Monday, October 07, 2013

The Red Rock Cliffs of Black Star Canyon (Halloween 2013)

(GPS: N33° 45.514 W117° 40.816)
The Sinister Secrets of Black Star Canyon #2

In the last blog I mentioned how I made a new friend that I am affectionately calling, “the Old Man“. He was really knowledgeable about the history of Black Star Canyon. Before we parted he told me I should visit Red Rock Canyon. Of course, there are a lot of Red Rock Canyons out there. Those that follow this blog know of the one I refer to as Red Rock Canyon is just north of Lancaster and Mojave off the 14. The one he was referring to can be seen at the Black Star Canyon entrance gate. Just look off to the west (left) of the gate and one can see it. For the sake of clarification, I am going to refer to it as the Red Rock Cliffs of Black Star Canyon.

However, one can only access it with docents. So, I signed up for it and waited about a month for the day to come. I didn't know what to expect until I got there. It turns out it is not a major hike. Really no uphill at all, and a very short distance.

The gate that I had to drive through was about a half-mile from the Black Star gate parking area. I was greeted by one of the docents and drove through. There were a lot more people that I expected which ended up being a good thing. People of all ages were there.

The only issue that I knew would be troubling even before I got there is it was a windy morning. I was slightly annoyed by that since the days before had nothing like this, and it can always be trouble to my cameras and camcorder with this type of weather condition. I was not sure how much narration I would get from my docents on this for video especially on a windy day, but I told myself not to worry about it. This is one of those obsessive compulsive issues that I have acquired since trying to make videos the public can see, and another one of the reasons I stopped blogging as much.

 After some brief history and introductions we were off. The docents pointed out the types of plants and animals that we saw along the dirt road. These were mostly birds. I remember that one bird was out of place here because it was mostly seen near Newport Beach.

Not too far along the dirt road our main docent pointed over a hundred and fifty years ago had we come through here we would have seen Tongva Indians with their teepee homes all through this area. When this was mentioned I became a little more alert than I had been. I knew of the Indian village in Black Star Canyon and that they didn‘t always live there throughout the year.

We continued onto our destination. They pointed out the types of trees and anything else about the natural history we were seeing. We finally got to our main destination with the Red Rocks.
They really reminded me of both the Vasquez rocks and the rocks at Red Rock north of Mojave. Our docents described the geology of how they were made. I would try to explain it, but I always feel that geological explanations take a few million years to describe. The common geological themes of fault lines, uplift, etc. were mentioned. The bottom line, I just enjoyed looking at them.
Panning to my left.

 We were told that there were some bald eagles that used to live here. A nest that is still around was on one of the cliffs. Had the eagles still have been there the docent led hikes probably would not be taking place. I do know that some bald eagles live not too far from Irvine Lake just over the cliffside from where we were.

 Zooming in to see the nest.
We kept walking into a much more narrow part of this area where the trees were right next to us. At this point the docents tried to be a little spooky telling us some of the local folklore about the haunted history of the area. They told us the usual La Llorona or weeping woman story about the woman searching for her children. Some of this was connected to the area. I wasn’t really that impressed with this since that’s a very typical tale in Latino culture. They did go on to talk about the massacre related to the Black Star Canyon Indian Village. Just after this we turned around and headed out.

Since it was still before noon I decided to see if my friend was at the coffee shop to let him know what I had seen, but unfortunately I was told that I had missed him by about an hour. Ah well, some other time.

A few weeks past. One day I was driving through nearby Silverado and decided I should try to see if I could find him again. Right before I entered the door I heard a voice say, “Silence!”

He was somewhat surprised to see me. That so much time had passed by he thought I had gone on to do other things. I told him that was not my personality. It takes me some time to do things, but eventually I do what I say I will.

We had caught up on a few things that are not really relevant. Some personal health issues, his daughter, some local politics were of concern to him. Eventually, the conversation got back to my experience at Red Rock Canyon.

“It did remind me of Vasquez Rocks and Red Rock Canyon I knew of north of Mojave. They did explain some of the history that I knew of. Yes, they did talk about some of the ghost stories, but it didn’t really change my opinion of the area,” I said.

“The local Tongva that lived there had a love/hate relationship with those rocks and Black Star Canyon. The redness in the rocks to them represented great sadness and blood! There was always a concern they would encounter grizzly bears in the Santa Ana Mountain range. Which did happen and some tragedies did occur because of that. As if those animals were possessed they would say,” he explained.

We then both talked about what we knew of the Black Star Canyon massacre. I told him what I knew, but this is where things started to get a little strange even for me.

“Have you heard of the story of the white men dropping the natives to their deaths?” he asked.


“There are dangerous cliffs in Black Star Canyon that if you fall over you will die. Some of these white men of that group took some of the natives, men, women, and children to these cliffs and dropped them over to their deaths. According to the story my uncle told me, the white men were chanting as if offering a sacrifice to the Sentinels and the Old Ones,” the old man explained very seriously.

“I’ve never heard that story before!?!? I knew the local white men were concerned about some issue regarding stolen cattle as is often heard in these types of stories,” I said.

“That’s the white man version. You probably wouldn’t hear what I am telling you from their history books.”

I have to admit what got me was the shocking part of hearing the barbaric style of death and not hearing about “the Sentinels” or “Old Ones“. My emphasis was on the former and not the latter. He was trying to tell me something about the latter, but I just wasn’t really hearing it.

Since he mentioned his uncle he tried to explain to me the background on that. To be honest, I am probably mixing some of this up, but I will try to do my best in explaining it as I remember the conversation. The Old Man told me he was not actually Tongva Indian. He said that his tribal background was in Arizona. I believe he said the tribe was Havusupai, Yampai, or Yavapai, some sort of “pai”. I can’t remember exactly. He said his family was forced to move out of Arizona when he was a little kid. Some government issue with the Grand Canyon land, and his family pretty much said, “enough is enough” and left.

His uncle and other relatives lived out here. The uncle was actually Tongva or at least connected with them in some way. I didn’t quite understand how this all this all worked out because it sounded like there was some mixed blood going on from a genetic perspective. I was just being polite and agreeable to what he said. I got the idea that this was a distant relative the family knew that had some connections with the area. In any case, part of the history I was getting from the Old Man came from his uncle who lived out here.

“Much blood has come out of this region. My uncle’s people knew of it, my uncle knew of it, and I know of it. You don‘t always hear about it. Bodies get lost or go missing. Some things go unreported. Let me give you another quest about some well known dark history that is agreed upon by even the white man. Have you ever been to Orchard Hills?”

“No. I have heard of it, but nothing other than that. I think I have an old classmate that lives nearby,” I said trying to remember anything I knew of it.

“There is a strenuous hike you can go on, but it shouldn’t be a problem for a mountain hiker like you. It’s another one you have to sign up for. The dark history covers two events separated by over a hundred years. You will see that even though it was not in Black Star Canyon it was close enough that the old spirits of Black Star still were able to influence others in this area,” the Old Man said.

I agreed to do this, and told him I would be back to see him after this next dark adventure. We shook hands. At this point I noticed something I had not seen previously. He had a small tattoo on the inside of his right arm. Almost looked like a branding to me. I didn’t bother asking since I have seen a lot of things like that on people. I did burn the symbol into my memory when I saw it. This is my drawing I made of it and replicated in photoshop:
As I was walking back to my car I was thinking of what he said about Black Star connecting with other places. Ghost stories I had a hard time with, but on the other hand it is true many unexplained bad things have happened in this region over the years. All of this gave me a new focus and purpose. I could feel the excitement in my blood. As if something powerful was drawing me back to this area.
The Red Rocks of Black Star Canyon (Vimeo Version) 

The music used from Incompetech is called Arid Foothills.