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Ponds and Pictographs
Monday, February 19, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Gary Valle'. All Rights Reserved.

Rocky Peak, February 2001Click!
Rocky Peak, February 2001

Sometimes it is good not to have a plan. It leaves you free to follow intuition, impulse, and observation. One of the rewards can be unexpected discoveries or revelations.

Popular among hikers and mountain bikers, Rocky Peak is located north of the pass that separates the San Fernando Valley from Simi Valley, along the border of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

The peak is comprised of uplifted sandstone strata created from material from turbidity flows originating along the submarine continental shelf, many millions of years ago. The sandstone forms broken ridges with steep south faces, and many large boulders. There is a fire road along the spine of the peak, with several trails joining the road along its length. Recently, while running one of these trails, the impulse of exploration struck, and I found myself trekking upward along a prominent ridge.

Part way up the ridge, I came across this rattlesnake/spiral motif pictograph. The next two weeks I would run all over Rocky Peak and the Simi Hills comparing this painting to known examples of modern, and indigenous paintings.

Based on these comparisons, research, and discussions with an expert, this painting is probably modern. The type of paint and style of artwork appears to be similar to modern paintings found elsewhere on the peak. In addition, the rattlesnake/spiral motif would be unusual for native rock art in this area.

Pictograph (prob. modern origin) Rocky Peak, Feb 2001Click!
Pictograph (prob. modern origin) Rocky Peak, Feb 2001
Pond on Rocky Peak, Feb 2001Click!
Pond on Rocky Peak, Feb 2001

A very good overview of the rock art of California can be found in The Art of the Shaman : Rock Art of California, by David S. Whitley.

Continuing up the ridge, I eventually reached a plateau- like high point covered with a jumble of huge boulders. Interspersed among the boulders was a number of large ponds. This was startling for an area that receives only about 16 inches of rain a year! You don't normally associate chaparral covered mountain tops with large areas of standing water.

One explanation is that the dip of the strata tends to capture water on the favorable north sides of the large boulders. I would never have guessed vernal pools of this size would, or could, exist in this area. Although they are not perennial, weathering suggests they do recur from year to year. It will be interesting to see how long they last, and in what conditions they recur.

Additional Notes

As of March 12, 2002, Los Angeles is more than 8 inches below a normal value of about 12 inches of rainfall. (Measured since July 1.) The Rocky Peak area has received only about 1 - 2 inches of rain since January 1, 2002. On a recent exploration of the area I found no pools; only damp patches where the pools should be.

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