I’ve always wanted to check out Vasquez Rocks ever since I first saw it on Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, then Army of Darkness and I think even 24. Apparently these sideway slabs of sandstone have been appearing in films since 1905, that’s why they may look vaguely familiar to you. Quick online research reveals that during its downtime from appearing in movies, the Rocks offer some nice hiking for families. Easy stuff though, so it was never one of my picks for a good workout.
But this weekend, despite the freezing cold temperatures, a friend and I decided to go for a pleasant drive up the 5 toward the 14 and on to Agua Dulce. The skies were clear but the chilly winds must have been blowing at 40 mph in the desert. We parked in the lot right near the entrance and hopped onto the History Trail, which offers “exhibits” for your viewing (and learning) pleasure, but after viewing a couple of its bleh offerings (some faded pictographs and a Tataviam dwelling of sticks secured with screws) we skipped ahead to the hiking trail. Just as well since we only had a couple of hours before the park closed at 5. I know, 5pm! That’s such a shame considering this would be a cool spot to watch a meteor shower, being so far away from the city lights and all.
At the beginning of the trail, I had read some warning notices about how this is mountain lion country and coyotes abound. But as we clambered up the rocks and explored even more rocks, we didn’t encounter any wildlife. I bet it’s a different story at night though. I bet that’s when the party here gets started. Unfortunately since the ranger office is located just right off the park entrance, your chances of being able to sneak in after hours aren’t too great. And since you’d need a headlamp to make your way around the rocks in the dark, you’d be easy to spot. Double darn.
However, turns out there’s something called Vasquez Rocks Star Parties, hosted by the County Parks and scheduled quarterly, where stargazers come together to watch the night sky. All you need to participate is your own MiniMagLite with an accessory red lens (no white lights allowed so you can adjust to the darkness) and a folding chair as well as lots of warm clothing, especially on these recent chilly nights. If you don’t have your own telescope, not to worry as volunteers are on hand with theirs.
In the winter the parties occur during the “dark of the moon” on Saturdays, and on Saturdays nearest the first quarter moon during the summer. The next star party will be coming up at the end of this month.
Here’s what to expect:
5:30pm: The sun sets. As the sky begins to darken, telescopes will begin showing the waxing Moon, Mercury and Venus.
6:30 to 11:30pm: As the sky darkens, see nebulae, galaxies, and star clusters — including the Andromeda Galaxy, the Great Orion Nebula, the Crab Nebula, and the Pleiades. Later in the evening, Saturn will be well positioned for viewing.
Unfortunately as is usually the case with parks, no alcohol is allowed. Too bad considering how a flask of brandy or whiskey might help you keep warm out in the desert.
EVENT: SATURDAY, JANUARY 27 from Sunset to 11:30pm
10700 W. Escondido Canyon Road
Agua Dulce, California 91350