It's a lucky thing that Josh works for UCSD, as it gives me access to all sorts of library resources for archaeology. I have been looking for places to explore in the higher elevation areas of the Kumeyaay territory and stumbled upon a report titled Soapstone for the Cosmos. It discusses a small cluster of soapstone boulders in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park that the Kumeyaay used to make a variety of sacred objects. After only reading a small excerpt of the report my curiosity was piqued and I set out from the Trout Pond parking area to find this point of interest.
Not long after entering an over grown grotto did I arrive to my first water crossing which proved to be deeper than I thought. I unintentionally splashed through it and continued on with wet muddy feet, letting my future self deal with any impending blister issues that could arise from the mud/sock friction.
I listened to lizards and squirrels rustling in the bushes until the trail popped out of the dense brush into an open meadow south of Lake Cuyamaca.
I just love the colors here.
In the fall it's all golds and reds, and now in late spring it shimmers in shades of teal and green that inspire me to make quilts in the same color schemes.
I followed a very overgrown Los Vaqueros trail to the horse camp of the same name and eventually met with a fire road that climbed out of the Stonewall River gorge onto a bluff overlooking a broad and beautiful meadow. The name Cuyamaca is a shortened version of the Kumeyaay name for this area: "Ah-Ha Kwe-Ah Mac", which translates to "the place where it rains". Not far from this grand meadow is a large dwelling site that is the name sake of the area.
After a series of fire roads, I began to see small stands of soapstone on the side of the trail. I consulted the survey and realized that between the Cedar Fire in 2003 and the weather over the years, Nature had done quite a bit of rearranging topographically since 1983 when the report was written. I think I located the site known as Gwendolyn but it was far too damaging to both myself and the brush to attempt to access it.
Eventually I came to a cluster of boulders on the actual trail and noticed some interesting pock marks and gouges. This triggered my Indian juju sensors and I started to poke around. I noticed I was on an actual shoulder of the mountain, as opposed to the forced crest the road had been constructed on. I peeked onto the uphill side where I saw a mortero on a large boulder. I realized I had arrived to the site named World's View which the report says was used by Shamans to make sacred tools and amulets.
The general synopsis I gathered about this area is that Shaman's would chunk out pieces of the soapstone to make ceremonial tools such as the bowls used to grind datura for male initiation ceremonies known as Toloache. The mortero in this rock is said to have been created in the process of extracting soapstone powder which was painted on the faces of young boys during Toloache. Shamans would also construct warming stones, which are pretty much what they sound like; stones that could be heated up and placed between the legs of women in labor, or placed on her belly for relief from menstrual cramps, or used for other maladies requiring pain relief. Soapstone was also used to make bow shaft straighteners and jewelry and it is speculated that both were used in ceremony as opposed to general, everyday use.
Intermingled with the prehistoric markings on the boulders are modern day scars, likely caused by the nearby Cuyamaca Outdoor School in their pursuit of soapstone for arts and crafts, as well as fallout from the construction of the road itself.
The report also spoke of a trail shrine consisting of two small boulders side by side that created a pocket which was filled with stones not indigenous to the area. It is a tradition in many Native American cultures to place stones in a pile on the side of trails as either an offering for a safe journey or as a sort of trail register showing who had passed through. I am not sure if I ever found the shrine, and if I did I wasn't sure what I was looking at. There was quite a bit of erosion on the shoulder below World's View and since cross country travel is frowned upon in the state park I didn't want to get too crazy tromping around.
In the distance I could see a network of trails climbing the hills out of Upper Green Valley and I wondered if these used to be Indian trails going from the Ah-Ha Kwe-Ah Mac dwelling site near the lake to the dwelling sites on the East Mesa and Mason Valley, respectively. I'd really like to hike these to see where they go but I'm not sure if State regulations will allow it. I miss the desert and all its freedoms for cross country travel.
In my search for the trail shrine I mosied all the way down to the bottom of the canyon that makes up Upper Green Valley, and thought about where I wanted to go next. A nice lady passed me with her horse and I realized I must have looked like a total weirdo staring off into the dense brush from the edge of the road, craning to see anything of interest and thinking about the topography. It was getting really hot under the afternoon sun so I decided to go back the way I'd come in the interest of preserving water. I was drinking much more than I anticipated and had already consumed about half a gallon.
I climbed back out of the valley slowly, my head pounding from the heat. I knew I was close to the horse camp so I sacrificed some of my water to wet my shirt and head in order to try and cool myself down. I was struggling a bit under the intense sun on the shadeless trail and tried to mentally embrace the elements and how I was feeling while hiking toward the horse camp safely and quickly. When I finally arrived I sat in the shade and watched a deer graze while eating salty snacks and cameling up on water. I inspected my feet and found I'd gotten two new hotspots on the inside arch from the mud turned sand I'd picked up in the morning while tromping through the creek. Everything made me feel an overwhelming sense of longing for the PCT, which I know sounds dumb, but man, I missed blisters and heat and feeling like shit and laying disheveled in public places. Isn't that weird?! Everything I hated on the trail I now long for. Who knew. I don't know if I'm going to make it to 2020 to go back.
I arrived to my truck in the early afternoon and headed to Josh's where we watched documentaries and ate pizza, and the next day I thought I'd head back up to check out Little Stonewall Peak. I successfully avoided the creek crossing this time and crossed a valley that parallels highway 79. As I made my way through the overgrown trail, a red tailed hawk circled overhead. Every time she'd cry a gang of turkeys would respond with a cacophony of gobbles from the tall grass and it me giggle. I love being able to experience those types of exchanges. I feel like they are the experiences that make life more than existence. In a digital world, it's nice to have some quality moments that require physical attendance to experience.
It was so freakin' buggy I even had to wear my headnet for a while! I stopped to wipe the sweat from my face and was startled to see a rattlesnake slither passed my toes into the tall grass without so much as a tiny rattle. I was struggling and feeling a little down so decided to call it a day at the trail junction to Little Stonewall, halfway up the backside of big Stonewall peak. I headed home to nurse my new blisters and do some more research for next weeks adventures.
While it may not have been the most exciting adventure, I still got in about ten miles and am happy to have visited a rarely seen and important piece of Kumeyaay culture.