In Santa Teresa Canyon and Arroyo San Pablo
We spend our next three days hiking and exploring the arroyos and cave painting murals. Our days are a mix of walking, wonder, and relaxing under palm trees for meals, all in a world that seems very unattached from ours at home.
One of the remarkable caves we visit is Cueva de la Soledad. This cave requires a bit of hand-holding scramble to reach and is set high above the canyon floor. Here we find human figures referred to as “monos”, as well as deer and some handsome birds, one in red and one in black. Another part of the cave has a most curious checkerboard, colored with ochre yellow lines forming boxes that are then filled with red and black. The setting is dramatic and as this is likely to be the first mural we visit, the thrill of discovery is alive.
Another cave we visit is Cueva de las Flechas – Cave of the Arrows. It is so named because some of the human figures have arrows piercing them in a most curious fashion. While it is not uncommon for figures of animals to have arrows in them, it’s very rare in the paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco to find arrows in human figures as we see here. In addition, these are some of the most elegant human figures found anywhere. As we study this ancient art there is mystery for us to unravel in terms of the symbolism and meaning.
Perhaps the most dramatic and spectacular of all the caves we visit is Cueva Pintada (Painted Cave) which is 500’ (160 meters) along the base of its opening. The painters must have built scaffolding from the native palms that grow nearby in order to reach the heights of the cave ceiling. This collection of paintings has no equal and they are very well preserved. We see images of men, women, birds, beasts and perhaps most surprising of all, sea mammals such as a giant whale or sea lion. This cave alone has about three times as many figures as any other location of cave paintings in all of Baja California. The cave is so remote and off the main courses of historic travel that the missionaries missed it, and local knowledge suggests it wasn’t really known until the late 1880’s or so.
Not far from Cueva Pintada we find another cave, Boca de San Julio. Some find this the most beautiful of all the painted caves in the mountains, facing south and lit by sunlight all day long. There are a number of exceptional figures found here, including a pregnant deer and an arched buck, leaping in motion. There is also a bi-colored image of what would appear to be a well-fed sea lion.
Very close to Boca de San Julio is a cave now known as Los Musicos due to a most playful set of small human figures set across bright white lines that resemble musical staffs. It gives the impression that the figures represent musical notes dancing along two bars of music.
Hiking Distances: Four to six miles each day; depending on the group’s interests and abilities