Quotol Canyon

Quail SpringsThe Land Leave a Comment

Imagine yourself walking down a tight canyon of rich orange sandstone, the elevated spots are loosely adorned with the blue green of Single Leaf Pinyon. The map you in your hand says you are in the San Emigdio Mtns, approaching Burges canyon. The Chumash people who come to visit this place and who call this whole region their home call it Quotol. The smell of Sage Brush and Pine fills your nose, the cool silt forms to your feet. Your destination lies in the mystery of those little four toed, tightly placed, oval shaped tracks you follow, no larger than a silver dollar.  You walk the canyon and it begins to open, and you crawl through a thicket of Bigberry Manzanita, a small pile of scat with little twisted tails, small hairs and Manzanita berries assures your intuition and you continue on the trail.

The canyon turns to a small wash bordered by scrubby Turbinella Oak, Sage brush, Pinyon and Juniper. Now you find it hard to distinguish your tracks as you pass by the signs of Bobcat, Jackrabbit, Blacktail deer and what even looks like an immature cow. Rodent tracks line the wash as well and now you must really concentrate to visualize what could be one of dozens and dozens of species of rodents who inhabit this area. The chatter of a California Thrasher distracts you as you see the long curve beaked bird scurry around under the oak. Suddenly you recover your trail, the tight narrow arrangement of the animals trot leads your eyes back upon it and you study the two small claws that are registering like little pins extending out of those two central toes.

When you look up and see long sheets of thin wispy clouds to the west, the southwestern wind cools your face, and you travel on. A spring begins to form in the wash and medium sized blue eggs are resting in its waters, here tracks of Deer and Bobcat are abundant, and here the wheezy, dry song of the sage sparrow blends the colors of the wash and the feeling of the cool wind. This spring moves water into the Cuyama River which after passing and absorbing water from several of the transverse ranges eventually drains west into the Santa Maria where it meets the sea. Drifting back into the landscape you suddenly stumble upon some small blue tanks tucked into the shade and an assortment of valves nestled into a thicket of willow and elderberry, Your tracks have veered off into one of these elderberry thickets and you examine the freshly chewed bark and the tiny incisors which seem to devouring the large shrubs cambium.

You move faster to find your trail but are stopped as you spook a covey of hundreds of quail. You can feel the ominous silence of the little orange rumped towhees that were scraping the ground amongst almost every shrub before your disturbance. A White Crowned Sparrow alarms in the distance, perhaps you scared off that fox you were tracking. But another question comes to mind and you wonder what is the cause of this abundance of birds and rodents you began to see. In the distance you approach an earthen cottage, housing farm tools and a tough old Izuzu trooper. Goats, ducks, chickens and wildlife thrive amongst shaded earthen structures and a contoured set of garden beds lines the wash. A young forest seems to be growing amongst earthworks that concentrate the beauty of the rugged topography that surrounds the farm. People gather with a feast of the things found and grown on the land. Around you discussion turns from nature to culture as a group of musicians begins to harmonize in a corner. Nearby on a large locust tree there is the hypnotizing buzz of bees.

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