If you’ve ever read this blog, or stumbled across this blog, you know that I’m always up for an adventure and always up to explore something new. This last weekend, one of my alert followers asked me if I’d ever heard of the “Lawrence Welk Cave”. I was initially skeptical, because my memories of Lawrence Welk and the terrain surrounding the Lawrence Welk village were something like this; and while that is wholesome and fun for 1960, it doesn’t exactly scream adventure, unless we’re talking one of those creepy adventures where everything appears normal, but actually isn’t. Nevertheless, I’m always willing to admit that I’m wrong, and after a little internet research, it did appear that I was really wrong, and that there were some awesome caves there.
In fact, after reading the three trip reports (here, here, and here), I wondered why I had never heard of these caves, well, ever; especially as I have been exploring San Diego County for over twenty years. Even though I thought it was a little strange that I had never heard of them, I decided to head out to check it out. From the moment I arrived on site, and followed the directions listed, I realized why I hadn’t heard of it. As things turned out, I hadn’t heard of it for two reasons: 1) the caves were actually on private land; and 2) the caves weren’t that awesome (anymore).
This brings me to the main point of this blog: take everything you read on the internet (yes, even me), with a grain of skepticism, because at the end of the day, it’s the internet, and the information could just be wrong. Case in point: all of those “trail reports” above? They all repeat some variant of, “the caves are on public land”; “there’s an easement”; “it’s a nature reserve, totally ok to be there”. That is just wrong. How do I know it is wrong? I met the landowner, Mark, while I was passing across the route that was supposedly “public”. He specifically flagged me down to tell me it was his land. Now, while Mark turned out to be a very nice guy, and let me pass through his land (as I did not possess cans of spray paint), he had no obligation to do so – it is, and always has been his land. While you may read this and go, “hey, no big deal, why even highlight this as you got to go”, this is a big deal. While Mark was easygoing, take it from me, the LA, that most landowners –especially in rural areas – are not so sanguine about trespassers. More importantly, even though Mark was a good guy, that doesn’t give you or me the absolute right to go on his land – it’s his land. He has the right to regulate who uses it, and as I’ll detail in a second, his land has suffered due to the anything goes attitude of people getting information on the internet.
His land has suffered because the internet is right about one thing: there are caves there. And, as I suspect, they might have been pretty awesome at one point. They are talus caves, like the Balconies Cave or Bear Gulch Cave in Pinnacles. However, unlike Pinnacles, they are on Mark’s land. Mark is one guy – he is not a private entity; he is not the state park system; and he is not the National Park System. He has not been able to protect the land from the depredations of hordes of people. People have come onto the land, into the caves, and have destroyed the area. There is no ifs ands or buts about it. The “trail”? That’s a foot trail that visitors have made. I’m sure Mark would be fine with that, if that was the extent of the damage. But it’s not. All along the “trail” is trash – mostly empty bottles, and I’d be willing to bet Mark would be fine with that too, if that was it. But then there’s the fact that from a quarter mile in, pretty much every rock has been defaced with some sort of tag – images, words, and more.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the rocks that have been tagged; it’s the trees too in a number of spots. Even worse, there was a specific area that had Kumeyaay Petroglyphs on it as well. That area? Gone. You guessed it, as it has been tagged over as well. I don’t know what to say about all this. Well, actually, I do. I feel bad for Mark – it’s his land, and no one deserves to have this happen to them. For all you people that say, “well, if he built a bigger fence, blah blah blah”, I have this to say: it’s his land. He shouldn’t have to take extreme measures to keep people off of it. That’s not his job. More importantly, I feel bad for the land. I feel bad for nature.
You know why? This is a beautiful area: a canyon tailing down a hill; a creek; plenty of old growth oak and native chaparral. The rocks that make up the cave? They’re thousands of years old. The caves themselves? Something that’s formed over centuries. All of this? Trashed. That’s what I don’t really get – what inspires people to just flat out ruin a beautiful area, just because they can. It’s disgusting; but on the positive side, it makes me glad there’s National Parks and State Parks out there to protect things, because clearly, things need protecting.
As for the caves, here’s what I have to say: I debated giving directions, because of the massive problem of traffic and trash that previous blogs have created. Then I realized the obvious: whether I give directions or not, it’s not going to matter, because those posts are still out there. So what I will say is this: yes, there are caves. You want to explore them? Follow those directions in those posts; you can’t miss the caves, assuming Mark lets you cross his land. You can’t miss them mostly because there’s freaking arrows painted onto rocks leading you there. You need a map? Use this map HERE to navigate the caves. As always, be cautious when you’re exploring caves, because caves are dangerous.
But you know what? You want to be extreme? You want to do something really freaking extreme? Here’s a hint: it’s not this here. Something extreme would be to carry out trash from Mark’s land. Really. Something extreme would be to stop others from littering if you see them doing so, or defacing more rocks or trees. Now that would be extreme. Sure, nothing’s going to bring back the petroglyphs, and those rocks that were defaced? Probably ruined for a long, long time. But it would be nice, if instead of ruining this site further, the hiking community came together to help fix it. Now that would be extreme, and that would make this a bona fide secret that was worth keeping in the County.