Vasquez Rocks

Beautiful Christmas day, 66 degrees, sunny with some strong wind at higher elevations.  Amazing rocks formations are the highlight but I also enjoyed the solitude as I didn’t cross paths with another person until I was about 5 minutes from my car at the end of my hike.

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6       10      5   The park is very easy to find, just a few minutes off Highway 14.  I parked on the side of the road.  I took the trail marked “Pacific Crest Trail”, which led me through some smaller but still interesting rocks.  I climbed and explored to my heart’s content.  There are a lot of signs by the trail that identify various types of plants and rocks.  Frankly, too many for my taste.  It takes away from the natural feel of the park.  Photo 5 – Some of the rocks here look like this.  I believe they call this “congomerate” or “breccia” – when these bigger bits of rock are cemented together with a finer rock.  Whatever it’s called, it looks interesting and makes for some good hand and foot holds.

7   Now I was getting to some of the really good rocks.  Strange how they seem smaller the closer you get.

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12   Photo 1 – This massive rock looks like a breaching whale.  Photo 2 – The big rock at Vasquez  Photo 3 – After maybe a half mile I came to some picnic tables and a parking lot.

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Wow, amazing!  Look at the bottom left corner and find the blue port-a-potty to get an idea of the size of this rock.  It looks like a sinking ship.

14     15   I continued on to the south toward CA-14, which can be seen in the left of photo 1, and more huge rocks right next to that road.

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Looking back at the main formations in Vasquez Rocks Park.  Tilted magnificence!

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19   Looking at a distance I spot something white on top of one of the rocks.  Is that a man up there?

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I barely used a map during this hike.  Although the trail I followed was marked “PCT”, I believe I was following the Old Pacific Crest Trail which runs along the outside of the park.

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I came to two junctions in the trail.  First, I made a right down into a canyon at the junction marked by a sign that says “Fire, July 7 2007”.  When I reached the bottom of the hill I came to a junction marked by this sign.  To circle back to the rock formations one needs to take the trail on the right and pick up either the Horse or Foot Trails.  Before I did that, however, I went right on the PCT in search of a tunnel that runs beneath the highway.  This very short section of the PCT is certainly worth exploring, as you walk between two walls of rock.

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Little tree growing out of the rock

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32       33      34   The Pacific Crest Trail runs through Vasquez Rocks Park on it’s way from Mexico to Canada, a total of 2,663 miles.  I found the tunnel and walked through.  It’s a little longer than it looks and kind of dark in the middle.  A cool breeze was being pulled through the tunnel from south to north.  On the other side of the tunnel is this standing rusted metal, not sure what it is.  Looking south the trail looked a lot less interesting.  I turned around.

35   Climbing above the rock walled canyon I had just hiked through.

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38   I noticed this odd looking erosion on one of the hills, where the walls looked like they were dripping.

39This dripping/melting appearance looks like something out of a Dali painting.

40     41     43   I continued up the trail.  The unmarked Horse Trail breaks off to the right.  The better option, the Foot Trail, is at the top of the hill and is clearly marked.

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48       49   I came across yet another junction, both marked with markers that simply said “Stay On Trail”. I went down to the right.  If you look closely at photo 1 you can see the trail running ahead on the left side.  I think the other trail runs behind these rocks, instead of beneath them, and connects somewhere ahead.  Photo 2 – The trail on the right runs beneath these big rocks.  Photo 5 – When I reached the top and looked north, I could clearly view this more ordinary but still interesting looking mountain.  This must be the one I saw on the map named Saddleback Mountain.

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Gleep!

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56   I hiked back down toward the main formations.  Photos 2, 3 and 4 – From above I noticed the park was now full of people.  Here three guys scale that big rock that looks like a sinking ship and then slide down on there butts.  I noticed they had a dog with them who also struggled his way down the steep rock.

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Between the two main formations

58     59   Photo 1 – Underneath the big rock  Photo 2 – On my way out of the park I stopped by the nature center.  It was closed for the holiday.  This great looking red-tailed hawk lives there at the center.

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