THE STANDING STONES
OF PT. REYES
(This article was originally published by Ancient American Magazine, December 1997. It is posted here with permission of Mr Wayne May, Managing Editor.)
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
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.
okay. No one disputes that some
of these walls were made by ranchers. But,
then again, some of them are strange...
Reyes is strange.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
was then I had what I can only describe as an "anomalous
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.
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.
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.