Page 62 - SLO Visitors Guide - Spring 2022
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Santa Margarita
  people who call it “the place of the rabbits.”
Eager to arrive on time for a coveted guided tour of Painted Rock I hastened back to my car. Painted Rock is a sandstone outcrop that has been sacred to
the Chumash, Salinan and Yokut people for generations. Access is by reservation only to protect ancient pictographs and nesting raptors.
Pictographs in layers of black, red, and white pigment dated from between 3,000 to 200 years ago are painted on the eroded cave walls. These representations of water, fertility, rain, animals, humans and spiritual beings survived centuries. Modern graffiti and shotgun blasts have not been so kind.
A pair of long-eared owls peered from the cave darkness,
patiently waiting for us to leave. A hawk circled overhead. Coyotes, foxes, badgers, and other small mammals survived the farming
era, but hunters long ago cleared away anything large and edible. In 1985 Carrizo was one of the first areas in California to re-introduce pronghorn and tule elk. Elk herds are thriving but the pronghorn
isn’t doing so well. Few fawns can outrun coyotes and adults can’t leap barbed wire fences to escape.
In the spring, following heavy winter rains, Carrizo is a super bloom location where purple owl’s clover spears through yellow oceans of blooms. On higher ground white-edged petals cast a lemon hue fading into dense mid-valley areas of golden fiddleneck. Fortu- nately, many native flowering plants
are drought-tolerant and send up glorious blooms every spring even after limited rainfall.
Heading to Wallace Creek, I pondered the tectonic energy si- lently building pressure underfoot. The creek, flowing downhill from the North American Plate across the restless San Andreas Fault to the open plain on the Pacific Plate, is evidence of the seismic activ-
ity that shaped California. As that plate moved northwest, the channel following the fault line has reached about 150 yards in length. Al- though the average shift is just over one inch per year, displacement happens in sudden jerks. Geologists say that this section of the plain lurched 30 feet north in the few ter- rifying seconds of the devastating 7.9-magnitude Fort Tejon temblor of 1857.
If you plan to go
Established in 2001, the Car- rizo Plain National Monument, managed by the Bureau of Land Management is located about 70 miles east of San Luis Obispo. The northern entrance is from Highway 58, the southern is from Highway 166. Allow four-plus hours driving time from San Francisco or Los Angeles. There are no services for water, food, or fuel. Expect warm, dry summers with triple-digit tem- peratures and wet winters.
The Goodwin Education and Vis- itor Center is open from December- May. Maps and brochures are at the front door when the center is closed. For more information visit
-David A. Laws
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