Turtle Quest

High above the San Fernando and Simi Valleys, but not all that high, the jumble of sandstone boulders known as the Simi Hills sits quietly, thinking its long dull geological thoughts. Adventurers desiring to share those thoughts may do so easily by hiking a loop upon its crown known to the Chumash as the Sage Ranch Trail. We pilgrims two made that journey yesterday and now returned, we here spread before you the photographs taken amid the aromatic chapperal, circling hawks and largely decorative clouds.

The prime object of our exploration was a fabled rock formation known to the Chumash as Turtle Rock because of its uncanny resemblance to a rock. We did not gain that object. Great winds blew us back in a maelstrom of dust, frustrating our attempt to “capture the Turtle.” The elusive tortoise escaped our probing lens. Other fabled rock formations were less fortunate. See:

This is the fabled and elusive natural formation known to the Chumash as “Dinosaur Rock.” Legend has it the rock comes alive once every seventeen years and spits a single pebble. The direction of the pebble’s flight, its color and shape, and various other qualities and conditions prevailing at the time of Dinosaur Rock’s brief awakening, are said to accurately predict the weather over the next seventeen years. At the time of our obsevation Dinosaur Rock spit no pebble and so we remain “agnostic” regarding the truth of the legend.The eyes are roughly the size of a small human head.Without leaving the main trail, travellers may look in awe upon the chunk of stone known to the Chumash as “Owl Rock” though, of course, the Chumash used their own word for it: Eulengebirgsklumpen. The legends associated with this natural wonder are suspiciously similar to those associated with Dinosaur Rock — coming alive, spitting pebbles and so on — leading ethnologists to wonder — and not for the first time — whether the Chumash were “pulling their legs.”

Before howling winds drove us back to the parking lot (parking fee: $5), we trembled before the Rock Giant. This wonder — we hesitate to call it a “natural” wonder — is but the top, the head, of a Rock Giant buried in the Simi Hills long ago by a great Shaman — or so the Chumash say with perfectly straight faces. The unwary traveller must be kept at a distance from the murmuring creature by a barbed wire fence lest he succumb to the sweet entreaties of the Rock Giant to “come closer… closer…” and be ground to powder between stone jaws.

How to Get There.

Go to the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles. Are you there? Okay. There’s a north-south street running along the west side of the Valley called “Valley Circle Drive.” From the 101, take Valley Circle north. From the 118 take it south. Either way you go, when you get to Cardinal Wolsey Street — there’s a big sign for Boeing and Rocketdyne (they used to test rockets here) — turn and climb the steep twisty road for about 2.4 miles all the way to the top. There you will see a parking area and a sign letting you know you’ve arrived at the Sage Ranch Trail. A scary single-lane paved road with a sharp drop-off into a ravine at the bottom of which lie dozens of smoldering SUVs carries you another half-mile to an upper parking area with a picnic table (if you do hunger) and a port-o-poddy (if you do not).

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