Steve Bartholomew  



(This article was originally published by Ancient American Magazine, December 1997.  It is posted here with permission of Mr Wayne May, Managing Editor.)

I stopped in the middle of the trail, bewildered.  I had followed directions to the letter - what I was looking for should be right in front of me.   On this barren peninsula, with the Pacific Ocean crashing far below, I could find nothing but the trail itself and knee-high brown grass.  It was one of the most desolate places I had ever seen.

That was more than ten years ago, shortly after I had first become interested in the "Mystery Walls" of Northern California.  I was about to discover they could be not only mysterious, but at times invisible.  

I had hiked out to the northern tip of the Pt. Reyes peninsula, which lies off the coast of Marin County.  This place is usually called Tomales Point, after Tomales Bay which separates it from the mainland.  Some maps show it as Pierce Point, named after the dairy ranch which operated here for nearly a hundred years.  The old buildings are still standing and are now a National Park exhibit, located at the trail head. 

I had been given directions by Russell Swanson of Berkeley, a fellow member of the Western Epigraphic Society.  At the time, Russell was the only person I knew who had actually been out to look at this site.  I would soon realize that hundreds of people visit this place every year, but few of them ever see it. 

I am still constantly surprised at the fact that few people, even in Northern California, have even heard of the Mystery Walls.  Since chances are you're among that group, I had better explain:

Some years ago it was noticed by someone that there are strange-looking rock walls in various places around Northern California.  I once had a long argument with a professional archeologist from U.C. Berkeley, while on a field trip.  She stoutly defended the Official Position:  these walls were all built during the 19th Century by cattle ranchers.

Well, okay.  No one disputes that some of these walls were made by ranchers.  But, then again, some of them are strange...

Pt. Reyes is strange.

On that summer afternoon several years ago, I stopped and marveled at my surroundings.  I had seen a few other hikers on the trail, but not many walk out this far.  It was like being on the edge of the world.  To the east was the narrow expanse of Tomales Bay and beyond, the rolling hills of Marin County, prosperous and comfortable. 

On the other side was nothing but the vast Pacific Ocean, a sheer drop of five hundred feet to the beach below, not a single rock or island to mar the surface of the perfect sea stretching westward all the way to Japan.   


Underneath Tomales Bay lies the San Andreas Fault.  In fact Pt. Reyes doesn't even belong here - geologically it doesn't match the mainland to the east.  Millions of years ago this was a part of Los Angeles.  With the help of the Fault it has been moving northward at the rate of about an inch a year.  Someday it will belong to Oregon. 

I looked around me.  The land here reminded me of the look of some parts of Scotland, with its barren hills and ancient barrows and tumuli.  The peninsula out here bears not a single tree - during the winter frightful storms howl in from the sea, uprooting any large plant life.  The ground is solid granite with a thin layer of soil. 

But where was this mysterious stone wall I had been told of?  On my left, near the edge of the cliff I noticed a large boulder - rather odd, I thought.  My informant had not mentioned that.  Yet there was supposed to be a stone wall here, or the remnant of one.  Why wasn't I seeing it? 

It was then I had what I can only describe as an "anomalous experience."

Recently I'd heard someone discussing these strange rock walls.  He'd mentioned in passing that the walls themselves seem to have the ability to make themselves invisible, unless you're ready to see them.  I certainly didn't believe that.  Nevertheless, I decided on a small experiment. 

Standing on the trail with my eyes closed, I said a little prayer, or request.  I wasn't even sure who I was asking - Nature spirits, or the guardians of rocks?  I merely asked permission to see the wall for myself. 

What happened next still gives me gooseflesh when I remember.  I opened my eyes and heard - a sound.  I could not begin to describe it, except that it was like a voice in the wind.  I didn't understand what it said, but it was a human voice, as if I heard a voice carried from miles away on a freakish gust.   At the same moment I had a sensation of giddiness, like a brief dizzy spell.  Something strange was happening.

I took two or three steps off the trail, as if trying to regain my balance.  I looked down at my feet.  And saw the wall.