience those innovations provide for you in your daily life.

      No, your comment does not reflect wisdom at all. It shows ignorance and bitterness.

  6. cindynunn says:

    Another great article! My favorite hiking area here in Simi Valley also once belonged to the Chumash. Keep up the fantastic work of sharing your travels with us.

  7. Ronald Cameron says:

    Hi I’ve been studying the chumash for the past 25 years and love your writing. Most of my experience lies with in the confines of the Santa Monica mtns and Simi hills. I’ve been to every painting site here locally and have researched and found most of the old village sites and travelled the old single track roads that connect them. There is something magical when you feel that energy that eminates from that connection with the past.

  8. Fantastic Post thanks for sharing Jack. Can’t believe the arrowhead was lying in plainsite what find.

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