Actually, we weren't planning to go to Vasquez Rocks. We WERE planning to go to the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, which started on Thursday and finishes tomorrow. I had been looking forward to going to the festival (mainly so I could get in to see Melody Ranch, which is only open one weekend - this weekend - all year).
We got there at what I thought was a reasonable time: 11 AM. We drove down Railroad Avenue and turned left on 13th Street. When I had called in last week to order the tickets by phone, the woman had told me that we'd have to park at the bottom near the intersection and a shuttle bus would take us up to the Ranch. "The parking lot at the ranch is too small, she said, and we don't want to disturb our neighbors). Ok, I said. That sounds fine. I expected a smallish parking lot and maybe twenty, thirty people waiting in line to get the shuttle.
Except the parking lot was gigantic, and it was FULL. We're talking acres of parked cars. Disneyland parking lot full, a sold-out baseball game parking lot full, a golf tournament where Tiger Woods is going to appear full. Woodstock comes to mind.
Oh, my God, was all we could keep saying. Oh my God.
And then we saw the line for the shuttle buses.
There must have been two hundred, three hundred people waiting in that line.
And we did what I never thought we would do - we bailed. I was disappointed, very disappointed. But I knew that if it was going to be that crowded, chances were that whatever was on the top of that hill, even if it was worth the wait, was going to be ruined by all those people. Go ahead - call me a misanthropist, a crowd hater, a wet blanket. I prefer to call myself a realist.
So we went to Vasquez Rocks instead. And I really glad we did.
Some of you might remember i wrote about Vasquez Rocks last fall, as part of the Movies in the Santa Clarita Valley series. It's been in dozens, if not hundreds of movies and television shows over the years, starting from the B westerns in the 30s and 40s to Blazing Saddles to Star Trek.
It's a really long drive out to the park (it's now a County of L.A. park), longer than I thought. The road gets windy and deserted, and it just kept going and going through the hills on the Sierra Highway. Then you turn right on Agua Dulce Canyon Road, and the landscape gets a little more interesting. There's a very small outpost (town is too big of a term for this area) with a cafe, a market, a small and very charming hardward store (after having to deal with Home Depot for years, small hardware stores ARE charming), and a dog grooming place. A couple of churches along the way. When you finally reach the park, the rocks are right there and you don't have to travel too much farther to see them.There is a dirt road that goes all the way down to the rocks. But we didn't know that, and parked in a small parking lot and walked in. On the way, we kept seeing cars pass us.
Huh, we thought, and then we got to the top of the hill and saw the REAL parking lot, at the bottom right next to the rocks. Oh well. It was a nice walk.
I'm not sure if I like the parking lot right at the rocks. I think the heavy travel of cars will cause erosion if it goes on for too long, and the noise of the cars, not to mention always having to get out of the way of some huge SUV barreling through, makes it less of a nature preserve and more of a tourist spot.
But it's still beautiful, as these photos will show.
I was thrilled to be there. If you go, you can walk on the rocks, as you will see, and there are also plenty of trails for longer hikes. Just keep an eye out for wild critters.
We stopped and took a few more photos before heading out. That little cafe that was just down the road, The Sweetwater Cafe, was calling my name.
This is my plan for the next visit: to take a long hike, soaking in the history and thinking of Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman and Cleavon Little having the time of their lives filming Blazing Saddles here.
On the way out of town, I decided to go by the Cowboy Festival again, just to see how crowded the parking lot was and whether I could see a long line for the shuttle. I knew if I didn't I would kick myself later for not trying one more time.
So what happened? Did Laurie make it to Melody Ranch after all? Tune in for the next installment of Movies in the Santa Clarita Valley to find out!