When traveling, I often like to look up small, off-the-beaten path sites and see what treasures may lie beyond the obvious attractions. I'm also always a sucker for learning about traditional cultures and, while in California, I've wanted to learn more about the Native Americans who inhabited this land long before the Europeans set foot here; so while on our way to Bakersfield to visit my aunt and uncle for the weekend, I Googled, "Native American sites near Bakersfield," and Carrizo Plain National Monument came up as a hit, with the painted rock as the main attraction.
My aunt had never been to Carrizo Plain, so we typed the place into Google maps and let it take us there. After winding through oil fields and desert mountains, we arrived at Google's "destination" smack in the middle of the plain with no sign of civilization in sight. We laughed at Google's notion to take us in the middle of nowhere and then turned ourselves around and soon found the visitors' center and were eventually led to the painted rock.
The painted rock has been used by the Chumash, Salinan, and Yokut people for well over 3,000 years. Although the exact meanings of the pictographs found on the rock are still up for debate, it's known that this has always been a spiritual site for the native people of this land.
Walking up to the horseshoe-shaped rock - a strange and solitary geographical feature in the middle of the plain - it was bizarre to think that people have been deeply connected to this site long before Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth. Even still, the Chumash hold ceremonies at the painted rock, particularly during the summer solstice.
Standing in the middle of the rock, it's easy to see why many have found this place special, or at the very least, as a comforting shelter. It's totally engulfing and quite protective against the outside elements. Although the pictographs have faded away over time, and unfortunately many have been defaced by graffiti, it was still special to see the paintings, wonder over their meanings and their makers, and hope that any wisdom found here has not been lost forever.